A Michigan jury on Tuesday found Jennifer Crumbley guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, holding the mother of a mass shooter accountable for making a gun accessible to her 15-year-old son before he used it to kill four students at Oxford High School in 2021.
A jury reached its verdict after nearly 11 hours of deliberation. Crumbley, 45, could now be sentenced to spend as many as 15 years in prison.
Crumbley, who cameras captured applying lipstick just moments before learning her fate, stared forward blankly as the verdict was read.
The jury’s forewoman told reporters outside the courthouse Tuesday that it was a “hard case and difficult decision” to convict, but that Crumbley’s role as the last adult to possess the murder weapon was a key factor in the panel’s decision, reported the Detroit Free Press.
“Lives hung in the balance, and we took that seriously,” she reportedly said, asking to not be identified by name. “The thing that really hammered it home is that she was the last adult with the gun.”
The prosecution called on law enforcement officials, school employees, shooting victims, and ex-lovers of Crumbley to give scathing testimony against her. Crumbley took to the stand to defend herself last week, declaring she didn’t regret how she parented her son, Ethan Crumbley.
Ethan pleaded guilty in December to killing four of his classmates and injuring seven others—a crime that’s landed him a lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors argued that Crumbley should be held criminally responsible for her son’s actions, saying she neglected his “downward spiral” while making a gun accessible in their home for him to use.
“It’s a rare case that takes some really egregious facts,” said prosecutor Karen McDonald in closing arguments. “It takes the unthinkable, and she has done the unthinkable, and because of that, four kids have died.”
Crumbley pleaded not guilty and claimed she shouldn’t be held responsible for her son’s heinous acts, about which she claimed to be ignorant. Crumbley’s attorneys tried to place blame on her husband, James Crumbley, for leaving their firearm accessible, and claimed it was Oxford High’s fault that officials there did not notify her about her son’s laundry list of behavioral issues sooner.
Defense attorneys repeatedly painted the case as being “dangerous” to parents nationwide, suggesting a Crumbley conviction would open up other parents to prosecution for their kids’ independent criminal acts.
“Can every parent really be responsible for everything their children do, especially when it’s not foreseeable?” said defense attorney Shannon Smith in closing arguments.
Prosecutors countered it was Crumbley’s duty as a mother to at least ensure her 15-year-old son didn’t have access to a firearm. They said even “tragically small” steps could have prevented the tragedy—namely that she shouldn’t have taken Crumbley to a gun range at the same time she noted he was “acting depressed” and spent a lot of time alone.
Through tears, Crumbley testified she wouldn’t do “anything differently” if she could go back to the days that preceded the shooting—a statement that reportedly irked the loved ones of victims who were present in the courtroom.
Some of the most damning evidence cited by prosecutors came from Ethan’s journal, which was read aloud to the jury. In it, the teenager wrote that his “parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist,” suggesting they’d ignored his pleas for professional help.
“Many people have about a day left to live,” the teen wrote in that same journal entry.
Crumbley’s two days of testimony wrapped up Friday, and jury deliberations began Monday. The panel that decided her fate was made up of six women and six men, who were required to make a unanimous decision.
The trial revealed issues within the Crumbley family, including claims by prosecutors that Jennifer had multiple extramarital relationships. Prosecutors argued that she was more focused on finding dates using an app, Adult Friend Finder, than she was worried about the well-being of her son, who was caught making violent drawings at school.
Just hours before Ethan began mowing down his classmates, prosecutors said school staff showed the Crumbleys a drawing their son made of a gun and bullets with the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.”
Prosecutors said that the school urged the Crumbleys to take their son home and to get him professional help but they refused. Hours later, he opened fire inside a school hallway as students changed classes.
James didn’t testify in his wife’s trial. He faces the same charges she did in a trial of his own that’s slated to begin in March. In a plea hearing late last year, Ethan testified that he gave money to his dad to purchase the gun he used in the school shooting, and he was captured on camera practicing with the weapon at a gun range with his mom just days before the mass shooting.
“The shooter was given the murder weapon by his parents, and this parent is sitting here on trial today,” McDonald said last week.
Both parents indicated they had no idea what their son was planning and that their suffering as parents should have been punishment enough.
“It was unforeseeable,” Smith said of the slayings. “No one expected this. No one could have expected this, including the Crumbleys.”