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Jury deliberations begin for mother of Oxford school shooter

Jennifer Crumbley faces up to 15 years in prison for her alleged role in the 2021 Michigan school shooting that left four students dead.
Jury deliberations begin for mother of Oxford school shooter
Posted at 8:22 AM, Feb 05, 2024

The jury is now deliberating in the trial for Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the teenager who shot and killed four students and wounded others at Oxford High School in Michigan. She is facing four charges of involuntary manslaughter for the November 2021 shooting.

On Thursday, the prosecution rested its case, and the defense began calling witnesses. Crumbley was the first to take the stand and was there for several hours in her own defense.

Closing arguments

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald was the first to give closing arguments after lunch and some discussion over jury selection.

She told the jury that their job wasn't easy, listening to the testimony over the past seven days and that she saw them taking notes.

“Our job, that I believe we have done, is meet our burden to prove that Jennifer Crumbley is guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter," McDonald said. "The burden is high, but we embrace it, and I believe we have met that burden.”

McDonald spoke about what constitutes an involuntary manslaughter conviction and detailed it through the law.

"Just the smallest thing could have saved Hana and Tate and Justin and Madisyn," McDonald told the jury.

SEE MORE: Jennifer Crumbley denies son had discipline problems before shooting

Prosecutors said Crumbley missed many opportunities to prevent the shooting.

"Those words on that paper: 'Help me.' She walked out of that school within 11 minutes and so much didn't even address her son," McDonald said. "She did not give him the help that he wanted."

McDonald pointed to inconsistencies in Crumbley's testimony and evidence she says shows the mother intended to run following the shooting.

“Why is a mother whose son just killed four people thinking about deleting her text messages? Why is she saying things that are not true about her son? Why does she care about her job? Why does she care about her horse lesson? Why does she care about any of these things? Because she knew she did something wrong," McDonald said.

The defense fired back saying the evidence provided was cherry-picked to paint a picture that did not resemble Crumbley's actual life.

“This family played together. They had fun. They did what families do. The prosecution just had zero context because they had tunnel vision that she was doing wrong,” defense attorney Shannon Smith told the jury.

Smith also pointed to the school after leaders told his parents during an emergency meeting hours before the shooting that they didn't think the shooter was a threat. Defense called him a master manipulator.

“He's had no history of hallucinations. He has never shown his parents signs of mental illness. He certainly never showed signs of mental illness, wanting to get a gun,” Smith said. "No parent would purchase a weapon if they believed their child had mental illnesses."

SEE MORE: Michigan school shooter gets life in prison for killing 4 students

The defense stood firm about there being substantial reasonable doubt.

“Can every parent really be responsible for everything their children do? Especially when it’s not foreseeable. And this clearly was not foreseeable for Mrs. Crumbley. Because there’s no one in the world, including Mrs. Crumbley, who would have let a school shooting happen,” Smith said.

What else happened Friday?

Friday's court hearing started with an argument by the prosecution that Crumbley lost attorney-client privilege due to testimony from her on Thursday. She testified that while she and her husband James Crumbley were at the warehouse they were arrested in as police were searching for them, she was waiting for her attorney to tell her when to turn herself in.

The judge then took a sealed document with some text messages back into her chambers to review and court went into recess.

Around 10:15 a.m., Jennifer Crumbley eventually took the stand for the cross-examination, and prosecutors worked to dismantle testimony she made Thursday about the relationship she had with her son and what she may have known about his mental health.

The prosecutor also asked about how many friends the shooter had, pointing to very few "I love yous" in their text thread and which hobbies he was actually taking part in back in 2021, the year of the shooting.

There were also phone calls played from jail between Jennifer Crumbley and her father. Prosecutors tried to show she was not concerned about her son as she asked about finances and nutritional value of food she ate in jail.

They also grilled her about the purchase of the gun and ammunition, to which she said she trusted her husband to keep safe in their home. When assistant prosecutor Marc Keast asked about not telling the school about the gun purchase, she said she didn't think it was relevant.

Cross-examination ended just after 11 a.m., and Smith followed up with questions about the jail phone call recordings and asked about people that she talked to.

After the cross-examination, the defense rested their case.

SEE MORE: More prosecutors are looking to charge parents of criminals

Thursday's day in court

She talked about the relationship she had with her son, her husband and more while being questioned by Smith. Now, she'll face cross-examination.

During the trial on Thursday, there were also dark and disturbing journal entries from the shooter shown in court, and they also played video of the shooting inside the high school, which led to emotions from many in the courtroom.

Prosecutors allege Jennifer and her husband, James, were negligent and played a role in the shooting that killed four students and injured seven other people — six students and a teacher.

While on the stand Thursday, Jennifer's testimony focused on rebutting the prosecutors' argument that she was not focused on her own son. She also addressed one of the key allegations in the case that she refused to bring her son home from school after he was called to the office over violent drawings.

“We truly did lose a lot," she said on the stand.

Jennifer and her attorney painted a picture that the Crumbleys were a normal family by showcasing their life.

"Us going on vacations at the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes,” she said.

Jennifer also testified about the relationship she had with her son.

"I trusted him. I felt like I had an open door and he could come to me about anything. I felt as a family, the three of us were really close," she said.

However, the shooter's journal depicted a different story, one that was dark and disturbing, detailing his mental health struggles and repeated messages of his desire to shoot up the school.

The journal was found in the backpack he brought that day to school. It contained dozens of pages with drawings of guns, but it did not include the drawings done that day, the ones that ultimately sent him to the counselor's office. The counselor testified earlier this week that James and Jennifer refused to take him home.

"There was never a time where I would refuse to take him home. I would easily if he wanted to go take him with me. I had no issues with that," Jennifer said.

She claims she never saw those journal entries and never refused or dismissed her son's care. She said they planned on getting him help, as instructed by the counselor.

However, the lead investigator on the case said those efforts didn't happen in the hours between the meeting and the shooting.

"When viewing the phone logs of Jennifer Crumbley, was there any indication of any phone calls to a facility of that sort?" prosecutors asked.

Det. Lt. Timothy Wallis said there weren't, and there weren't any phone calls to doctors.

"I yelled in my talk to text Ethan, 'don't do it' because I thought he was going to kill himself," Jennifer said.

It was that text and one of the last texts Jennifer sent her son. She soon after found out he had the 9mm handgun.

During testimony, she said the responsibility of the gun was mostly her husband's, and they haven't spoken since they've been arrested.

“If you could change what happened would you?" Smith asked.

"Oh absolutely. I wish he would’ve killed us instead," Jennifer responded.

The court has heard from several lawyers and saw more than 400 pieces of evidence. 

This story was originally published by Scripps News Detroit.

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