Parents of mass shooter to be sentenced in landmark case

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  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr.
  • BBC News, Washington

Image source, Detroit Free Press/Reuters

The parents of a Michigan school shooter who killed four students will be sentenced Tuesday, marking the end of a landmark criminal case.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and each face up to 15 years in prison.

Jurors found they ignored their son’s mental health needs and bought him the gun he used in the 2021 attack.

The first parents of a mass shooter held criminally responsible in the United States were each convicted in separate trials.

His son was only 15 years old when he killed fellow students Tate Myre, 16; Hana Santa Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17, with a semi-automatic pistol at Oxford High School. Seven other people were also injured in the shooting.

The gunman, Ethan, is serving a life sentence without parole.

In both trials, prosecutors accused the Crumbleys of ignoring warning signs about the potential danger Ethan posed and of being negligent in allowing him to have a gun.

The two purchased the gun their son used just days before the fatal shooting.

Ultimately, they were each found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each of the students their son murdered. Tuesday’s sentencing is expected to include statements from the victim’s families.

While each count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, the sentences will likely be served concurrently.

Police charged the Crumbleys just days after the shooting, but were forced to launch a search to find them after they failed to show up for an arraignment.

Police eventually found the couple in an industrial area of ​​Detroit following a tip from the public.

Before sentencing, the Crumbleys’ defense attorneys asked for leniency.

In a highly unusual move, Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney, Shannon Smith, even offered to let her live in a boarding house, arguing that she had “suffered significantly” following the shooting and that incarceration “does nothing to protect the society”.

“She has actually lost everything,” Smith wrote. “And she carries an extra weight knowing the horrible acts her son committed against others and always doubting every decision she made as a mother.”

Similarly, James Crumbley’s attorney, Mariell Lehman, argued that there was no way he could have known his son’s intentions.

Prosecutors, however, argued that his profanity-laced calls from jail, including some in which he allegedly threatened prosecutors, are evidence of a “complete lack of remorse.”

“He blamed everyone but himself for what happened,” prosecutors wrote.

On the day of the shooting, the Crumbleys interrupted a school meeting about a disturbing drawing their son had made and opted to go to work and not take him home.

School staff later sent him back to class without checking his backpack, which contained the gun his parents had purchased.

An independent investigation published last year alleged multiple failures by the school system, including the decision to allow Ethan to return to class.

In response, the school district has committed to reviewing and improving its practices and policies.

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Watch: The historic trial of Jennifer Crumbley… in 96 seconds

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