Mother of American school shooter also guilty

Henry

A jury found a mother from Michigan in the USA guilty of manslaughter after her teenage son opened fire on learners at his high school in 2021, killing four people.

Jennifer Crumbley (45) and her husband, James (47), are the first parents of a school shooter to be charged with culpable homicide – even though the crime was committed by their child.

Ethan Crumbley, their 17-year-old son, is currently serving a life sentence for the shooting on November 30, 2021 at Oxford High School. Four learners died in the incident and seven others were injured.

Before the shooting, the school repeatedly warned Ethan’s parents that something was wrong with his mental health, but they apparently did not intervene. Prosecutors argued that the parents ignored signs that Ethan posed a threat even before the shooting, and that they gave him easy access to the firearm with which the victims were shot.

The boy reported himself to the police shortly after the shooting and his parents were also arrested about a week later for their “negligence”.

After a day and a half of deliberation, a jury this week found Jennifer guilty of all four charges of involuntary manslaughter against her.

She will be sentenced on April 9 and could face up to 15 years in prison.

James will be tried separately in March.

Firearm donated to teenager

The Crumbleys bought the 9 mm SIG Sauer with which Ethan carried out the attack as an “early Christmas present” and took him to a shooting range to practice.

Jennifer told the court that her husband was responsible for the safe keeping of the firearm and that Ethan was only supposed to use it at the shooting range.

According to her, she never had reason to think that her son would resort to such a degree of violence.

“I wish he had killed us instead,” she said.

In the days before the shooting, Ethan apparently acted strangely, much to the concern of a counselor at the school. Earlier he also took a severed bird’s head to school and left it in a yellow liquid in the school’s bathroom.

Hours before he opened fire on his classmates, the counselor, Shawn Hopkins, called in Ethan’s parents and told them that he posed a threat to himself and urgently needed psychological help – preferably the same day. This after a violent sketch was found on his desk.

Hopkins testified at Ethan’s trial that his parents told him they couldn’t take him to get help right away because they had to go back to work. Ethan then went back to class.

According to Hopkins, Ethan’s parents had previously also repeatedly dismissed worrying behaviour.

According to cell phone messages presented to the court, Ethan told a classmate before the shooting that he asked his parents to take him to a doctor because he was having hallucinations and hearing voices. Apparently they laughed it off.

In closing arguments last week, prosecutor Karen McDonald told the jury that Jennifer failed to “exercise ordinary care when simple actions could have prevented the tragedy”.

“She could have locked up the ammunition. She could have locked up the firearm,” McDonald said.

“She could have told the school that they had just given him a firearm. She could have told the school that her son had previously experienced a crisis and asked for help.”

However, defense attorney Shannon Smith argued that Jennifer cannot be held responsible for the actions of her son.

“No one could have expected this,” Smith said. “Can every parent really be responsible for everything their children do?”

“This case is a very dangerous one for parents out there,” she argued.

In the midst of a large number of fatal firearm incidents involving young people, pressure has increased in the US to punish parents who allow their children to get their hands on weapons.

The father of an Illinois man accused of killing seven people in July 2022 pleaded guilty in November to charges of “reckless conduct” for helping his son obtain the assault rifle used in the mass shooting.

A Virginia woman whose six-year-old son seriously wounded his teacher last year was recently sentenced to two years in prison for criminal child neglect and 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of illegally obtaining the firearm.