Son bound for circuit court; parents keep $1 million bond
By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
The criminal cases against the student and parents for their alleged responsibility in the Nov. 30, 2021 Oxford High School shootings returned to court last Friday.
The suspected shooter was the first Crumbley to return, appearing before Judge Nancy Carniak for a probable cause hearing. Ethan Crumbley, 15, waived his right to a preliminary exam and his case moves to the Oakland County Circuit Court. The bail will be discussed in a circuit court in the coming weeks, as will the question of whether he is moved to a juvenile detention facility.
Parents Jennifer and James Crumbley appeared before Judge Julie Nicholson that afternoon attempting to lower their bond and be released with a GPS tether. Defense attorneys argued they left Oxford for safety concerns and did not intend to flee custody.
Prosecutors rebutted, arguing the couple’s prior actions indicate a high flight risk. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald argued this on four points.
First, their employment status allows the couple to easily leave. James worked as a DoorDash delivery driver, while Jennifer’s employment was terminated.
Second, items are being removed from their Oxford house, which is being sold. The family’s horses, “the only other asset they have,” are being sold by family in Florida.
“The only ties these two individuals have — other than their son who is awaiting trial — are out of state,” McDonald said. “Both defendants’ families live in Florida. James Crumbley’s other children, his parents [and] his siblings live in Florida. Jennifer Crumbley’s father, mother and brother live in Florida.”
Finally, McDonald expanded upon James and Jennifer’s actions after the shooting.
Around 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 30, Jennifer texted a contact to help sell the horses. The couple relocated to a Lapeer hotel that night and bought four cell phones at some point that day, two of which used phone numbers not disclosed to authorities. The couple transferred $3,000 from their son’s bank account, leaving him with less than $1.
McDonald said the couple relocated to an Oakland County hotel “located miles from your court [in Rochester Hills]” on the morning of Dec. 1. On Dec. 2, the parents withdrew $2,000 and told contacts they would likely face charges soon.
Those charges — four counts of involuntary manslaughter against each of them — were announced at noon on Dec. 3. According to the prosectuor, Jennifer contacted the owner of the Detroit studio around 10 a.m. asking for somewhere to stay and withdrew $4,000. The couple remained in the studio except to smoke and obscure their car’s license plate. At 1:30 p.m. they informed the artist of their charges and asked him to buy vodka and orange juice among other items.
Around 10 p.m. defense attorneys indicated to police they did not believe the Crumbleys were attempting to flee, and at 10:15 p.m. police were dispatched to the studio. The parents kept interior doors locked after officers entered the building and announced their presence. Upon arrest the pair had Jennifer’s Social Security card, “more than a dozen credit cards and gift cards,” the four cell phones (one was smashed) and $6,600 in cash.
“These are not the actions of individuals who wanted to turn themselves in,” McDonald said.
Nicholson declined to decrease James and Jennifer’s $500,000 bonds and they will return to court on Feb. 8 for their preliminary examinations.
Information about the Crumbley family’s lives before the shooting were brought forth by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Marc Keast. He spoke directly after McDonald and before Nicholson denied the bond request, framing the information as evidence for the parents’ culpability.
“They committed these crimes by being grossly negligent in the storage of that firearm or by breaching their duties as parents,” Keast said. “The evidence admitted will prove both of these theories.”
According to the prosecution, as far back as March 2021, the suspected shooter repeatedly texted his parents while alone about demons, ghosts or intruders in their house. In May 2021, Ethan filmed himself torturing and killing animals at the house and kept a decapitated bird’s head in his bedroom. He made Molotov cocktails and constantly searched the internet for firearms, school shooting information and Nazi propaganda, including buying and displaying Nazi memorabilia in his bedroom. Notebooks recovered from the home displayed drawings of Nazi imagery and firearms. Ethan also frequently expressed interest in owning a handgun.
Ethan obtained his parents’ firearms in August 2021, photographing himself holding James’ loaded handgun and sending the picture to a friend saying “It’s time to shoot up the school. Jk jk jk.” The suspect filmed a video at home describing plans to shoot up OHS.
James brought his with him to a local gun retailer on Nov. 27 and purchased the 9mm handgun used in the shooting. Social media posts by the suspect and his parents state the gun was a gift for Ethan. Footage from a shooting range shows him teaching his mother how to operate the firearm.
When school faculty found Ethan’s violent drawings on Nov. 30, his parents were called due to fears he suspect was suicidal. James answered but did not speak when called, and Jennifer asked school officials if James could speak with them instead upon arriving at the school. School officials demanded Ethan be removed from school and placed immediately into therapy, the parents cited work commitments as why they could not do so.