ROCHESTER HILLS, Michigan — A judge ordered James and Jennifer Crumbley to stand trial for their alleged roles in a deadly Michigan high school shooting, concluding they could have stopped the rampage that was carried out by their “troubled” son.
The judge decided the involuntary manslaughter case against the Crumbleys had enough evidence to proceed to court. Among other things, the judge heard entries from Ethan Crumbley’s journal that were read aloud in court, including this one that brought the couple to tears:
“I hope my parents can forgive me for what I do.”
Ethan Crumbley wrote those words before prosecutors say he carried out the Nov. 30 shooting that killed four classmates and injured seven others.
In the journal, which is now part of the official public record, the 15-year-old also blamed his parents for what he was about to do.
“I will cause the biggest school shooting Michigan’s history. I will kill everyone I f—— see,” the journal says. “I have fully mentally lost it after fighting my dark side. My parents won’t help me.”
The journal also added: “The first victim has to be to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer like me.”
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Perhaps most chilling, said Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, was this excerpt: “I have zero help with my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot the school. My parents won’t listen to me.”
The journal entry was among many pieces of evidence that convinced 52-3 District Court Judge Julie Nicholson to order the Crumbley parents to stand trial.
“The court finds that the deaths of the four victims could have been avoided if James and Jennifer Crumbley exercised ordinary care and diligence in the care of their son,” Nicholson said.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of making the gun used in the Nov. 30 shooting available to the teen and failing to intervene when he showed signs of mental distress. Ethan Crumbley is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, terrorism and gun charges.
On cross examination, defense attorney Shannon Smith argued there is no evidence in the journal that Ethan told his parents that he planned to carry out a mass shooting, nor is there evidence that his parents knew he would do this.
Earlier Thursday, an Oxford High School counselor testified that Ethan Crumbley’s parents appeared cold in his office on the morning of the shooting, never hugging or touching their son, who had just drawn a violent picture of a gun and the words: ‘My life is useless” and “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
The counselor, Shawn Hopkins, offered for the first time a glimpse into what happened in Oxford High School on the day before and of the shooting, when 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley allegedly emerged from a bathroom and opened fire, killing four students and injuring six students and a teacher.
His testimony quickly triggered a sharp rebuke from the defense, who grilled the counselor about why he let Ethan Crumbley return to class that day after just telling the court he feared the student had suicidal thoughts, and was not getting support from his parents.
“You could have said, ‘he has to leave,’ Smith told the counselor.
“I could have stated that, correct,” Hopkins responded.
“Are you aware that the gun was in his backpack?” Smith asked.
“I don’t know,” the counselor answered.
Smith asked Hopkins if he ever contacted Child Protective Services about Ethan, arguing that’s required by school officials who suspect children are in danger.
Hopkins said that he asked the parents to take their son home. But when they said it wasn’t an option, he said, he gave them 48 hours to get the boy into therapy, and then he would call CPS.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the school district over the shooting, alleging school officials made several missteps that put students’ lives in danger.
Ethan was ‘sad’
According to the counselor’s testimony, here is what he witnessed:
On Nov. 29, the day before the shooting, Hopkins was alerted about Ethan Crumbley researching bullets on his phone while in class, and was called into a meeting to be a source of support for Ethan.
According to Hopkins, at that meeting, Ethan said that he understood that researching bullets “was not school appropriate behavior.” He also told school officials that shooting was a hobby and he was researching it in class.
Hopkins said a school official left a voicemail for the mother, Ethan was returned to class, and the meeting ended “on a positive note. there was no necessary follow through.”
The next day, Ethan Crumbley was pulled out of class again, this time for drawing the violent note in math class.
“He said, ‘I can see why this looks bad. I’m not going to do anything,’” Hopkins recalled Ethan telling him, noting he was worried that Ethan was suicidal. “I wanted to make sure he was OK.”
Hopkins said that Ethan told him the gun drawing was a video simulation and that he wasn’t a threat to himself or others. But Hopkins asked him to explain the words, “my life is useless,” noting, “This does not sound like a video game.”
That’s when Ethan’s demeanor changed, Hopkins said. He became sad, then described some things that had happened in his life: his family dog had died, he lost a grandparent, his friend had moved away, the pandemic was difficult and he had recently argued with his parents over his grades.
“At that point I determined that there was enough suicidal ideation based on his sadness,” said Hopkins, who performed a suicidal assessment of Ethan.
Hopkins said he called Jennifer Crumbley and asked her to come to the school. Both parents eventually showed up at around 10:30 a.m.
Parents ‘weren’t friendly’
Hopkins said the meeting with the Crumbleys was different than other meetings he’s had with parents and their kids.
“They weren’t friendly or showing care to their son,” Hopkins said. “They didn’t greet him. They didn’t hug him.”
Hopkins said he expressed to the parents that he was concerned about Ethan’s well being and suicide ideation, gave them a list of mental health resources and said that “he needs someone to talk to for mental health support. I said as soon as possible. Today if possible.”
But Jennifer Crumbley said that day was not an option because she had to return to work. He doesn’t recall the dad saying anything, and noted “I have never had parents arrive at the school and not take their student home.”
Hopkins said that Ethan had no history of disciplinary problems at school, and there were no records of him being bullied. On one occasion, a Spanish teacher contacted him about Ethan and said that the student appeared sad.
Hopkins said that he checked on Ethan, saying to him after class, “Hey, I hear you may be having a rough time. I’m here if you need to talk.”
Ethan Crumbley said, “OK.”
But Hopkins never heard from him.
The backpack and the gun
According to Hopkins, the meeting with the parents and Ethan lasted about 15 minutes. He doesn’t remember the mom saying anything to her son, but he recalls the dad looking over the gun drawing, and telling his son: “You have people you can talk to. You have your counselor you can talk to. You have your journal.”
He said the meeting ended abruptly.
“I was asked by mom, ‘are we done?'” recalled Hopkins, who responded, “I guess so.”
Hopkins said he asked the dean if there were any disciplinary reason why Ethan couldn’t be returned to class. The dean said no, and Ethan was sent back to class.
“I wrote him a pass to go to class and told him, “I just want you to know I care about you,’” Hopkins recalled.
Ethan did not respond.
“I cared about him in that moment particularly,” Hopkins testified. “I thought it was a really rough situation to be showing signs of needing help, of needing support, and it felt like he got the opposite when I tried to get him that help and support.”
When asked about Ethan’s backpack, which police believe contained the gun that was used in the shooting, Hopkins said that Ethan did not have it with him during the meeting with his parents. It was left behind in math class, he said, and a teacher brought it to him in the counselor’s office because that class was over by the time the meeting ended.
The backpack was never searched.
Contributed: The Associated Press
Source: GANNETT Syndication Service