On Saturday morning, James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the Michigan school shooting Oxford High School shooter, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges. They were arrested at a commercial building in Detroit and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The judge, citing her concerns that the couple did not appear at their arraignment on Friday, set bond for each at $500,000, a significant increase over what defense attorneys requested. Jennifer Crumbley, 43, and James Crumbley, 45, appeared in court via the Oakland County Jail video feed.
Crumbley appeared to cry at times and struggled to answer the judge’s questions. After hearing a prosecutor say their son owned the gun used in the murders, James Crumbley shook his head.
The couple is facing charges of four counts of involuntary manslaughter. After Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald says they purchase the firearm as a Christmas gift for their son, Ethan Crumbley, 15. The suspect is under accused of killing four students and injuring seven others in the suburban Detroit high school on Tuesday.
This week, the U.S. Marshals Service put out a wanted poster and offered a reward for information about the Crumbleys. They were found and arrested in Detroit early Saturday morning after someone spotted their vehicle and called the police.
At Saturday’s court appearance, Crumbley’s attorneys states that their clients were not fleeing. Moreover, the missed court appearance was caused by miscommunication.
Shannon Smith, one of the couple’s attorneys, says. “Our clients were going to turn themselves in.” This was just a logistical issue.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shootings and searched for the Crumbleys. According to Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe, they find the vehicle around 11:30 p.m. Friday.
The Crumbleys were arrested around 1:45 a.m. Police found the couple hiding inside a commercial building and described them as distressed. According to him, neither of them was armed.
According to White, someone let the Crumbleys into the building. Those responsible may face criminal charges.
Before setting bond, Rochester Hills District Court Judge Julie Nicholson cited concerns about flight risk.
“There’s no doubt that these charges are serious,” Nicholson said.
It is on the court’s mind that there is a flight risk as well as public safety given the circumstances of yesterday and the need to apprehend the defendants before they could appear in court.”
McDonald says at a news conference Friday that Crumbley’s parents did not ask where the gun in the shooting was. When they were first aware about a disturbing drawing their son made of a firearm at the school the day of the shooting.
McDonald said the investigation revealed that Crumbley posted about the firearm online and studied ammunition while at school. However, after meeting with his parents on the day of the shooting, she says they allow him to return to class.
Investigators describe Crumbley’s apparent massacre as methodical and deliberate. He has been facing charges of murder, terrorism, and other crimes as an adult.
“The facts of this case are so outrageous,” McDonald said.
The lawyers for the Crumbley parents dispute claims that they never leave the gun without a lock. According to Smith, “free access” to the gun does not exist for their son.
In a statement that they release before the arraignment, Smith and Lehman state: “While it’s human nature to look for someone to blame or something that we can point to or something that explains, the charges, in this case, intends to make an example and send a message.” We are going to fight this case in court, not before the public. We believe that the truth will prevail in the end.”
Concerns over the suspect’s drawing on the day of the shooting
They catch the suspect, a 15-year-old boy, looking up ammunition online before the shooting. McDonald said school officials contacted his mother about the online search, leaving a voicemail and sending her an email, but got no response.
However, McDonald says Crumbley’s mother texts him back the same day: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to let anyone catch you,” she wrote.
In the hours leading up to the shooting, they have find Crumbley with a disturbing drawing that includes a firearm and someone bleeding, McDonald says.
Crumbley’s parents were contacted right away after a teacher took a photo of his drawing. McDonald noted that Crumbley altered the drawing when it was brought to a school counselor with his parents present.
Despite the counselor’s recommendation that Crumbley get counseling, Crumbley returns to school. At that time, neither his parents nor his teachers asked him about the firearm, McDonald said.
It was unwise for him to go back to that classroom, McDonald continues.
In response to reports of the shooting, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “Ethan don’t do it,” McDonald said. Upon returning home, James Crumbley looked for the firearm and called 911 to report it missing; McDonald says he believes his son was the shooter.
McDonald said, “I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as a prosecutor. I’mngry as a resident of this county. I’m angry. There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.”
A wave of copycat threats troubles metro Detroit schools and parents
Following the shooting incident, fake threats circulated on social media, and districts canceled classes Thursday out of precaution for students’ safety.
About 30 miles from Oxford High School, they arrest a 17-year-old student with a semi-automatic pistol in Southfield. 45 miles from Oxford, South Lake High School received a bomb threat, prompting a police investigation.
Bouchard, who specifically called the news conference to discuss the hundreds of copycat threats reported on Thursday, said, “If you’re making threats, we’ll catch you. During a real tragedy, you are inflaming the fears and passions of parents, teachers, and whole communities.”
The FBI and Secret Service were also investigating threats.
McDonald says that false threats can result in a 20-year felony charge and the misdemeanor charge of malicious use of a telephone for those who make threats.
In the meantime, parents are walking a fine line of ensuring their children’s security without negatively affecting their mental and emotional health.
“I felt like I was going to throw up,” said 51-year-old Jill Dillon as she dropped off her 14-year-old son to school Wednesday morning. Taking him somewhere safe was nauseating since I didn’t know whether he would really be safe.
In Northville High School, which was open on Thursday, David Roden, a 14-year-old freshman, said the most frightening aspect was the confusion of what’s real and what’s not.
It’s just weird to be close to the situation. It was tense.”
The growing number of fake Instagram accounts
Even before the name of the 15-year-old charged in the shooting was released by law enforcement, social media accounts claiming to be him began popping up, with threats about more shootings and plans for revenge.
Although direct threats may result in criminal charges, the spread of false information via deceiving accounts, a problem common after mass shootings, is often not illegal and may not violate social media platforms’ terms of service.
Poor taste is not against the law, according to Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police.
Professor Cliff Lampe of the University of Michigan’s School of Information, believes that it is unlikely Crumbley’s social media accounts remain active.
In active threat situations, they remove the suspects’ social media accounts through an opaque process, Lampe says. Either the platform’s algorithm or law enforcement alerts it.
Social media platforms have a tendency to let users’ accounts “disappear in the night,” Lampe said. This can lead to the creation of fake accounts. Regardless, he says, the common practice of setting up “sock puppets” online will continue.
As long as the internet existed, spoof accounts and sock puppet accounts have been part of internet culture, Lampe says.