Prosecutors recommend at least 10 years in prison for parents of Michigan school shooter

Apr 4, 2024, 12:00 AM

FILE - Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, appear in court, Feb. 8, 2022, i...

FILE - Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, appear in court, Feb. 8, 2022, in Rochester Hills, Mich. In a court filing Wednesday, April 3, 2024, prosecutors in Michigan recommended at least 10 years in prison for the two parents, who are the first in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a school shooting, when they're sentenced Tuesday, April 9. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors in Michigan are recommending at least 10 years in prison next week for two parents who are the first in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a school shooting.

Jennifer Crumbley showed a “chilling lack of remorse” for her role. James Crumbley “failed to exercise even the smallest measure of ordinary care” that could have prevented the deaths of four students at Oxford High School in 2021, prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday.

The Crumbleys, the parents of shooter Ethan Crumbley, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter at separate trials earlier this year. They were not accused of knowing their son’s plan. But prosecutors said they failed to lock up a gun at home and ignored his mental health.

The maximum prison stay for the crime is 15 years. But the minimum sentence set by the judge on April 9 will be critical because the Crumbleys would be eligible for parole consideration after that time. They will get credit for about 2 1/2 years spent in the Oakland County jail since their arrest.

Messages seeking comment from defense lawyers were not immediately returned Wednesday.

In their filing, prosecutors disclosed that Jennifer Crumbley, 46, is hoping to avoid prison and instead be fitted with an electronic tether and live with her attorney, Shannon Smith. They said James Crumbley, 47, too, is hoping to be released.

“Such a proposed sentence is a slap in the face to the severity of tragedy caused by defendant’s gross negligence, the victims and their families,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said, referring to Jennifer Crumbley.

On the day of the shooting, the Crumbleys went to the school to discuss Ethan’s morbid drawing of a gun, a bullet, a wounded figure and phrases such as, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

Instead of taking their son home, the Crumbleys left with a list of contacts for mental health services and returned to work. A few hours later, Ethan, who was 15 at the time, pulled a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun from his backpack and began shooting.

School staff had not demanded that Ethan be removed from school. But they also didn’t know that James Crumbley had purchased the gun just four days earlier. It resembled the one in the drawing, according to trial testimony.

Ethan, now 17, is serving life in prison with no chance for parole after pleading guilty to murder and terrorism.

During James Crumbley’s trial, the judge barred his use of a phone and tablet while in jail. The sheriff’s department, which operates the jail, said he had been making threats.

In his court filing, Keast said profanity-laced threats were aimed at Karen McDonald, the elected county prosecutor. He offered five examples.

“I am … on a rampage, Karen. Yes, Karen McDonald. You better be … scared,” he said on Jan. 3, according to Keast.

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Prosecutors recommend at least 10 years in prison for parents of Michigan school shooter