Prosecutors in Michigan school shooting allege parents ignored 'red flags,' pursued own interests

Jennifer and husband James Crumbley face four counts of involuntary manslaughter and as many as 15 years in prison if convicted
Defendants Jennifer, James Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., courtroom. Dec. 14, 2021.
( JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Prosecutors in their case against the parents of alleged Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley on Thursday alleged the husband and wife ignored their son's disturbing behavior ahead of last month's massacre in pursuit of their own concerns and interests, according to recently filed court documents.

In the documents filed Thursday, prosecutors alleged the Crumbleys ignored "troubling" red flags from their son ahead of his alleged Nov. 30 shooting attack on classmates. The behavior included animal torture and bloody sketches that the parents ignored and instead spent hours with their prized horses. In the case of mother/wife Jennifer Crumbley, she was preoccupied with an extramarital affair, according to the Daily Beast.

"The defendants had information long before Nov. 30 (six months prior to the shooting) that their son's only friend moved at the end of October, that the family dog died, that their son was sadder than usual, and that he was sending his mother disturbing texts about his state of mind," one filing stated, according to the Detroit Free Press. "Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun."

Jennifer and husband James Crumbley face four counts of involuntary manslaughter and as many as 15 years in prison if convicted.

Their 15-year-old son has been charged with 24 felonies, including four counts of murder and one count of terrorism. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges for which he will be tried as an adult, also according to the Daily Beast. 

The Crumbleys "knew their son was depressed, that he was fascinated with guns … that he had been researching ammunition while at a school and that he was seen watching violent videos of shootings that morning," according to prosecutors, but they nevertheless purchased for him as an early Christmas present the gun he allegedly used in the attack and left it in an unlocked armoire.

Four Oxford High School students were fatally shot in the attack, and seven others, including a teacher, were wounded. 

The Crumbleys were called to the school prior to the attack, after a teacher spotted their son's "concerning" drawings and writings including such phrases as "the thoughts won’t stop. Help me," "bloody everywhere" and "my life is useless." However, the couple reportedly refused to take home their son and left, according to a letter by the Oxford Community Schools Superintendent. 

In the filings Thursday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald stated Ethan Crumbley "was torturing animals (and) even kept a baby bird's head in a jar on his bedroom floor, which he later took and placed in a school bathroom." 

McDonald said the parents were nevertheless "focusing on their own issues, things like extramarital affairs, financial issues and substance abuse."

They couple says they intended to turn themselves in to authorities on the charges but were found and arrested in a manhunt.