An Oakland County judge ruled Friday that bond remains at $500,000 each for accused school shooter Ethan Crumbley’s parents, charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 30 incident at Oxford High School that left four students dead and seven others wounded.
At the bond hearing in 52-3 District Court, Judge Julie Nicholson sided with prosecutors who claim James and Jennifer Crumbley are flight risks with no real ties to the community, and denied the request from defense attorneys Mariell Lehman and Shannon Smith to lower the bond to $100,000 cash/surety in hopes the couple can be released from the Oakland County Jail.
In denying the bond change, Nicholson reiterated statements from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and assistant prosecutor Marc Keast, who told the court that the Crumbleys have several family members in Florida who’ve been in support of them since their arrest and that they hid from authorities after charges against them were announced, ignoring phone calls from their attorneys — rather than turn themselves in.
Nicholson also cited the prosecution’s statements that the couple had attempted to conceal their vehicle found near the Detroit artists’ studio where they were taken into custody during the early morning hours of Dec. 4. They were reportedly found crouched behind a mattress and had approximately $6,600 cash, several credit cards and two “burner” cell phones in their possession at the time.
After Ethan Crumbley was arrested, his parents “drained” his bank account of $3,000, McDonald said.
The prosecution further contends that the Crumbleys’ family members have readied the couple’s Oxford home for sale, put their possession into storage and tried to sell their horses — alleging that these are actions consistent with an intention to flee. And according to McDonald, the Crumbleys’ employment situation has no bearing on them staying put if they’re let out on bond: James Crumbley most recently worked for DoorDash and Jennifer Crumbley lost her job after being arrested, McDonald said.
The case against the Crumbley parents is based on allegations that they were “grossly negligent” in storage of the 9mm Sig Sauer handgun used in the mass shooting — a firearm they reportedly bought for their son, Ethan, a few days before he allegedly opened fire at the school.
Prosecutors further claim that the parents ignored troubling signs that Ethan Crumbley was “gravely troubled,” and that he was fascinated by firearms and displayed violent behavior prior to the shooting. Evidence from the teen’s cell phone includes multiple text messages from Ethan Crumbley to Jennifer Crumbley from as far back as last March where he feared “a demon, ghost or someone else” was inside the family home while he was there alone, Keast said, adding that Jennifer Crumbley didn’t always respond.
It’s also purported that the Crumbley parents failed to address Ethan Crumbley’s torturing and killing of animals — which he filmed at the family home — and that he had kept a bird head in a jar in his bedroom for six months, created Molotov cocktails at the residence and had a notebook “in plain view” at home that “pictured firearms on nearly every page.”
“His one real passion in life was firearms,” Keast said.
Prior to Nicholson making her decision, the Crumbleys’ defense attorneys told the court the prosecution has made “false, misleading and irrational” statements, and that the two “are not flight risks and were not flight risks.” Lehman maintains that James and Jennifer Crumbley left their home and spent a couple nights in a hotel before taking refuge in the artists’ studio in Detroit because of death threats after the shooting, and their home address being readily available to the public. Lehman also said the Crumbleys were not aware of their son’s purported animal torture, and cited Ethan Crumbley’s journal where he stated that his father had “hid” the firearm — discounting prosecutors’ allegations that it was easily accessible to the teen.
Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where harm or death was high. If convicted, the Crumbley couple could face up to 15 years in prison on each charge.
James and Jennifer Crumbley will return to court Feb. 8 for a preliminary exam where Nicholson will review evidence presented and determine if the case will advance to Oakland County Circuit Court. Meanwhile, the case against Ethan Crumbley has been advanced to the higher court after he waived his right to a preliminary exam.