Parents of Michigan school gunman sentenced to up to 15 years each in prison

Sentencing is rare case of mother and father being held accountable for their child's role in a shooting

Jennifer Crumbley looks at her husband James during their sentencing on four counts of involuntary manslaughter in Pontiac, Michigan. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The mother and father of a Michigan teenager who shot and killed four classmates were each sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison on Tuesday after a jury convicted them of manslaughter in a rare case of parents being held responsible in a school shooting.

Jennifer and James Crumbley, Ethan Crumbley's parents, were sentenced immediately after several parents of the victims gave emotional statements in an Oakland County courtroom.

“Not only did your son kill my daughter but you both did as well,” Nicole Beausoleil, the mother of 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, told the court as she wept.

Mr Crumbley sat impassively while his wife hung her head.

Ethan was 15 at the time of the shooting at Oxford High School in 2021.

He pleaded guilty in 2022 to four counts of first-degree murder and other charges, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in December.

Michigan teenager pleads guilty to school shooting that killed four

Ethan Crumbley answers yes to charges against him from assistant prosecutor during his pre-trial hearing at Oakland County Courthouse, Monday, Oct.  24, 2022.  Pontiac, Mich.  Crumbley entered the guilty plea to 24 criminal charges including terrorism causing death and first-degree murder for the Oxford High School shooting.  (Clarence Tabb Jr.  / Detroit News via AP)

In remarks to the court before sentencing, Ms Crumbley expressed her “deepest sorrow” and said she had no inkling her son was capable of killing.

“My husband and I used to say we have the perfect kid. I truly believed that,” she said. “I didn't have a reason to do anything different. This is not something I foresaw.

“If there's anything the general public can take away from this, it's that this could happen to you, too.

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

Addressing the court, her husband said: “I am sorry for your loss as a result of what my son did. My heart pours out to every single one of you.”

Prosecutors in the trial of the Crumbleys said they were criminally negligent for providing a gun to their child as a Christmas present and for ignoring signs his mental health had deteriorated and that he was potentially violent.

The parents' defence teams argued, among other points, that it was impossible for the mother and the father to envision their son would carry out a mass shooting.

The US, a country with persistent gun violence, has experienced many school shootings over the years, often carried out by current or former pupils.

There is little precedent for the conviction of the couple, the first parents known to be charged with manslaughter in a school shooting carried out by a child.

Experts and gun-safety advocates have said their trial was an important step in holding gun-owning parents more accountable for school violence carried out by their children.

Studies by the US Department of Homeland Security have found about 75 per cent of all perpetrators of school shootings obtained their weapons at home.

'LOL. Just don't get caught,' read texts from mother of Michigan school shooter

'LOL. Just don't get caught,' read texts from mother of Michigan school shooter

Mr Crumbley bought the 9mm semi-automatic handgun as a Christmas present for Ethan four days before the shooting on November 30, 2021.

On the morning of the rampage, Ethan's parents were summoned to their son's school after teachers discovered violent messages and drawings on his schoolwork, prosecutors said during the trial.

The Crumbleys were told Ethan needed immediate counselling. But prosecutors said the couple resisted, taking the teenager home that day, and did not search his backpack or ask him about the gun to which they knew he had access.

Ethan was returned to class. He later walked out of a bathroom with the gun and began firing, according to prosecutors.

Updated: April 09, 2024, 5:38 PM