By Jim Newell
PONTIAC, Mich. — Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford High School shooter, has been found guilty on four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
A jury delivered the unanimous verdict on Tuesday afternoon, before 2 p.m., after 10 hours of deliberation, which began Monday morning.
Crumbley, 45, had pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the deaths of Oxford High School students Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.
Six other students and a teacher were wounded in the mass shooting on Nov. 30, 2021.
Jennifer Crumbley faces up to 15 years in prison for each count of involuntary manslaughter, which would run concurrently. She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9.
Crumbley’s trial is the first trial in the United States where a parent of a school shooter has faced charges for the shooting.
James Crumbley, 47, Jennifer’s husband, is set to go to trial in March on four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Their son pled guilty last year to one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of murder and 19 other charges related to the deadly rampage and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Prosecutor’s in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial presented evidence that she and her husband failed to respond to warning signs exhibited by the shooter prior to the attack, purchased him the gun as a present and ignored warnings from school officials.
School officials had called Jennifer and James to the school the morning of the shooting after finding violent drawings their son had done on a school assignment. The shooter was also caught searching online for bullets at school, watching shooting videos in class and drawing violent images on several other papers.
School officials testified that the parents chose not to take their son home despite the school telling them to get him immediate help. The parents told the school they could not take him home because they both had to return to work
During her testimony last week, Jennifer Crumbley admitted she would have been able to not return to work.
The prosecution and defense presented closing arguments in Jennifer Crumbley’s case on Friday after seven days of testimony from law enforcement, school employees, shooting victims and other witnesses.
The jury of 12 had to consider the testimonies and nearly 500 pieces of evidence in deciding its verdict. Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews sent jurors home after the closing arguments but gave them instructions on Monday morning before they began their deliberations.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald has argued Jennifer Crumbley bears responsibility for the deaths because she was “grossly negligent” in giving a gun to her son, who was 15 at the time, and failing to get him proper mental health treatment despite warning signs.
“It’s a rare case that takes some really egregious facts,” McDonald said in closing arguments. “It takes the unthinkable, and she has done the unthinkable, and because of that, four kids have died.”
The prosecution’s case against Jennifer Crumbley focused on her knowledge of her son’s mental issues, how he got access to the firearm and her actions at a pivotal school meeting on the morning of the shooting.
Defense attorney Shannon Smith said the case was “dangerous” for parents everywhere and has argued the blame was with Jennifer’s husband for improperly securing the firearm.
“Can every parent really be responsible for everything their children do, especially when it’s not foreseeable?” Smith said in closing arguments.
Jennifer Crumbley took the stand in her own defense and expressed no regret for her actions.
“I’ve asked myself if I would have done anything differently, and I wouldn’t have,” she testified.
Crumbley testified that safely storing the gun was her husband’s responsibility.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable being in charge of that. It was more his thing, so I let him handle that. I didn’t feel comfortable putting the lock thing on it,” she said.
By Jim Newell