The parents of the Michigan school shooter are in deep, deep trouble

Jennifer and James Crumbley have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.Oakland County Sheriff’s Office/AP

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A judge in Michigan set a $500,000 bond each for James and Jennifer Crumbley, who have been charged with manslaughter after their 15-year-old son killed four students with a semiautomatic handgun at Oxford High School. Ethan Crumbley faces murder and terrorism charges.

The Crumbley parents were supposed to turn themselves in yesterday after prosecutors announced the manslaughter charges, but they instead withdrew $4,000 from an ATM and fled. They couple were found by police early Saturday morning hiding in commercial building in Detroit, 40 miles south of their home. Detroit police chief James White said at a press conference that the Crumbleys may have been attempting to flee to Canada. 

As my colleague Mark Follman wrote on Friday, “the case against them is a first of its kind in a high-profile school shooting.”

The details of the criminal complaint against the Crumbleys, who pleaded not guilty on Saturday, paints an incredibly disturbing picture of how the parents encouraged their son’s gun use and may have overlooked his murderous plans, Follman writes:

According to the criminal complaint described by McDonald at a press conference, the Sig Sauer 9mm pistol that Ethan used to kill fellow students was purchased by James Crumbley at a local gun store with his son present on November 26, four days before the rampage.  

“Just got my new beauty today,” Ethan posted on social media that same day, according to the complaint, along with photos of the Sig Sauer weapon.

“Mom and son day, testing out his new Christmas present,” Jennifer allegedly posted on social media the following day.

In the days leading up to the attack, an Oxford High teacher had “observed Ethan searching ammunition on his cellphone during class,” according to McDonald—a common warning behavior in school shooting cases. That prompted attempts by worried school officials to contact his parents via phone and email; the school got no response from the Crumbleys, said McDonald. Shortly after that outreach, Jennifer exchanged text messages with her son, according to McDonald.

“LOL, I’m not mad at you,” she allegedly texted to Ethan. “You have to learn not to get caught.”

By the morning of the shooting, graphically violent images Ethan had drawn in class prompted school officials to convene an urgent meeting with the Crumbleys and their son at the school. In his backpack, Ethan had the Sig Sauer and dozens of rounds of ammunition, according to prosecutors. Whether the parents may have suspected or been aware of that is unknown, but according to McDonald they did not ask about the whereabouts of the newly purchased weapon or inspect Ethan’s backpack. They left the high school, refusing a recommendation to take Ethan with them, according to McDonald. “He was returned to the classroom,” she said. Investigators further determined that the gun had been stored in an unlocked drawer in the Crumbley’s home. Prosecutors have not alleged that the parents were aware that Ethan planned to kill.

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