Jennifer Crumbley, the Michigan mother of a child who carried out a mass school shooting killing four students in 2021, just became the first parent in the U.S. to be held responsible for their child’s criminal actions. She was found guilty today of involuntary manslaughter. The unanimous verdict in the unprecedented case came on the second day of deliberations.
Crumbley, 45, had been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each victim. Being found guilty, the mother faces up to 15 years in prison for each count. She will be sentenced April 9.
Prosecutors made the case that the mother had a duty under state law to prevent her son’s actions by securing the gun and ammunition at home and obtaining mental health services for her son who had allegedly shown signs of a distressed mental state prior to the shooting.
In what in hindsight now seems like an epic failing by both the parents and the school, Oxford High School in Pontiac, Mich., where a then 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley was a student, the parents, James and Jennifer, had been summoned to the school after the boy was caught drawing pictures of a gun, bullets and a wounded person on a math assignment accompanied by phrases crying out for help. According to a journal police found after the shooting, Ethan had written his parents ignored his pleas for help and lamented that he had mental problems that were going to cause him “to shoot up the…school.”
The parents met with school administrators that morning and talked to Ethan, but then he was allowed to return to class. Nobody checked his backpack, which contained a 9mm SIG, his parents had bought him as an early Christmas present just four days prior.
Jennifer Crumbley had also taken Ethan to the range just three days before and was the last known adult to handle the weapon prior to Ethan using it in the school shooting. The boy, now 17, was charged as an adult with murder and terrorism and eventually pled guilty. He is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
James Crumbley, the boy’s father, is set to go to trial on March 5, 2024, for the same charges Jennifer faced. He is currently being held in jail on $500,000 bond.
Between firearms storage laws and additional legislation in states across the country, there has been an increasing effort to hold the parents of juvenile mass shooters responsible for their children’s actions where negligence on their part may have played a hand in their child accessing the firearm(s) used in such crimes. With the Crumbley case now setting a precedent for the conviction of a parent