Ethan Crumbley’s parents ordered to stand trial for manslaughter in Oxford school shooting
The Michigan Court of Appeals has ordered James and Jennifer Crumbley – the parents of Ethan Crumbley, who alledly shot 11 people and killed four students at Oxford High School in 2021 – to stand trial.
The court ruled that the mass shooting was "reasonably foreseeable" and that enough evidence exists to bring his parents to trial, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Crumbley parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of the four students their son killed. Ethan used a gun his parents bought him as an early Christmas present to kill his classmates in November 2021, according to authorities.
"The record squarely supports that 'but for' [the Crumbleys'] acts and omissions, [Ethan Crumbley] would not have killed the victims that day," the appeals court said, adding: "... a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that [the son] would not have been able to shoot and kill four students but for [his parents'] decision to purchase their mentally disturbed son a handgun, their failure to properly secure the gun, and most importantly, their refusal to remove [their son] from school when he made overt threats to hurt other people. 'But for' (the parents') informed decision to leave [their son] at school, these murders would not have occurred that day."
The court cited numerous factors in its decision, including the parents being called to the school on the morning of the shooting to discuss a disturbing note their son had drawn on his math homework. The note included a scribble of a gun, blood, and the words "the thoughts won't stop, help me."
"Despite their knowledge of all of these circumstances, when given the option to help [their son] and take him out of school, the defendants did nothing," the appeals court wrote in its decision.
The court noted that the parents did not follow the advice of the school's counselor to remove their son from school for the day, and claimed the family did not tell the school about the teen's history of mental health issues or his access to a firearm. Further, the court noted that the parents did not ask if their son had a gun, they did not check his backpack, and they did not return home to check to see if he had taken the gun they bought him.
"In light of those foreseeable events, when presented with what he had just drawn, written and viewed that morning, a reasonable juror could conclude that it was foreseeable that [Ethan Crumbley] possessed his recently gifted gun and intended to use it that day," the appeals court ruled.
The Crumbley family's attorneys have argued that the case could create a slippery-slope, setting a precedent that could see parents held accountable for their children's mistakes.
The court acknowledged that argument as a potential issue for future cases, but noted its "unique" differences from other circumstances.
"We acknowledge defendants’ argument that no parent could reasonably foresee their child committing a mass shooting," the court stated. "But these issues are based on the facts and what is reasonably foreseeable ... and the circumstances defendants were presented with on November 30, 2021, provided a heightened set of warnings that could lead a jury to find causation."
It went on to say "with respect to foreseeability, more relevant than the number of people shot is the foreseeability that [Ethan Crumbley] would shoot someone that day."
Prosecutors are arguing that the Crumbleys, more than anyone else, could have stopped the mass shooting if they had notified the school that their son had access to a gun on the day they were brought to the school.
The Crumbley parents are expected to appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court.