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Parents of Michigan school shooting suspect created 'pathway to violence,' prosecutor says

Mike Martindale, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

PONTIAC, Mich. — Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald is asking a circuit judge to permit evidence in the trial of the parents of the accused Oxford High shooter because it allegedly reveals “they had a role in creating a pathway to violence for the shooter.”

In a motion to Judge Cheryl Matthews this week, McDonald wrote James and Jennifer Crumbley “played a much larger role than just buying their son a gun and there were many potential acts of ordinary care beyond simply locking up that gun that could have prevented this shooting.”

McDonald wrote how Ethan Crumbley, dating back to the age of 6, was exposed to parental arguments, alcohol and substance abuse and marital infidelity. Purchases at a local liquor store totaled nearly $4,000 in the year of 2021 alone, according to the filing.

Mathews ruled in June that the parents' horseback-riding activities, possible marital infidelity and the presence of alcohol or marijuana in the home were inadmissible as evidence. It came after the Crumbleys' attorneys argued that personal matters regarding the couple — such as extramarital affairs — are not relevant to the charges against them and should not be heard by the jury.

Defense attorneys have indicated they plan to call Ethan Crumbley to testify in their respective cases.

McDonald’s argument focused on how the jury needs information on the household created over years by the parents, “the household their son was born into, raised, and where he ultimately formed his plan to terrorize the community.”

 

“…this evidence fits squarely within the shooter’s pathway to violence,” McDonald wrote. “It is important to note that each piece of this evidence, taken in a vacuum, does not prove gross negligence. It is the cumulative effect of it, taken together, that sheds light on the environment created by the defendants and the backdrop for their actions and inaction in the days immediately leading up to the shooting.”

James and Jennifer Crumbley are each facing four charges of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre and Justin Shilling — all victims of the Nov. 30 in their school allegedly by fellow classmate Ethan Crumbley, then 15 years old. The Crumbleys could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the offenses.

The Crumbleys, who in their own legal filings have identified the son as the responsible shooter, have claimed they had no reason to expect their son was dangerous or that they could have prevented the shooting from occurring. They have referred to his actions as his “insanity” and the teenager’s attorneys have indicated they will seek an insanity defense for their client.

Crumbley’s parents have been charged because of alleged gross negligence that included them purchasing him a handgun and purportedly providing access to it as well as disregarding his need for psychiatric counseling despite his pleas for help.

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