Parents of Oxford High School shooter sentenced to 10-15 years in historic case (2024)

PONTIAC — The parents of the Oxford High School shooter were sentenced 10 to 15 years in prison, drawing to a close historic criminal proceedings that marked the first time a father and mother of a mass school shooter had not just been charged but convicted of manslaughter in connection to their child’s crime.

James and Jennifer Crumbley faced a maximum of 15 years in prison for their gross negligence in the 2021 shooting at Oxford High School carried out by their son, Ethan. The sentence was in line with what prosecutors had sought.

“Opportunity knocked over and over again and was ignored,” said Matthews.

The parents of the four victims killed in the 2021 shooting called for the maximum sentence, saying the Crumbleys’ failed as parents, ignoring their son’s deteriorating mental state and still buying him a gun. Many called out a statement Jennifer made during her trial that she wouldn’t have done anything differently before the shooting.

“You have failed your son and failed us all,” said Jill Soave, the mother of Justin Shilling, one of four students fatally shot.

Before Matthews handed down her sentence, several family members called out the Crumbleys for their decision-making, saying they’re living a nightmare. Jennifer looked down as some family members read how their lives had been shattered.

“Hana, Tate, Madisyn and Justin are the ones who have lost everything,” said Steve St. Juliana, whose 14-year-old daughter Hana, was fatally shot. “Not the defendants.”

Jennifer Crumbley addressed Matthews and the victims, expressing her “deepest sorrow” for the victims’ families and to everyone affected the day. But she maintained that she and her husband did love their son and that what happened to them could happen to anyone.

“I will be in my own internal prison for the rest of my life,” she said.

James, speaking for the first time during the criminal proceedings, also apologized to the victims, saying he had no idea what his son was planning.

“I can’t express how much I wish that I had known what was going on with him (the shooter) or what was going to happen,” he said. “I absolutely what have done a lot of things differently.”

Prosecutors called for 10 to 15 years in prison, highlighting what they characterized as the couple’s lack of remorse. But attorneys for James and Jennifer, who have been in jail since their arrest in December 2021 as they slept in a Detroit art studio, asked to be sentenced to time served or house arrest.

Separate juries in Oakland County convicted Jennifer and James— in February and March, respectively — of four counts of involuntary manslaughter each the deaths of four students killed by their son in November 2021: Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre and Justin Shilling.

Before reading her sentence, Matthews said the convictions were not about poor parenting. They confirm the repeated actions or lack of actions the Crumbleys took, where they ignored things that would have made the hair stand up on a reasonable person’s neck.

After attending both trials almost every day, St. Juliana said he came away focused solely on the guilty verdict, but that changed as more information came out. He said his daughter Reina, Hana’s older sister, is “very much in favor of throwing the book at them.”

“There’s just a total lack of remorse, of accountability. He blames the prosecutor (Karen McDonald) for everything. There’s just no remorse whatsoever,” St. Juliana said.

The Crumbleys each had a pre-sentence investigation report prepared by a probation officer with the Michigan Department of Corrections. The report included an evaluation, a written recommendation for a sentence, comments from the Crumbleys about their crime and information from the state’s sentencing guideline “grids.”

The sentencing grids gave guidelines for what sentences the Crumbleys can receive. They aren’t mandatory after the Michigan Supreme Court rendered them advisory only after finding in 2015 mandatory sentencing guidelines violated the Sixth Amendment.

The guidelines take into account a defendant’s prior criminal record and specific issues related to the offense.

Grossly negligent

Prosecutors argued that Jennifer and James were grossly negligent in the 2021 shooting, ignoring warning signs about their son’s declining mental health, including not telling school officials the family owned guns when they called met with school officials the morning of the shooting to discuss a disturbing drawing the teen had down in class. The drawing included phrases such as “help me,” “the thoughts won’t stop” and “blood everywhere.”

Prosecutors also argued the Crumbleys bear responsibility for the shooting because they did not secure the family’s guns.

Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney sought house arrest for her client, while James Crumbley asked for time served.

But prosecutors had asked for 10-15 years for each parent. They claimed in sentencing memos James and Jennifer both showed a lack of remorse. Prosecutors referenced threats James made from jail against Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald in phone calls from jail, saying he would “f——-g take her down.”

They also brought up statements Jennifer made during testimony she gave in her own defense, and during an earlier jail call in 2022, when she said she would not have done anything differently. The jury foreperson for Jennifer’s trial said in a TV interview after finding her guilty the jurors were influenced by her statement on the stand, which she gave in response to a question by her attorney.

But Jennifer tried to clarify that statement in her pre-sentence investigation report, saying she meant she would not have made any choices differently without the benefit of hindsight.

“With the information I have now, of course my answer would be hugely different. There are so many things that I would change if I could go back in time,” she wrote.

Her attorney, Shannon Smith, said she could live at Smith’s house if sentenced to house arrest.

James also used his pre-sentence investigation to counter prosecutors’ characterization that he is remorseless, writing he believes he did what any parent would have in his circ*mstances. He said he talked with his son every day, asking him about school and how he was coping without his only friend, who had abruptly moved out of state recently.

“Ethan was a great kid. He never got in trouble at school, had decent grades, and very rarely got in trouble at home,” James wrote. “Ethan always appeared to be a very stable individual. Never did he voice anything to me that anything was bothering him.”

His attorney, Mariell Lehman, wrote in her sentencing memorandum that the shooter hid things from the Crumbleys. She said James expressed remorse to the families who lost their children and said he would have done things differently had he known what his son was planning and that he accessed the gun without his knowledge, Lehman wrote.

“If they had known, ‘(w)e could have saved four kids’ lives(,)’ and ‘(w)e could have saved everything,’” Lehman said James said on a jail call in September 2022. “He repeatedly expressed that he wished he had known and that he would have done things differently if he had.”

Parents of Oxford High School shooter sentenced to 10-15 years in historic case (2024)


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