Parents of suspected Michigan school shooter plead not guilty to manslaughter charges
James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the teenager accused of killing four people in a Michigan high school shooting, pleaded not guilty to charges against them.
The couple was arraigned in court Saturday morning on four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. A judge set their bonds at $500,000 each, saying there is some concern about them being a flight risk because they had to be apprehended.
The couple’s attorneys had asked for a bond of $50,000 or $100,000 and denied that James and Jennifer Crumbley fled.
Jennifer Crumbley cried as she told the judge that she understands the charges against her. She and her husband both appeared virtually for the arraignment.
They are being represented by Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, who are from the same firm.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were arrested earlier Saturday morning in Detroit following a manhunt. They are being held at the same jail as their son, Ethan Crumbley, but they are all separate and isolated, authorities said.
“Our clients are going to fight these charges. Our clients are just as devastated as everybody else,” Smith said.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were found inside a commercial building, Detroit Police Department Chief James E. White said at a news conference, adding that they “appeared to be hiding in the building.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a Saturday afternoon news conference that the couple was assisted and whoever helped them could face charges.
“We have enough early indications that clearly somebody helped them into that location and made it available to them and it was after it was publicly announced that there was warrants for them,” he said.
Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said in an earlier statement that the couple was arrested after a business owner in Detroit called 911 to report their vehicle was in his parking lot.
A woman was by the car and fled on foot, McCabe said, adding that James and Jennifer Crumbley were taken into custody after an extensive search.
It was reported that James and Jennifer Crumbley had fled shortly after prosecutors on Friday afternoon announced the charges against them in the attack Tuesday that killed four students at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit.
The shooting was allegedly carried out by their 15-year-old son Ethan using a handgun officials said was bought by his father days earlier.
County officials said that prior to the announcement of the charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley, the couple’s lawyers had indicated the parents had agreed to arrange their arrest if charges were filed.
When they could not be reached, it set off a search involving the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Team, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement organizations.
On Friday afternoon after officials said they were searching for the pair, their lawyers said the couple had not fled but had left town the night after the shooting “for their own safety.”
“They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports,” Smith and Lehman said in a statement at that time.
The Crumbleys walked into a bank Friday and withdrew $4,000 for reasons that weren’t immediately known, a source with direct knowledge told NBC News.
Late Friday, the U.S. Marshals Service released wanted posters and announced rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to their arrest.
Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if there’s evidence someone contributed to a victim’s harm or death. If convicted, the Crumbleys could face up to 15 years in prison.
High school students Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17, were killed in the shooting. Seven others, including a teacher, were wounded.
The county sheriff has said James Crumbley purchased the gun used in the violence just days before the school shooting. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said the pair were made aware of disturbing, violent images in a drawing found on their son’s desk the day of the shooting and were urged to get him counseling.
“James and Jennifer Crumbley resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time,” McDonald said during a news conference Friday. “Instead, James and Jennifer Crumbley left the high school without their son. He was returned to the classroom.”
Images that officials said were drawn by the teenager included a gun with the words “the thoughts won’t stop, help me” and a bullet with the words “blood everywhere,” McDonald said.
The previous day, a teacher saw the suspect searching for information on ammunition on his cellphone, she said. The school tried unsuccessfully to reach Jennifer Crumbley, the prosecutor said.
McDonald said the mother later texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
The prosecutor told MSNBC on Friday that the teen’s parents “had reason to believe he was dangerous. … I believe they should be held accountable.”
She reiterated that prosecutors believe the gun used in the attack was purchased for the teenager.
“We have parents who bought a weapon for their son,” McDonald said. “They posted on social that it was his gun. He posted on social media that it was his gun.”
The couple did not tell school officials Tuesday, when they were informed about the images, that their son had a weapon, the prosecutor said. Authorities believe he brought it to school that day in a backpack, McDonald said.
Their son, Ethan Crumbley, has been charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of terrorism causing death, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Ethan Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to all charges.