Michigan Supreme Court refuses to hear bid to dismiss charges against school shooter’s parents

The parents of a teenager who killed four students at a Michigan high school are set to go to trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, after their appeal was denied by the state Supreme Court.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of buying a weapon for their son, Ethan Crumbley, as an early Christmas present and ignoring his mental health needs – with prosecutors alleging that the pair hold some responsibility for the tragedy.

Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty to terrorism and murder following the shooting at Oxford High School – located about 40 miles north of Detroit – which occurred in November 2021. A judge last week said he is eligible for life in prison without parole.

Four students – Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling were killed – and six others and a teacher were wounded during the incident.

The state appeals court said in March that Crumbley’s parents could face trial, and the Michigan Supreme Court let that decision stand in a one-sentence order on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Prosecutors had to show only that there was probable cause to put the parents on trial, a low threshold at this stage, with the appeals court noting that a jury would hear a more expansive case from both sides.

The couple’s attorneys have said the pair have acknowledged that bad decisions had been made but insisted that the shooting was not foreseeable. Along with their son, who was 15 at the time, they had met with school staff on the day of the shooting after violent drawings he had made raised suspicion.

However, the boy’s backpack was not searched for a gun and he was ultimately allowed to stay at school.

Attorneys said that such mistakes should not rise to the level of involuntary manslaughter charges, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

Ethan Crumbley is pictured in court (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Ethan Crumbley is pictured in court (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Crumbley parents have been in custody since shortly after the shooting, unable to afford a $500,000 bond. Their son is in the same jail, though they have no contact with him.

The teenager will be sentenced on 8 December. The judge will have the option of giving him a prison term that would make him eligible for parole in the decades ahead.

Colin King, a psychologist who had met with the teen, previously described him as a “feral child” who was neglected by his parents, though Judge Kwamé Rowe said his home life was "not ideal.”

Judge Rowe noted that his parents would often drink alcohol and argue, but that he “appeared to have a loving and supportive family.”

“He went on family vacations, owned several pets and had visits from family ... In defendant’s own words, his childhood was ‘good’,” Judge Rowe said on Friday.

Defence lawyers declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s order, citing a gag order.