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Parents of Michigan school shooter receive historic sentences of 10 to 15 years

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(PONTIAC, Mich.) — Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Oxford High School mass shooter Ethan Crumbley, were sentenced to 10 to 15 years Tuesday after each was found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in separate trials earlier this year.


“I can and will offer my deepest and most sincere condolences for your unfathomable losses,” Judge Cheryl Matthews said during sentencing.

Matthews said each action or inaction created a ripple effect and said she believes the sentences are “in the best interests of justice and are reasonable and proportionate.”

“Parents are not expected to be psychic, but these convictions are not about poor parenting. These convictions confirm repeated acts, or lack of acts, that could have halted an oncoming runaway train — about repeatedly ignoring things that would make a reasonable person feel the hair on the back of their neck,” Matthews said.

“Guidelines in this manner do not capture of the catastrophic impact of the acts or in the action. And in these matters, the guidelines do not take into account the complete lack of insight both defendants have for their behavior to this very day,” Matthews said.

The parents have already served 858 days in jail while awaiting trial, which will be deducted from their sentence. They have also been instructed to have no contact with the families of the victims.

Giving a statement in court Tuesday, Jennifer Crumbley sought to walk back her testimony during trial when she said she would not have done anything differently.

James Crumbley, who wiped away tears at several points during his statement, asked to be sentenced in a “fair and just way,” asking for time served.

“You know that what my son did, I was not aware of,” he said.

The trials were a rare case of parents facing criminal charges, and possible jail time, over their role in a shooting carried out by their child. They could have faced up to 15 years in prison for each count, but prosecutors asked for 10 to 15 years total for each parent, according to a sentencing memo filed by prosecutors last week.

“No sentence this Court can administer will fix the damage caused by the Oxford High School shooting on November 30, 2021,” prosecutors wrote in requesting the sentence for Jennifer Crumbley. “As the jury found, defendant’s gross negligence was a cause of this damage; she knew of the danger to another, it was reasonably foreseeable her son would shoot someone, but she failed to exercise even the smallest measure of ordinary care.”

Michigan’s sentencing guidelines call for a maximum punishment of about seven years in jail, a sentence prosecutors said was not strong enough.

“Considering the guidelines, what those guidelines do and do not account for, and the objectives of sentencing, the severity of the circumstances in this case and defendant’s total lack of remorse warrant a sentence that exceeds the applicable guidelines range,” prosecutors continued. “A sentence of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment is proportionate to these offenses and this offender.”

The same exact request was sent in regards to James Crumbley.

Jennifer Crumbley’s attorneys had asked that she be sentenced to time served and house arrest, according to the defense’s sentencing memo. James Crumbley’s lawyers asked for 28 months of prison — the amount of time he has already spent locked up — with credit for time served as well as the maximum period of supervised release.

Prosecutors came down especially hard on James Crumbley in their ask for a sentence longer than the sentencing guidelines, pointing to threats he made over the phone from jail toward District Attorney Karen McDonald and an instance of gesturing with his middle finger toward a prosecutor during the trial.

“Defendant’s shameless lack of remorse in asking for time served as an appropriate sentence is a slap in the face to the severity of tragedy caused by his gross negligence, to the victims and their families, and to the applicable law that is premised on the concept of proportionate sentencing,” prosecutors wrote.

James Crumbley also apologized to the victims during his statement in court Tuesday.

“I really want the families of Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre and Justin Shilling to know how truly sorry I am and how devastated I was when I heard what happened to them. I have cried for you and the loss of your children more times than I can count,” James Crumbley said Tuesday.

“I cannot express how much I wish that I had known what was going on with him or what was going to happen, because I absolutely would have done a lot of things differently,” James Crumbley said.

The judge will make a decision in the coming weeks over whether to impose a no-contact order on the Crumbleys and their son. James Crumbley and his son will not be housed in the same facility at any time, according to Matthews.

James Crumbley said he hasn’t spoken to his son since the shooting and to his wife since they were arrested on Dec. 3.

Ethan Crumbley, who was only 15 years old at the time of the shooting, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the shooting that killed four students.

He pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death in 2021.

The parents had ignored several warning signs in the days leading up to the shooting, and had just bought their son the weapon he used in the shooting, according to prosecutors. The prosecution argued that the parents failed to secure the weapon and limit their son’s access to it.

Prosecutors argued that James Crumbley failed to use a cable lock, trigger lock or store the gun in a locked safe, any one of which could have prevented the shooting. Prosecutor Karen McDonald even demonstrated installing a cable lock for the jury during closing arguments, saying it takes “less than 10 seconds.”

Oxford High School officials had called the parents to the school the morning of the shooting after disturbing drawings were found on their son’s math test and he had made statements to a counselor suggesting he was considering suicide, prosecutors said.

School officials testified that the parents said they needed to return to work and could not stay home with their son, and if he left he would need to walk home and remain alone until they finished work. School officials, concerned for the Ethan Crumbley, allowed him to remain in school.

The shooting occurred that afternoon.

In a back and forth between Matthews and Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney Shannon Smith on Tuesday, the judge pushed back against the defense’s argument that Jennifer Crumbley did not know anything about the gun and was not responsible for securing it. The judge pointed to texts she sent her husband regarding the gun and how much it costs, and her posting a picture of the gun as her son’s Christmas present.

Jennifer Crumbley’s trial largely focused on how she spent her time in the weeks and months leading up to the shooting, implying that she failed to act on warning signs or get help for her son. Her former employer testified on the stand that she could have left work the day of the shooting — after her meeting with school officials — to care for her son or said she could have brought her son with her to work if necessary.

A man she was having an affair with in the months before the shooting also testified, with prosecutors questioning him about how the two spent their time and about their communications before and after the shooting.

Jennifer Crumbley also took the stand in her own defense, and was grilled by prosecutors over her extramarital affairs and relationship with her son.

ABC News’ Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.

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