James Crumbley trial told ‘three people were responsible’ for Michigan school shooting

James Crumbley, the father of the convicted Oxford high school shooter, is set to appear in an Oakland County, Michigan courtroom on Thursday 7 March.

Jury selection began on 5 March — just a month after Jennifer Crumbley, the defendant’s wife, was convicted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Mr Crumbley faces the same charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Crumbleys’ son fatally shot four of his classmates in November 2021. In December, the 17-year-old was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Now, Mr Crumbley faces a jury.

Throughout his wife’s trial, the defence team pointed fingers at him as being responsible for everything to do with firearms, saying she was uncomfortable dealing with guns. Last month’s trial revealed that Mr Crumbley went to a gun store with his teenage son to purchase what would become the murder weapon four days later.

Mr Crumbley’s defence will have to emphasise his dedication to gun storage, if his wife’s trial serves as precedent.

The jury foreperson said after Jennifer Crumbley’s guilty verdict was read: “The thing that really hammered it home is that she was the last adult with the gun”.

Key points

What we know about James Crumbley’s trial

14:22 , Kelly Rissman

Jury selection is slated to begin on 5 March.

Although his legal team tried to get his trial moved out of Oakland County — citing the national attention his wife’s case garnered — to no avail, Fox 2 reported.

Lawyers on both sides are also arguing over whether the troubled teenager’s journal entries should be admissible in court. A judge will make the final decision.

Ethan Crumbley had written a series of disturbing journal entries, including one that read: “I will have to find where my dad hid my gun before I can shoot (up) the school.”

However, that piece of evidence was not permitted in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial, the Detroit Free Press reported, yet jurors were allowed to hear other entries and texts regarding Ethan requesting help from his parents for his mental health issues, which they allegedly ignored.

It’s not yet clear whether the entry will be allowed to be used in James Crumbley’s trial.

This journal entry could potentially bolster what Mr Crumbley told police in a videotaped interview right after the shooting. Mr Crumbley said that the weapon was hidden in a gun case in an armoire and that the bullets were “in a completely different spot underneath some jeans.”

Ethan Crumbley refused to testify in either of his parent’s trials.

If convicted, Mr Crumbley also faces up to 60 years in prison — 15 years per count.

Why is James Crumbley on trial?

14:27 , Kelly Rissman

James Crumbley now faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, as prosecutors accused him of ignoring his son’s mental health condition and making the gun accessible at home.

His wife was convicted of the same charges last month.

Four days before the shooting on 30 November 2021, James bought his son a gun, which Ethan described on Instagram as his “new beauty”.

Jennifer then took her son to a shooting range.

A few days later, a teacher noticed the high school sophomore searching online for ammunition, sparking concerned 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.”

On the day of the shooting, a teacher found a disturbing drawing on Ethan’s desk depicting a school massacre, featuring a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words “the thoughts won’t stop help me”, prosecutors said.

The school staff then met with Ethan and his parents.

Although the school staff urged Ethan to seek psychiatric help that day and to go home early, his parents rejected the idea and he remained at school.

Jennifer Crumbley testified that her husband had hidden the gun before their son took it to school.

Later that day, their son opened fire, taking the lives of four classmates: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.

After hearing reports of the shooting at Oxford High, Jennifer allegedly sent a text to Ethan that read, “Ethan, don’t do it,” as James drove directly home and reported his gun missing.

Who are the Crumbleys?

14:28 , Kelly Rissman

Jennifer, 45, worked in marketing at a real estate firm and James, 47, worked for DoorDash, according to court documents.

The pair initially came under scrutiny for their strange behaviour in the aftermath of the shooting. Reports showed the couple drained their son’s bank account.

They withdrew cash, sold their horses, and bought four burner phones in the hours after finding out that their son had opened fire.

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

At the time, the Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said that “they started making plans”.

Jennifer texted someone that she “needed to sell her horses fast” and the couple “drained their son’s bank account” later that day, taking out $3,000 and leaving a mere 99 cents, Ms McDonald said.

The pair also checked into a hotel. The defence attorney told the jury on 25 January that the Crumbleys had been receiving “death threats” at their home, so they went to a hotel to seek refuge.

Fearful, the pair bought burner phones. The defence lawyer also explained to jurors that they bought two pairs of burner phones because they couldn’t access their bank accounts with their original burners, since they weren’t able to do the necessary two-factor authentication.

The Crumbleys then stayed at an artist studio, belonging to Jennifer’s friend, where they were arrested the next day, on 4 December. They were supposed to have turned themselves in on the afternoon of 3 December, but failed to do so, resulting in a manhunt.

The defence attorney told the court that the couple “weren’t hiding,” but “waiting for instructions” and they were “waiting to turn themselves in first thing Saturday morning, when arraignments take place”.

Opening statements begin, echoing his wife’s case

14:48 , Kelly Rissman

Much of the phrasing in the prosecutor’s opening statements was recycled from Jennifer Crumbley’s trial — but with an added emphasis on James Crumbley and his knowledge of guns.

“The shooting was foreseeable — especially to his father,” Oakland County assistant prosecutor Marc Keast told the court on Thursday.

The prosecutor accused the parents of not paying attention to their son’s mental health: “Instead of receiving help or intervention of any kind, James Crumbley instead began taking his son to the shooting range.”

Mr Crumbley and Ethan went to the range together on a “consistent basis” over the next few months, he said, showing photos of the pair at the range.

On top of this, Mr Keast argued, “James and Jennifer spent quite a bit a time away from their home, tending to their horses. That’s what he was doing the morning of the shooting.”

He then pulled up text messages that not only showed that Mr Crumbley was caring for the horses on 30 November 2021, but also another message from his wife.

“I’m very concerned,” a text message sent from Jennifer Crumbley to her husband revealed. “Unfortunately, they kept that concern to themselves,” and didn’t share that with the school, Mr Keast said.

Mr Crumbley ‘knew the origin of’ the shooter’s disturbing drawing: prosecutor

14:50 , Kelly Rissman

Prosecutor Marc Keast said in his opening statements, “There is no claim that James Crumbley gave his son that firearm hoping he would hurt four students” so how can a father be held responsible for the intentional acts of a teenage son?

Mr Crumbley isn’t charged with murder — he’s charged with involuntary manslaughter “which is rooted in negligence,” he said. It takes gross negligence, causation of death, and that person’s actions are reasonably foreseeable.

Prosecutors also pulled up the shooter’s disturbing drawing of a firearm, saying Mr Crumbley “knew the origin of this drawing.”

The case is not about guns — storage or laws — but is about this gun, Mr Keast said, showing the shooter’s drawing. “This kid was begging for a more deadly weapon. That’s why we’re here.”

Defence’s opening statements begin

14:54 , Kelly Rissman

The defence attorney Mariell Lehman told jurors to pay attention to what they won’t hear.

“You will not hear that Mr Crumbley knew what his son was going to do,” she said. “He did not know what his son was planning. He did not purchase that gun with knowledge that his son was going to harm other people.”

Ms Lehman defended her client’s former job. “Being a DoorDash driver doesn’t mean your job is any less important than any other job,” she said, which comes in striking contrast to what his wife’s defence attorney said, emphasising that it was more difficult for her to leave her job compared to her husband.

A short break

14:54 , Kelly Rissman

After hearing speedy opening statements, the court will take a brief break.

What happened in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial?

15:15 , Kelly Rissman

His wife’s trial began on 23 January. In their opening statements, the prosecution and defence portrayed two very different versions of the shooter’s mother.

The prosecution argued that Jennifer understood that her son was experiencing a “downward spiral”, but still, the “gun was gifted”.

This trial was about her “willful disregard of the danger that she knew of”, the prosecutor said, adding that Jennifer and her husband “didn’t do any number of tragically small and easy things that would have prevented all this from happening”.

“Jennifer Crumbley didn’t pull the trigger that day. But she’s responsible for their deaths,” the attorney said.

The defence team, by contrast, described Jennifer as a “hypervigilant” mother who “cared more about her son than anything in the world”.

She took her son to soccer practice, basketball, bowling, and even took him to urgent care when a 1mm mole changed colour, the defence said.

Despite this claim, the attorney insisted that her client didn’t “have it on her radar in any way that there was any mental disturbance, that her son would ever take a gun into a school, that her son would ever shoot people.”

Read the full story...

Why Michigan school shooter’s father is going on trial over murders

First witness takes the stand

15:41 , Kelly Rissman

Molly Darnell, an educator at Oxford Community Schools, testified. She was also the first witness in Jennifer Crumbley’s case and is survivor of the November 2021 shooting.

She choked up when she started talking about the students that she knew, including children of faculty.

Ms Darnell said she was in room 224 on 30 November, adding that she typically kept her door open.

When asked about that day, she described kids running by as a “movement that I’ve never seen before...there was a hyper-ness to the voices and it was almost like they were pushing forward, trying to move as fast as possible.” Her voice shaking, she said, it was “unusual.”

Ms Darnell said she then moved into the hallway to see what was going on. Ms Darnell said, “It was silent. There was no noise.”

After 10 seconds, she heard “three things really close together.” One was an annoucement from the principal saying the school was going into lockdown, a loud “pop, pop, pop,” and doors slamming, she said.

A teacher testifies

15:54 , Kelly Rissman

Ms Darnell, who said she has no experience with firearms, said the “pop” noise could have been confused for “lockers slamming.” She said she didn’t initially register that it sounded like guns firing.

After hearing the three sounds in rapid succession, she closed her door and put the night lock on the door.

She testified that she locked eyes with Ethan Crumbley, who she did not know or recognize. She noted he was wearing glasses.

“I realize that he’s raising a gun to me,” she said, “I remember thinking in my head, ‘there’s no orange tip on the gun.’” She explained that she once heard that BB guns have orange tips.

Realizing what was happening, Ms Darnell said she jumepd to the right and feels her shoulder move back. “It feels like I was stung by hot water,” she said. That’s when she noticed a “bullet hole leading out to the courtyard” in a window. Ms Darnell started choking up.

Ms Darnell said her instinct was then to “barricade the door.” So she tried to grab the filing cabinet to block the door but it was too heavy. She didn’t even realize that she had been shot, Ms Darnell testified.

”You were shot that day,” Prosecutor Karen McDonald said. Ms Darnell then removed her jacket and showed the jury her gunshot wounds, including the entry and exit wounds and “where the bullet cauderized my flesh.”

On that day, Ms Darnell said she was able to crawl “the length of the door” and secured the night lock under the door before moving the rolling court in front of the door.

Then, she recalled, that she was “concerned that he’s going to come back around to those [back] windows,” Ms Darnell said, so she tried to hide in the classroom.

That’s when she started to feel “blood rolling down my arm,” she testified. “I don’t think I was admitting that I was shot.”

All she could think about was to apply a tourniquet on her arm where she was bleeding. Unable to reach the first aid bag, she wrapped her cardigan around her arm, she testified.

‘I love you. Active shooter’: a teacher described texts sent on the day of the shooting

16:07 , Kelly Rissman

Ms Darnell testified about Ethan Crumbley’s stance the moment before he shot her. The teacher recalled his feet being hip-distance apart, his shoulders were squared and he “raised that gun right up.”

She said since she knew the school was in lockdown, 911 was called. Ms Darnell said she texted her husband: “I love you. Active shooter.” But she didn’t tell anyone that she had been shot, she said.

Her daughter — who attended a different school — also texted Ms Darnell asking if she was okay, since her child heard that there was an active shooter at Oxford High School.

Then, teachers started texting in a group chat. She still didn’t tell anyone about her injury because she said she didn’t need help and didn’t want to divert resources, Ms Darnell testified.

At some point, she heard footsteps nearby, making her believe close classrooms were being evacuated. She then texted a teacher in the classroom nextdoor that she had been “hit.” She also texted that she hoped nobody else was hurt.

Finally, help arrived.

Kurt Nuss, her longtime colleague, then came to the door but she didn’t want to open the door, Ms Darnell said: “I didn’t believe it was him.”

The proseuction then showed video footage of police escorting Ms Darnell out of the school.

The teacher was then transported to a hospital. “Hallways are lined with doctors and nurses. They were prepared for a disaster,” she said, fighting through tears.

Ms McDonald then asked about what she learned about her injury. She received a chest X-ray to ensure that no debris from the bullet had travelled elsewhere in her body. “That’s the first time I cried,” she said, seemingly realizing what had happened.

“He was aiming to kill me,” she said about Ethan Crumbley. “That’s at heart level,” she said about the wound, telling the jury that her injury was just six inches from her heart.

James Crumbley in court

16:11 , Kelly Rissman

James Crumbley is sitting in the court on Thursday, seemingly listening intently with headphones over his head.

He took off his glasses and wiped away tears after Ms Darnell testified about her experience in the school shooting. The defence did not cross-examine the teacher.

Mr Crumbley has repeatedly fixed his tie throughout the day.

The judge told the attorneys that they are “ahead of schedule.”

Secret Service agent takes the stand

16:53 , Kelly Rissman

Edward Wagrowski, a Secret Service agent who previoulsy worked as a detective and computer crimes analyst for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, testified on Thursday.

Wagrowski’s testimony continues

17:14 , Kelly Rissman

Mr Wagrowski testified his memory of the day of the shooting.

He told the court that he was working on 30 November. When Mr Keast asked what he was doing at the time of the shooting, Mr Wagrowski replied, “Probably driving pretty fast.” The captain told the sheriff’s office, “all hands on deck,” he remembered, noting that he usually isn’t involved in active shooting situations, given his role.

The former detective’s voice became shaky when he talked about the events of the fateful day.

He remembered a series of ambulances and a SWAT vehicle behind him as he drove to Oxford High School -- he was the first car in the line. “I counted at least 16 vehicles screaming past me,” he said.

“That was tough,” he said, recalling when he neared the school. “They looked like zombies,” he said describing the students and how many people were dressed without coats and one kid just had one shoe in, showing how rushed they were to leave the school.

Surveillance footage

17:18 , Kelly Rissman

Mr Wagrowski looked over video surveillance footage to figure out where and when the shooting started and who was involved.

Oxford High School had at least 100 cameras, he said, and it was his responsibility to review the footage.

The Secret Service agent’s testimony will continue at 1.30pm, after the jury returns from lunch break.

Jennifer Crumbley’s case was a landmark — it’s unclear if her husband’s will be too

17:42 , Kelly Rissman

Never before had a parent been tried for their alleged involvement in a mass school shooting.

A judge for Michigan’s appellate court acknowledged the historic nature of this case in his opinion ruling that the Crumbleys should stand trial: “Our legal system does not, nor should it, criminally punish people for subpar, odd, or eccentric parenting…However, before us is the unusual case.”

The prosecution argued that Ms Crumbley could have taken “tragically small” steps that would have prevented the shooting, which the state described as “foreseeable.” Instead, the prosecutors argued, she ignored her son’s mental health struggles and made the 9mm handgun — purchased four days before the shooting — accessible.

The jury agreed.

Now, Crumbley is the first parent to have been convicted for her alleged role in a mass school shooting. Her husband, James Crumbley, could soon be the second as he is facing the same charges at his trial in March.

While the verdict in this case may be unprecedented, the events that led to this point are far from it.

School shootings are all too common across America, with more than 340 school shootings in 2023 alone, according to the K-12 School Shooting database.

Tragically, then, it’s not too surprising that firearms are the leading cause of death of children in the United States.

With gun violence a devastating, yet common part of life, it’s perhaps unsurprising that attention is turning to holding accountable people beyond those who pulled the trigger.

Read the full story...

How Jennifer Crumbley’s case could change America’s response to mass shootings

James Crumbley’s son’s journal entries could seal his fate

18:12 , Kelly Rissman

The 17-year-old, who last year was sentenced to life without parole, had written a series of disturbing journal entries, including one that read: “I will have to find where my dad hid my gun before I can shoot (up) the school.” A judge is expected to decide this week on whether the entry is admissible.

This line could be favourable for Mr Crumbley’s defence, as prosecutors argue that he and his wife ignored their their troubled son’s mental health and gave him easy access to a firearm in their home.

However, that piece of evidence was not permitted in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial, the Detroit Free Press reported, yet jurors were allowed to hear other entries and texts regarding Ethan requesting help from his parents for his mental health issues, which they allegedly ignored.

Throughout his wife’s trial, her defence lawyer painted James Crumbley as being in charge of guns, while she didn’t know much about them.

The trial revealed that Mr Crumbley took his then 15-year-old to purchase the gun that became a murder weapon four days later.

The storage of the gun will likely be a key point in Mr Crumbley’s case if his wife’s trial serves as precedent.

Read the full story...

James Crumbley trial fate could be depend on his son’s journal entry

18:44 , Kelly Rissman

Mr Wagrowski’s testimony continues. He said it was his job to try to secure video footage from the hundreds of security cameras at the high school.

“We knew it started in the 200 hallway,” the former detective said.

He explained that the shooter went into the bathroom, and came out in an all-black outfit, which was different from what he wore earlier in the day. When they learned that he had been in the school counsellor’s office earlier that day, they found footage of him in the office and eventually determined what he looked like, Mr Wagrowski said.

When asked how many hours he saw of the shooting, he replied, “too many.”

Mr Wagrowski choked up when he talked about the footage that captured the four students who were fatally shot. “I’ll never forget it,” he said.

He recalled watching teachers as they were “grabbing students as they ran by and just throwing them into a room.”

He described watching the chilling moments when each of the four students were killed, seemingly holding back tears.

When there was “no one left to shoot at,” because the school was evacuated and locked down, the shooter seemed to notice students hiding in the corner and he “fired a few rounds,” Mr Wagrowski said, recalling watching the footage.

He also mentioned that he saw the assistant principal approached the shooter and talked to him, noting the teen didn’t aim at or shoot her.

Mr Keast asked about seeing another student nearing the shooter before realizing that he was in the bathroom with the shooter. The ex-detective said, “I’ve never seen somebody actually run for their life.”

James Crumbley’s pained reaction

18:46 , Kelly Rissman

James Crumbley could be seen wiping his nose and closing his eyes as he listened to harrowing testimony from Mr Wagrowski, who was telling the court about the surveillance footage that he watched.

Mr Crumbley appeared pained and was breathing heavily as he listened with headphones over his head.

Disturbing texts revealed in court

19:03 , Kelly Rissman

The witness also testified about texts and social media exchanges between the Crumbleys.

The court was read messages that the parents sent one another, highlighting some concerns they had over their son.

Mr Wagrowski one message exchange stood out. Mr Crumbley’s son and his friend sent more than 20,000 texts from January through the end of October. The expert said he has seen phones that have fewer than 20,000 messages on the device total.

The proseuctor pointed out that’s “double” the amount of messages sent from the shooter and his friend compared to Jennifer and James’ messages in the same time period, which he estimated to be 10,000 messages.

Aside from this one friend, Mr Wagrowski added, messages between Ethan Crumbley and other people totalled less than 1,000 messages.

In April 2021 messages between him and his good friend, revealed in court, the high school sophomore said he was hearing things, like “voices,” adding, “I actually asked my dad to take [me] to the doctor yestercay but he just gave me some pills and told me to ‘suck it up.’” Ethan Crumbley also said he told his mom who laughed at him, texts shown in court revealed.

Other messages show the shooter felt like he was “mentally and physically dying” and said that he wanted to ask his parents to go to the doctor again.

The court also watched videos that the shooter sent to his friend, showing Ethan holding a handgun. One video captured the sophomore holding a loaded gun. “My dad left it out so I thought. ‘Why not’ lol,” Ethan wrote his friend after he sent the video in August 2021.

A judge had denied change of venue for James Crumbley trial

20:26 , Kelly Rissman

James Crumbley wanted jurors from a different county to hear the case, arguing that he could not get a fair trial because of widespread publicity and his wife’s recent conviction.

“They have been clearly convicted in the court of public opinion,” defense lawyer Mariell Lehman said in a 14 February court filing.

It’s unusual in Michigan to change the location of a trial or to bring in jurors from another county.

James Crumbley, 47, is accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley and failing to get mental health care for his son.

DoorDash route on the day of the shooting, revealed

20:37 , Kelly Rissman

Prosecutors asked a witness to go over James Crumbley’s route as a DoorDash driver on the day of the shooting, 30 November 2021.

Mr Crumbley stopped at a McDonald’s and a smoothie bar, records show.

At 1.09pm, Mr Crumbley received an email from the school with the subject line “Active Emergency at OHS”, Mr Wagrowski testified.

Moments later, he called his son, phone records indicate. He also had a 50-second phone call with his wife.

He then went home, records indicated.

At 1.23pm, the defendant’s wife sent a message writing to someone else: “The gun is gone and so are the bullets.” She also said she was nervous that he was going to “kill himself.”

James Crumbley’s chilling 911 call played in court

20:38 , Kelly Rissman

James Crumbley then called 911 at 1.34pm, a recording of which was played in court.

“I’m at my house....I have a missing gun at my house. And my son is at the school,” he can be heard telling the 911 operator, saying that he had heard there was an active shooter. “I’m really freaking out. My son’s name is Ethan Crumbley,” he could be heard saying.

The call was made before shooting was made public, Mr Wagrowski said.

Court adjourns for the day

21:06 , Kelly Rissman

The court will return at 9am tomorrow, the judge said.