Jennifer and James Crumbley arrested: Alleged school shooter’s parents found after manhunt
The fugitive parents of a teenager who allegedly killed four people in a US school shooting were found by police after an obvious slip-up.
Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of a teenager who allegedly killed four people in a high school shooting in the United States, were found and arrested by police after parking their car outside the building in which they were allegedly hiding.
The Crumbleys’ 15-year-old son, Ethan, is facing murder charges over the shooting at Oxford High School in Detroit, Michigan.
His parents have been charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors claim they bear responsibility for purchasing the gun allegedly used in the horrific shooting, leaving it in an accessible place, and ignoring danger signs in Ethan’s behaviour.
“These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said when she announced the charges against the Crumbleys earlier this week.
On Friday, US time (Saturday Australian time), the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed authorities were searching for the parents, who had not turned themselves in as required. They went missing hours after being charged.
“If they think they are going to get away, they are not,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN.
Asked if the Crumbleys were “missing now”, Sherriff Bouchard replied: “Correct.”
“The action of fleeing and ignoring their lawyer certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy,” he added in a statement.
“We have our Fugitive Apprehension Team, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service and others actively looking for them and have every expectation we’ll have them in custody soon.”
The pair’s lawyers said they were not fleeing from authorities, had left town for “their own safety”, and would voluntarily return. Nevertheless, law enforcement released wanted posters and offered a reward of $US10,000 ($AU14,000) for information leading to their arrest.
Mistake that led police to the parents
The Crumbleys were believed to be driving a black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV with a Michigan license plate number.
Police found them in a room inside a Detroit warehouse in the early hours of Saturday morning, local time, after receiving a tip-off from a member of the public who’d spotted the vehicle parked outside.
“The owner of the building arrived and saw the car in the back parking lot, knew it didn’t belong there and went to investigate,” Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe told a local newspaper, The Detroit Free Press.
The building’s owner checked the vehicle’s license plate against information put out by law enforcement and discovered it was the same car. They then called police.
The Crumbleys were arrested at about 1:45am and taken to Oakland County Jail. Detroit Police Chief James White said they “appeared to be hiding inside the building”.
He said the pair were “very distressed” and “upset” when they were taken into custody.
The warehouse is about 80 kilometres from the Crumbleys’ home, and is near the United States’ northern border with Canada.
Chief White said someone appeared to have helped the couple enter the building.
“They didn’t break in. Somebody let them in,” he said, adding that the unidentified alleged accomplice could end up facing charges.
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Parents accused of ignoring danger signs
Under Michigan’s laws, someone can be guilty of involuntary manslaughter if they contributed to a situation in which there was a high chance of harm or death.
That is the charge prosecutors intend to pursue against the Crumbleys.
Prosecutors say Ethan got his hands on the gun allegedly used to carry out the deadly school rampage because his parents had bought it for him as a Christmas present.
Four days before the shooting, James Crumbley purchased a semi-automatic handgun. A shop assistant has told police James was accompanied by Ethan in the shop.
A day later, Jennifer posted on social media saying Ethan had been “testing out his new Christmas present”.
Investigators believe the Crumbley parents ignored warning signs in their son’s behaviour and failed to return teachers’ messages when they raised concerns.
On one occasion, a teacher allegedly spotted Ethan googling ammunition on his phone. School officials tried to contact his parents, without success.
Prosecutors allege Jennifer subsequently texted Ethan saying: “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
Then, on the day of the shooting, the Crumbleys were summoned for an urgent meeting with the school. Another teacher reportedly found a drawing he had created with a handgun and a bleeding person next to the words: “Blood everywhere ... the thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
The Crumbleys were told to send Ethan to counselling within 48 hours. They allegedly resisted the idea of removing him from class immediately, and made no mention of his access to a gun.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable, and I think it’s criminal,” Ms McDonald said when announcing the involuntary manslaughter charges.
Instead of being removed from school, Ethan returned to class. The shooting took place a short time later.
When James Crumbley heard there was a shooting, he said he drove home to check whether the gun he’d bought - which was kept in an unlocked drawer in the parent’s bedroom - was still on the premises.
Finding it gone, he called police to tell them his son might be the shooter.
Mother’s open letter to Donald Trump
It has also emerged that Jennifer Crumbley sent an open letter to then US president-elect Donald Trump in November of 2016, in which she said Ethan “struggles” at school.
She uploaded the letter to her blog, thanking Mr Trump for “allowing my right to bear arms” and pleading with him to “end Common Core” — an educational standard that details what children should know at a certain age.
In her note, Jennifer said she was “scared s***less” to vote for Trump in 2016, identifying herself as a supporter of the LGBTQ community and a feminist.
“I value women's rights and want to be alive when I see the first woman become President,” she wrote.
“But as an American woman, with a 10-year-old child I could not have that first woman be Hillary (Clinton).
“Mr Trump, I actually love that you are a bad public speaker because that showed sincerity, and humility. You changed your mind, and you said ‘so what’.
“You made the famous ‘grab them in the p***y” comment, did it offend me? No. I say things all the time that people take the wrong way, do I mean them? Not always. Do I agree that you should have shown your tax returns? No. I don’t care what you do or maybe don’t pay in taxes.”
She went on to tell the then-president-in-waiting that she hoped he would “really uncover the politicians for what I believe they really are,” and that he might “shut down Big Pharma, make health care affordable for me and my MIDDLE CLASS family again”.
Jennifer thanked Mr Trump for supporting her right to carry a weapon in her job as a real estate agent.
“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” she wrote.
“Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms.
‘My son struggles daily’
Moving to education, she told Mr Trump she needed him to “stop Common Core”.
“My son struggles daily, and my teachers tell me they hate teaching it but they HAVE to. Their pay depends on these stupid f***ing test scores,” she said.
“I have to pay for a tutor, why? Because I can’t figure out 4th-grade maths. I used to be good at maths. I can’t afford a tutor, in fact I sacrifice car insurance to make sure my son gets a good education and hopefully succeeds in life.”
She then complained about “illegal immigrant parents” and their kids from a school where her parents taught.
“Most of their parents are locked up. They don’t care about learning and threaten to kill my mom for caring about their grades,” she wrote.
“Do you realise Mr Trump that they get free tutors, free tablets from our government so they can succeed? Why cant my son get those things, do we as hardworking Americans not deserve that too?”
Jennifer signed the letter from a “hardworking Middle-Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting f**ked in the a** and would rather be grabbed by the p***y.”
Her husband James Crumbley later shared the post to Facebook, writing: “My wife can be spot on. Sometimes.”
Prosecutors said on Thursday they were “confident” they could prove the shooting was premeditated in court.
Ms McDonald said that there was a “mountain of digital evidence” to that effect, and she believed Crumbley had planned the attack well before it happened.
“I am absolutely sure after reviewing the evidence that it isn’t even a close call: it was absolutely premeditated,” Ms McDonald said.
Crumbley was charged as an adult with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm.
The teenager spoke in court yesterday only to say he understood the charges. The judge ordered that he be held without bail. He pleaded not guilty.
He will be transferred from a juvenile detention centre to Oakland County’s adult jail, where he’ll be sequestered.
The students killed at the Oxford high school shooting have been identified as Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17.
Justin Shilling, 15, who was in critical condition after the shooting, passed away from his injuries on Wednesday.
- with The Sun