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Prosecutor urges jury to convict Michigan school shooter’s dad, says he could have prevented tragedy

By ED WHITE, , Associated Press,
Published: March 13, 2024, 1:39pm

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A prosecutor urged jurors to convict the father of a Michigan school shooter on Wednesday, saying he ignored the “easiest, most glaring opportunities” to prevent the killing of four students, especially when confronted with his son’s violent classroom drawing.

Instead of taking Ethan Crumbley home, James Crumbley left Oxford High School with his wife and made DoorDash runs, passing near their home during deliveries, prosecutor Karen McDonald said.

He didn’t check the house for a gun similar to one in the drawing until news of the shooting started to spread in the small community. That’s when he frantically called 911 and said the gun was missing — and his 15-year-old son could be the killer.

“There were 1,800 students at Oxford High School,” McDonald said. “There was one parent who suspected their son was a school shooter, and it was James Crumbley. You know what that’s called? That’s called foreseeability.”

Parents are not responsible for everything their kids do, she said later, but “this is a very egregious and rare set of facts.”

A jury of six men and six women left the courtroom for deliberations around 3:15 p.m.

Crumbley, 47, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, accused of failing to safely secure the gun used by Ethan and not seeking help for the boy’s mental distress.

Parents in Michigan have a “legal duty” to exercise reasonable care to prevent their child from harming others, the prosecutor said.

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“James Crumbley was presented with the easiest, most glaring opportunities to prevent the deaths of four students and he did nothing,” McDonald said. “He did nothing — over and over and over again.”

The boy took the gun to school, killing four students and wounding seven more people on Nov. 30, 2021. Investigators said a cable that could have locked the gun was still in its package.

McDonald demonstrated for the jury how to use it, picking up the murder weapon, inserting a lock and removing the keys.

“Ten seconds,” she said, “of the easiest, simplest thing.”

Ethan’s mental state was declining: He made a macabre drawing of a gun and a wounded man on a math assignment and added disturbing phrases, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. Blood everywhere. The world is dead.”

But the parents declined to take Ethan home following a brief meeting at the school, accepting only a list of mental health providers. They didn’t tell school staff that a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun had been purchased by James Crumbley just four days earlier.

Ethan called it “my beauty” on social media. He pulled it from his backpack and began shooting. No one had checked the bag.

Earlier in November 2021, he wrote in his journal that he needed help for his mental health “but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help.”

Defense attorney Mariell Lehman rested her case after calling just one witness, Ethan’s aunt. James Crumbley declined to testify, telling the judge he understood the risks and benefits of speaking to the jury.

In her closing remarks, Lehman said the father didn’t know that Ethan knew where to find the gun. She also noted that school officials didn’t seem to think the teen was an immediate threat to others.

A day earlier, a teacher saw him looking up bullets on his phone.

“They saw images that weren’t concerning, that are common, that other kids write and draw about,” Lehman said of the anguished drawing on the math paper. “The concern was that he was sad and needed to talk to someone.”

James Crumbley “had no idea” that his son was capable of a mass shooting, she said.

“You can come up with your own reasonable doubt. You’re not limited with what I come up with,” Lehman said.

The Oxford victims were Justin Shilling, 17, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Tate Myre, 16.

The Crumbleys are the first U.S. parents to be charged with having criminal responsibility for a mass school shooting committed by a child. Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last month.

Testifying at her own trial, she told the jury that she wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Ethan Crumbley, now 17, is serving a life prison sentence for murder and terrorism.