James and Jennifer Crumbley sentenced up to 15 years in prison over son’s school shooting in landmark decision

The parents of a school shooter have each been sentenced to 10-15 years in prison, over their part in failing to stop their son from killing four students at Oxford High School in Michigan in 2021.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were each convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in separate trials earlier this year, over their part in the deaths of the students at the hands of their son Ethan.

Before sentencing, parents of the victims said the couple were just as much to blame for their children’s deaths as the shooter.

Appearing at the Oakland County Court on Tuesday morning, the pair sat close to together, separated by Mr Crumbley’s attorney, but barely looked at one another as their attorneys argued for lesser sentences.

Before sentencing, relatives of those killed - Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17 - gave impact statements.

“The ripple effects of both James and Jennifer’s failures to act have devastated us all,” Justin’s mother Jill Soave said.

James Crumbley, his attorney Mariell Lehman, Jennifer Crumbley, and her attorney Shannon Smith, sit in court for sentencing on four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of four Oxford High School students who were shot and killed by the Crumbley parents' son, on April 9, 2024 at Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan (Getty Images)

The parents are the first in US history to be charged and then convicted for their alleged role in a mass school shooting.

The shooter, who was 15 at the time, is now serving a life sentence for his classmates’ deaths.

Mr and Ms Crumbley appeared together for sentencing, following their separate convictions.

Ahead of sentencing, Ms Crumbley spoke of the “nights of lament” she had experienced since November 30 2021 and addressed the accusations against herself and her husband.

“We weren’t perfect, but we loved our son,” she told the court, turning the pages of her statement with one hand cuffed to her chair.

James Crumbley then spoke, becoming emotional at several points.

“As a parent, our biggest fear is losing our child or our children. My heart is truly broken for everybody involved,” he said, adding that he understood the families probably did not believe him.

“I have cried for you and the loss of your children more times than I can count. I know your pain and your loss will never go away.”

He explained that he had not been able to speak to his son since the day of the shooting.

Ethan Crumbley was 15 when he shot and killed four classmates in Michigan (Getty Images)
Ethan Crumbley was 15 when he shot and killed four classmates in Michigan (Getty Images)

Mr Crumbley’s attorney had asked that he be given 28 months in prison, arguing that he had already served some time, while Ms Crumbley’s attorney requested a sentence between 29 and 57 months, rather than the 10 to 15 years prosecutors asked for.

The attorneys also argued that the parents could not be held responsible for the number of victims, despite the juries returning guilty verdicts on four separate counts in both cases.

After hearing from the victims’ families and the defendants, Judge Cheryl Matthews said that her decision was not about punishing poor parenting, but that the Crumbleys had not done enough to address concerns about their son.

“Opportunity knocked over and over again, louder and louder, and was ignored,” Judge Matthews said, before handing down her sentences.

Both parties were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison, with a credit of 858 days for time already served. They were also ordered not to contact the victims’ families.

Ms Crumbley’s attorney also asked for a no-contact order between each of the parents and their son not be put in place, arguing that they should “still be a family” despite felonies on their records.

The judge said that her understanding was that Mr Crumbley and Ethan would likely be treated as “enemies” within Michigan’s Department of Corrections, anyway, and therefore not be housed together.

The matter was left for a later date.

Why were Ethan Crumbley’s parents tried?

Ms Crumbley was tried first, having pleaded not guilty to the charges against her, while Mr Crumbley declined to testify during his trial.

Prosecutors argued that the couple ignored signs of their son’s mental health condition and that they gave him access to the gun he used in the attack.

Four days before the shooting at Oxford High School, Mr Crumbley bought his son a gun, which Ethan described on Instagram as his “new beauty”. Ms Crumbley then took the teen to a shooting range for practice.

Jennifer Crumbley was tried before her husband and was found guilty in February 2024 (Getty Images)
Jennifer Crumbley was tried before her husband and was found guilty in February 2024 (Getty Images)

A few days later, a teacher noticed the high school sophomore searching online for ammunition, sparking concerns and prompting school administrators to contact his parents.

Instead of responding to the school, his mother allegedly texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

The following day, the Crumbleys were called into the school for a meeting after school officials then found disturbing drawings done by Ethan in the classroom.

The parents declined to take him home – and, just hours later, Ethan killed four classmates: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.

A memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 03 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. (Getty Images)
A memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 03 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. (Getty Images)

Prosecutors argued repeatedly that both parents had the power to stop the shooting from happening, pointing out that James Crumbley knew the shooter must be his son when he heard of the shooting at his school.

In the days that followed, the couple drained their son’s bank account, withdrew cash, sold their horses, and bought four burner phones.

When they were arrested four days after the shooting, the couple reportedly had $6,600 in cash, credit cards, gift cards and the phones.

Parents of the victims speak of their pain

Ahead of sentencing, the court heard victim impact statements from the relatives of those killed by Ethan Crumbley.

“When you texted Ethan ‘please don’t do it’, I was texting Madisyn ‘I love you, please call mom’” Madisyn Baldwin’s mother Nicole Beausoleil said to Ms Crumbley.

“When you checked into your first hotel, I was telling Madisyn’s 11-year-old sister that she was gone.

“The lack of compassion you’ve shown is outright disgusting,” she added. “Not only did your son kill my daughter, but you both did, as well.”

Ms Beausoleil described her daughter’s “infectious” laugh which she could listen to all day, adding that her “big sister skills were undeniable.”

Justin’s mother Jill Soave told the court that her son’s future was “so bright”, later adding that she wished the Crumbleys had checked their son’s backpack that fateful day.

Jennifer Crumbley listens as Craig Shilling, father of Justin Shilling, one of the four Oxford High School students who were shot and killed by mass school shooter Ethan Crumbley, reads a victim impact statement at the sentencing of Jennifer and James Crumbly, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, be sentenced on four counts of involuntary manslaughter on April 9, 2024 at Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan. (Getty Images)

“The blood of our children is on your hands, too,” Justin’s father Craig Shilling told the Crumbleys later, before asking the judge to hand down the maximum sentence possible.

Relatives reflected on having to go over the events of the school shooting once again, having given similar statements during the shooter’s sentencing.

Steve St. Juliana, Hana St. Juliana’s father, said that when the trials first began, he did not think too much about their possible jail time.

However, as the trials progressed and neither showed any signs of remorse, the father said he became convinced they deserved long sentences.

“I will never walk her down the aisle. I am forever denied the chance to hold her or her future children in my arms,” he told the court.

Hana’s sister Reina told the court that their 10-year-old little brother had been forced to learn “how to write a eulogy for his sister before he even learned how to write essays”.

“I met up with Hana and a friend during school that day,” she said. “When we split ways to go back to class, I just looked back and smiled.

“I didn't say goodbye. I never got to say goodbye. I never got to remind her that I love her, that she's my everything. The person I want to walk through life with side-by-side.”

What does this mean for future school shooting cases?

James Crumbley seen during his trial in March 2024 (Getty Images)
James Crumbley seen during his trial in March 2024 (Getty Images)

The pair’s convictions on manslaughter charges could set new precedents for future school shooting cases.

Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in the Parkland mass school shooting, previously told The Independent that the Crumbleys’ case “will become a small step in our fight to end gun violence in the United States”.

After Mr Crumbley’s conviction on 14 March, the parents of the victims said nothing could bring their children back.

"But, there is some comfort in knowing that the parents who armed their son so he could commit such a terrible crime are being held accountable,” the statement read. “Our hope is that this is a first step in an effort to hold all those responsible and accountable and end gun violence so that we finally end the cycle of families feeling the pain that we do.

“We thank our Prosecutor Karen McDonald for pursuing these charges and seeking justice for our families and community.”