The Michigan Supreme Court declined an appeal on Tuesday, paving the way for the parents of a teenager responsible for the tragic shooting at Oxford High School to face trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter.
James and Jennifer Crumbley stand accused of enabling their son, Ethan Crumbley, to access a firearm and neglecting his mental health needs. Back in March, the state appeals court ruled that the couple could indeed face trial, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision in a brief one-sentence order.
In this preliminary stage, prosecutors in suburban Detroit only needed to establish probable cause to proceed with charges against the parents, a relatively low threshold. The appeals court emphasized that an Oakland County jury would ultimately hear a more comprehensive case that considers all perspectives.
The shooter, Ethan Crumbley, tragically took the lives of Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, and Justin Shilling at Oxford High School, located approximately 40 miles north of Detroit, in November 2021. Additionally, six students and one teacher sustained injuries during the incident.
Ethan Crumbley has already pleaded guilty to terrorism and murder, and a judge recently determined that he could face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The defense attorneys representing the Crumbley parents argue that the school shooting could not have been foreseen. While they acknowledge that poor decisions were made, they contend that these actions do not rise to the level of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
On the day of the shooting, the 17-year-old shooter, who was 15 at the time, and his parents met with school staff after a teacher noticed disturbing drawings. However, no one checked his backpack for a firearm, and he was allowed to remain in school.
The teenager’s sentencing is scheduled for December 8, at which point the judge will have the option to impose a prison term that could potentially allow for parole in the future.
The Crumbley parents have been in custody since shortly after the shooting, as they were unable to post a $500,000 bond. Despite being incarcerated in the same facility, they have had no contact with their son.
Defense attorneys declined to provide comments regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, citing a gag order in place.
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Psychologist Colin King, who has met with the teenager, described him as a “feral child” who had been neglected by his parents. However, Judge Kwamé Rowe noted that his home life, while imperfect, was not necessarily terrible, with his parents occasionally consuming alcohol and engaging in arguments. Rowe highlighted that the teen seemed to have a loving and supportive family, as evidenced by family vacations, pet ownership, and visits from relatives. In the defendant’s own words, his childhood was characterized as “good.”