Criminal Justice

Mother of Oxford school shooter found guilty of involuntary manslaughter

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Jennifer Crumbley in court

Jennifer Crumbley is taken into custody after a guilty verdict was read on Tuesday in Pontiac, Michigan. The jury convicted Crumbley of involuntary manslaughter in a first-of-its-kind trial to determine whether she had any responsibility in the deaths of four students killed by her son in 2021. (WJBK via AP, Pool)

Pontiac, Mich.—Jennifer Crumbley, the 45-year-old mother of the Oxford High School shooter, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by an Oakland County jury on Tuesday, after an emotional two-week trial that examined a parent’s culpability for their child’s deadly actions.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about 11 hours before finding Crumbley, 45, guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17. The Crumbleys bought their son a gun four days before the shooting as an early Christmas gift, a fact that propelled their prosecutions as the first parents of a mass shooter to face such serious charges in connection to their child’s crime. Crumbley’s husband, James, 47, faces identical charges at a trial scheduled for March.

Crumbley’s then-15-year-old son brought a gun to Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021, and killed four students, while wounding seven other people. Ethan Crumbley was charged as adult and pleaded guilty to two-dozen charges, including a rare charge of terrorism. He was sentenced to life without parole in December.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and her team presented two theories in their case against Crumbley: that she was “grossly negligent” by failing to properly store the gun her son obtained and that she failed her legal duty to prevent her child from harming others.

The case against the Crumbleys is at the forefront of prosecutions against the parents of juvenile shooters, a strategy some prosecutors embrace as they and the public reassess who can be held accountable for a child’s violent actions.

“Unfortunately, I think the sea change is that as we’re grappling with an ocean of firearms, we are going to—and should—see more of these prosecutions brought,” said Eric Rinehart, the Lake County States Attorney in Illinois who prosecuted the father of the Highland Park shooter for sponsoring the shooter’s firearms card despite knowing of his mental health issues.

“I think sending parents a message they can be responsible for what their kids do, if those kids are expressing homicidal and suicidal thoughts, locking up guns is something we can do,” Rinehart said.

Most of the evidence in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial had already been introduced during her son’s hearings. Victims’ family members again heard how James Crumbley bought a gun for his son at a Black Friday sale four days before the shooting and that Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range the following day.

The court also heard now-familiar testimony from witnesses like the shooter’s counselor, who noticed in 2021 he seemed sadder than usual, and the shooter’s assistant principal, who locked eyes with him as the carnage began.

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