Can the parents of a teenage mass shooter face prison time for negligence? A Michigan court has provided the answers. In November 2021, a mass shooting occurred at Oxford High School in Detroit, Michigan.
The perpetrator was 15-year-old Ethan Robert Crumbley. He opened fire with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun. By the time the dust had settled, four students lay dead. About seven other people suffered varying degrees of injuries, one of them a teacher.
Reports show that a few days before the shooting, Ethan had persuaded his dad to purchase the weapon for him. This and many more facts about the case raised questions about the role of parents and guardians in crimes such as this. Now, Ethan’s mum, Jennifer Crumbley, is set to pay for her involvement or negligence in the matter.
A jury has found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting. She will face punishment for all four counts of manslaughter, one for each of the victims. Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Justin Shilling, 17; and Madisyn Baldwin, 17, are the four students who died as a result of the shooting.
After about 11 hours of deliberation, the jury decided on Monday, February 5, 2023. Jennifer’s husband, James Crumbley, will have his own day in court in April to face the same charges.
The juror who oversaw the deliberations told reporters that the verdict “came down to the fact that Jennifer was the last one with the gun.” A court had previously sentenced Ethan Crumbley to life imprisonment for the killings. The sentence came after he admitted to 24 charges, which included terrorism and first-degree premeditated murder.
The court examined overwhelming evidence that the parents ignored several warning signals their son had exhibited in the days leading up to the attack. During Ethan’s trial, evidence revealed extensive planning and unusual behavior from the shooter.
The school had drawn Jennifer’s attention to some of the worrying behaviors, but she failed to take appropriate action.
For example, the school told her about Ethan’s disturbing violence-themed drawings and writings, such as “blood everywhere” and “my life is useless.” They also advised her to enroll him for mental health assistance, even as she hid from school authorities Ethan’s battle with hallucinations.
The court also blamed Jennifer for gross negligence in not securing the gun when it wasn’t in use. But Jennifer blamed the school in a text message to her boyfriend.
“The system failed,” she wrote. “They should [have] never blown it off and made it seem of no concern and never gave him the option to go back to class.”
Jennifer, who clasped her hands as the judge read the verdict, also admitted that she failed as a mum. The court has fixed her sentence hearing for April 9, when she will face up to 15 years in prison.
The verdict will further provide closure to the friends and family of the victims of the shooting. Commentators have also lauded the sentence and hope it will keep other potentially negligent parents in check.
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