(NEW YORK) — Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley, testified she and her husband often argued with their son about missing school assignments and said she could have “easily” taken her son home on the day of the attack as her manslaughter trial continued Thursday with her taking the stand in her own defense.
Jennifer Crumbley and her husband, James Crumbley, are each facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the school shooting, which was carried out by their then-15-year-old son Ethan. James Crumbley is being tried in a separate trial in March.
Ethan Crumbley has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing four students and injuring seven others in November 2021.
Jennifer Crumbley testified Thursday that she was concerned when she saw the drawings her son had done the morning of the shooting and said she thought he would get suspended when she was called to the school for a meeting.
Crumbley said that she was told by school officials that they didn’t feel her son was a risk and offered to allow him to stay at school.
“It was pretty nonchalant, pretty brief,” Crumbley said of the meeting, adding that the school counselor had given them good advice about dealing with her son.
Crumbley pushed back against testimony provided by school officials earlier in the trial that the parents did not want to take their son home the morning of the shooting. On the stand, Crumbley denied wanting to leave her son at school, saying her son got very stressed when doing school virtually. She said they all agreed it would be better for him to remain at school in person, surrounded by students.
“There was never a time where I would refuse to take him home. I could easily, if he wanted to go, take them with me. I had no issues with that,” Crumbley said.
Jennifer Crumbley said she didn’t think that the ending of the meeting was abrupt, pushing back against school officials’ testimony.
Hitting back at more testimony presented by prosecutors earlier in the trial, Jennifer Crumbley testified that her husband had insurance coverage for her son up until October 2021 when her husband lost his job.
Prosecutors pointed out during testimony from her employer’s CEO that she was only enrolled in health care for herself through the company — allegedly a sign of a lack of concern for her son. She testified on Thursday that she had planned to add Ethan Crumbley to her health care coverage at the end of the enrollment period in November 2021.
Defense attorney Shannon Smith shared emails between school officials discussing Ethan Crumbley saying that his family was “a mistake,” to which Jennifer Crumbley responded that she was never made aware of the concerning writings. She also said she was not made aware of emails shown in court discussing her son doing poorly in school and falling asleep in a class.
Jennifer Crumbley also answered questions on texts from her son showing a picture of a demon, which the prosecution had argued was an ignored warning sign. Crumbley said she had not responded to the messages and testified that she does not recall seeing them until they were found in the case’s discovery.
But Jennifer Crumbley also dismissed the messages as her son “just messing around.” Ethan Crumbley was convinced that their house was haunted since 2015, Jennifer Crumbley testified, adding that the family often joked around about their house being haunted. After a lamp fell of a ledge in the house, she said they jokingly named a ghost in the house Victoria.
Pushing back against evidence presented by the prosecution, Jennifer Crumbley said her son never came to her to ask for help or to ask to see a doctor. In texts to a friend, Ethan Crumbley had said he asked his mother to go see a doctor but she laughed and said no.
Jennifer Crumbley also testified that her son never told her he was hearing voices. She said she never felt that he needed counseling or treatment ahead of the shooting.
Elaborating on messages between her and the mother of Ethan Crumbley’s friend regarding Ethan Crumbley being moody and “depressed” ahead of the shooting, Jennifer Crumbley said that she did not think it warranted getting him help. Crumbley said her son was just being quieter than usual.
“As to why he was being depressed, the online school is horrible. I’ve given up too,” Crumbley said on the stand.
Crumbley also admitted on the stand Thursday to having an affair with her friend Brian Meloche — one day after he discussed the relationship in his own testimony.
She told the jury that Meloche was a long-time friend who was also a part of the horse community; Jennifer was a regular rider, with her texts to her husband from the horse farm featuring earlier in testimony. She said she saw Meloche an average of once a week and the affair lasted about six months.
Jennifer Crumbley testified that she believes the affair did not cause her to neglect her son in any way, saying the two met in the mornings while her son was at school. Crumbley also said it has been over two years since she spoke to her husband James Crumbley but the two are still married.
Jennifer Crumbley testified that Ethan Crumbley’s friend, who moved away before the shooting, was the only friend who came over to the house. She said it was a surprise when the friend moved away, but added Ethan did have other friends at school.
Smith entered into evidence many family pictures posted by Crumbley online, showing them traveling, playing games and even a photo of her son with their horse. Crumbley testified that they did a lot of family trips, even during the summer of 2021, months before the shooting.
Hitting back at accusations that the Crumbley parents rarely about their son, Jennifer Crumbley testified that she often texted her husband about where he was and that they used a tracking app to give her peace of mind that he was okay. She also testified that the couple often texted about their horses, saying they were “accident prone.” Defense presented evidence that the couple texted about their horses far more often than they texted about their son.
Earlier, prosecutors and Smith clashed over admitting evidence Smith previously sought to suppress. The two sides were at odds over admitting excepts from Ethan Crumbley’s journal, including information about him torturing birds, the latter of which ended up not being admitted at Smith’s request.
As the prosecution wrapped its testimony early Thursday, writings from Ethan’s journal were presented by Oakland County Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Timothy Willis. The journal and roughly 90 loose papers with school assignments — 50 of which Ethan had drawn guns on — were found in Crumbley’s backpack after the shooting.
Willis testified there were 22 pages of written information in the journal, all of which referenced a school shooting.
Ethan Crumbley wrote in an entry apparently from before the shooting that he planned to shoot up his school the next day.
“I want to shoot up the school so f—— badly,” one of the excerpts said. “Soon I am going to buy a 9 mm pistol.”
“I’m about to shoot up the school and spend the rest of my life in prison,” the shooter wrote in another excerpt.
In other excerpts, the shooter appeared to be writing about wanting help.
“I want help but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help,” the shooter wrote.
Jennifer Crumbley testified Thursday that before the shooting she never felt that her son needed mental health care, but also said she never denied a request from him to get help.
Police also had concerns on the day of the shooting that there were secondary devices or bombs at other locations around the school, Willis testified.
As video evidence from the high school on the day of the shooting was shown in court Jennifer Crumbley was seen crying.
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