Ethan Crumbley parents trial: Shooter's mother denies responsibility for gun used to kill 4

ByED WHITE AP logo
Friday, February 2, 2024
Michigan shooter's mother denies responsibility for gun
As the Jennifer Crumbley trial continues Thursday, Ethan Crumbley's mother denied responsibility for the gun used to kill 4 students.

PONTIAC, Mich. -- The mother of a Michigan school shooter testified in her own defense Thursday saying she had no role in buying or storing the handgun used to kill four students in 2021 and shifted responsibility to her husband.

"I just didn't feel comfortable being in charge of that. It was his thing," Jennifer Crumbley said of her husband, turning to jurors as she spoke on the sixth day of her trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Crumbley took the stand after days of unflattering evidence about her meetings with staff at Oxford High School, an extramarital affair, a deep concern about her horses after the shooting and the emptying of her son's $3,000 bank account before her arrest.

Jennifer Crumbley, 45, and husband James, 47, are accused of making a gun accessible at home and ignoring Ethan Crumbley's mental health needs. They are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child.

James Crumbley faces trial in March. Ethan, now 17, pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a life prison sentence.

The teen, who was 15 at the time, pulled a gun from his backpack and shot 11 people at Oxford High on Nov. 30, 2021, killing four students.

Ethan was with his father when the 9mm handgun was purchased just four days earlier. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range and posted photos about the trip on social media.

But she otherwise denied any role in handling or storing the gun. She said the gun was kept in a locked box with a key kept in a beer stein.

Jennifer Crumbley told the jury she was nervous, but she spoke clearly and calmly for nearly two hours before a break in the proceedings. She apologized for her neck turning red and hoped she wouldn't break out in hives.

Prosecutors last week presented Ethan Crumbley's own text messages from spring 2021 in which he told his mom that "demons" were "throwing bowls" and clothes were "flying off the shelf" at home. It was presented as evidence of hallucinations that were not addressed by the parents.

But Jennifer Crumbley said it was "just Ethan messing around.

SEE MORE: Jennifer Crumbley court: Official found it strange shooter's mom didn't take him home over drawing

"He's been convinced our house has been haunted since 2015," she said, adding that her son called the ghost "Boris Johnson."

Earlier in the day, an investigator read portions of Ethan's journal to the jury.

"I have zero help for my mental problems and it's causing me to shoot up the ... school," Ethan, then 15, wrote.

"My parents won't listen to me about help or therapist," the boy said, adding that he would spend his life in prison and that "many people have about a day left to live."

But Jennifer Crumbley said she saw no mental health problems in her son.

"There were a couple of times when Ethan expressed anxiety over taking tests," she said. "Anxiety about what he was going to do after high school - college? military? But not at the level where I felt he needed to see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional."

Jennifer Crumbley's attorney, Shannon Smith, again renewed her call for Ethan Crumbley to be brought to court to be challenged about his journal and other evidence. But Judge Cheryl Matthews said no, noting that the teen's lawyers have indicated that he would invoke his right to remain silent.

Although Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to murder and other crimes, his no-parole sentence still can be appealed.

A meeting between school staff and the Crumbleys a few hours before the shooting has been a key point in the mother's case.

The parents were presented with a disturbing drawing their son had scrawled on an assignment. It depicted a gun and bullet and the lines, "The thoughts won't stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless."

The school recommended that Ethan get help as soon as possible, but the Crumbleys declined to take him home, saying they needed to return to work. Their son stayed in school and later pulled a handgun from his backpack to fire at students.