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Prosecutors say James Crumbley made threats from prison, judge limits his communications

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

(PONTIAC, Mich.) — James Crumbley’s manslaughter trial continued Friday with multiple witnesses taking the stand testifying about his alleged activity in the days leading up to the shooting, including purchasing the firearm that his son later used in a school shooting.

As the trial continues, Judge Cheryl Matthews has limited the communications he can make from prison at the prosecutor’s office request on Thursday. It was revealed late Thursday that James Crumbley allegedly made threats to an undisclosed person from prison.

James Crumbley’s communications from prison have been limited except with regard to his defense until a jury reaches a verdict.

James Crumbley is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for his alleged role in the November 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in which four students were killed and seven others were injured. Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17, were killed in the shooting.

His trial comes weeks after his wife, Jennifer Crumbley, was found guilty of the same four counts of involuntary manslaughter over their role in the 2021 school shooting. Their cases are a rare instance of parents facing criminal charges in relation to a shooting carried out by their child.

After the prosecution questioned former Oakland County Detective Edward Wagrowski Thursday, in which he revealed James Crumbley had not signed on to work for the day before he met with school officials the morning of the shooting, the defense prompted him to reveal that James Crumbley began working within minutes of leaving the school.

The school had called the Crumbley parents in for a meeting the morning of the shooting after a teacher discovered he had made concerning drawings on a math test. A school counselor then spoke with Ethan Crumbley and was concerned he was having suicidal thoughts. School officials advised the parents to get their son immediate mental health care, offering them facilities that could provide him care that day.

Wagrowski’s testimony hit back at the prosecution’s argument on Thursday that the Crumbley parents said they could not take their son home because they needed to return to work, presenting evidence that James Crumbley had not yet begun working for the day. During her trial, Jennifer Crumbley and her former employer both testified that she could have left work for the day or brought her son to work with her if she needed to.

Upon choosing to leave their son at school rather than have him return home alone, the parents said they would work to arrange care for him. Hours later, the shooting occurred.

Cammy Back, an employee at the firearm store where James Crumbley purchased the gun used in the shooting, testified about selling him the gun just days before the shooting. Back testified that his son was with him at the time of the purchase and that James Crumbley told her he had had his eye on the gun before buying it.

The Crumbley parents had bought the gun for their then-15-year-old son.

But, Back testified that despite Crumbley telling her he had his eye on the gun that he ultimately purchased, she did not witness any communication in which his son pointed out or said he wanted the gun.

With their line of questioning, the prosecution pointed to a safety pamphlet and gun lock that were handed to the Crumbleys when they made the purchase, ultimately highlighting that it was James Crumbley’s responsibility—as the purchaser—to secure the gun and ensure that his son did not have access to it.

Part of the prosecution’s argument rests on the shooter having access to the gun and James Crumbley not properly securing it, enabling the shooting to occur.

Other evidence presented during the trial included a video taken by Ethan Crumbley at home days before the shooting in which he loaded the gun. According to cell phone evidence collected by police, James Crumbley was at home at the time the video was taken.

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