PONTIAC, Michigan – The mother of a Michigan school shooter took the stand in her own defense, denying responsibility for the deaths of four students and expressing regret that her son didn’t harm their family instead. Jennifer Crumbley, along with her husband James, is accused of allowing access to a gun at home and neglecting their son’s mental health. This makes them the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child.
Ethan Crumbley, the couple’s son, opened fire at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021, killing four students and injuring seven others. The shooting occurred after school staff called the Crumbleys for a meeting to discuss a violent drawing by Ethan on a math assignment. Despite this, the parents opted not to take their son home, and the shooting ensued shortly after.
During her testimony, Jennifer Crumbley distanced herself from any involvement in purchasing or storing the handgun used by her son. She placed the responsibility on her husband, who is also facing involuntary manslaughter charges. Crumbley took the stand after days of damaging evidence against her, including evidence of an extramarital affair, concerns about her horses’ welfare, and the emptying of a $3,000 bank account under her son’s name.
Furthermore, Crumbley denied any role in handling or storing the gun, stating that it was kept in a locked box with the key placed inside a beer stein. She defended her actions, expressing regret that she hadn’t taken earlier action to protect her son from harming others.
In response to evidence of her son’s mental health struggles and concerning journal entries, Jennifer Crumbley asserted that she saw no significant mental health problems. However, prosecutors presented text messages from Ethan indicating hallucinations and mental distress, which were dismissed by Crumbley as her son “messing around.”
The meeting between school staff and the Crumbleys, where they were shown Ethan’s disturbing drawing, has been a focal point in the case. The counselor and school administrator urged the parents to seek mental health care for their son immediately, but the Crumbleys declined, citing the need to return to work. Crumbley, on the other hand, offered a different perspective, emphasizing that she had never refused to take her son home if he wanted to leave.
Ethan Crumbley, now serving a life sentence, had forewarned in his journal of his mental struggles leading to a school shooting. This harrowing tragedy has spurred a nationwide conversation on parental responsibility and school safety measures. As the trial continues, the role of parents in preventing such incidents and their accountability for their children’s actions is under intense scrutiny.