The parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley can face trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, a Michigan appeals court has ruled Thursday.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are facing four involuntary manslaughter charges each following the November 2021 attack outside Detroit, which left four students dead and another seven injured.
Their son Ethan, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty last year to 24 charges – including counts of murder and terrorism – and is awaiting sentencing. He could face life in prison without parole.
The appeals court, in a 3-0 opinion, said Thursday that the murders would not have happened if Crumbley’s parents hadn’t purchased a gun for him or if they had taken him home from Oxford High School on the day of the shooting, when staff became alarmed about his extreme drawings.
Judge Michael Riordan said parents shouldn’t be hauled to court for “subpar, odd or eccentric” care of their kids. But the evidence against the Crumbleys, he added, is much more serious.
“The morning of the shooting, EC drew a picture of a body that appeared to have two bullet holes in the torso, apparently with blood streaming out of them, which was near another drawing of a handgun that resembled the gun his parents … had very recently gifted to him,” Riordan said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
Riordian reportedly described the drawings as “visual evidence” that Ethan was weighing shooting someone with a gun.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald revealed in 2021 that school officials had met with Crumbley and his parents to discuss violent drawings just hours before the deadly rampage. The 15-year-old suspect was able to convince school officials during the meeting that the concerning drawings were for a “video game.” His parents “flatly refused” to take their son home.
The case against Crumbley’s parents was suspended in November after the Michigan Supreme Court asked the state appeals court to review the charges. They initially were charged in December 2021 and have pleaded not guilty.
Each count is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $7,500 fine.
Defense lawyers have argued that the Crumbleys couldn’t have known what their now 16-year-old son was planning and therefore cannot be held criminally responsible for his independent acts.
“The Crumbleys did not counsel EC in the commission of the school shooting or act jointly with EC in any way,” attorney Shannon Smith said in a court filing, using Ethan Crumbley’s initials. “To the contrary, the Crumbleys had no knowledge that their son intended to commit multiple homicides.”
Fox News’ Stephen Sorace, Audrey Conklin, Brie Stimson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.