• Search

Appeals Court Rules Parents Of Oxford High Gunman Will Face Trial For Involuntary Manslaughter

Detroit, MI – A state appeals court has determined the involuntary manslaughter case against the parents of the 16-year-old Oxford High School shooter will proceed to trial.

As a matter of policy, The Police Tribune no longer publishes the names or photos of school shooters so as not to contribute to fame-motivated attacks.

Four students were murdered and seven other victims were wounded after James and Jennifer Crumbley’s then-15-year-old son opened fire inside the high school on Nov. 30, 2021.

The couple was later charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly failing to take action to stop their son from carrying out the mass shooting, ABC News reported.

Prosecutors also said the couple ignored their son’s requests for help with his mental health and that they gave their son the gun that he used in the attack, WJBK reported.

The Crumbleys have argued there is no legal justification for the involuntary manslaughter charges filed against them and claim they should not be held responsible for their son’s actions, according to CNN.

The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled on March 23 that the couple will stand trial.

“We share defendants’ concern about the potential for this decision to be applied in the future to parents whose situation viz-a-viz their child’s intentional conduct is not as closely tied together, and/or the warning signs and evidence were not as substantial as they are here,” the panel of judges wrote in their opinion, according to CNN.

But the court said that in this particular case, the gunman’s actions “were reasonably foreseeable,” which thereby “significantly diminished” those concerns.

The judges referenced text messages the teen sent his parents months prior to the school shooting, telling them he was struggling with hallucinations and paranoia, CNN reported.

He also said he believed a demon was throwing objects around the family’s home.

“Can you at least text back,” he wrote to his mother after she failed to reply, CNN reported.

The judges said the couple was out riding horses at the time and that she did not text her son back at all that day.

After telling his friend the thought he might be experiencing a mental breakdown, the teen asked his parents to help him get medical assistance, but they blew him off, according to the panel.

His father told him to “suck it up” and his mother simply laughed, CNN reported.

Judge Michael Riordan noted it was readily evident the 15-year-old was contemplating violence and experiencing a mental health crisis, but that his parents ignored those issues and provided him with a gun anyway.

“Our legal system does not, nor should it, criminally punish people for subpar, odd, or eccentric parenting, or require that children be deprived of any instrumentality that otherwise is legal to possess and use,” Riordan wrote. “Moreover, I suspect that parents do not reasonably assume, as a matter of course, that their children will commit violent crimes.”

“However, before us is the unusual case. EC was extraordinarily troubled, yet defendants nonetheless provided him with a handgun and, despite having discrete, disturbing evidence that EC contemplated harming others, did nothing when confronted with that evidence,” he added.

Investigators said the Crumbleys withdrew $4,000 from an ATM and went into hiding inside a Detroit warehouse after news of the shooting broke, WDIV reported.

They were charged on Dec. 3, 2021, and warrants were issued for their arrests.

Their attorney said the couple planned to turn themselves in, but they failed to do so and skipped out on an arraignment hearing, CNN reported.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office’s (OCSO) fugitive team all deployed to locate the Crumbleys, WXMI reported.

Investigators tried to track them using their cell phones, but that lead ended when the Crumbleys shut their devices down, CNN reported.

The couple ultimately ended up at the downtown Detroit studio of 65-year-old artist Andrzej Sikora, who they had a “friendly relationship with,” Sikora’s attorney, Clarence Dass, told the Associated Press.

Dass said Sikora had no idea the Crumbleys were wanted and that he didn’t know they remained inside his studio after he closed up for the day.

“They appeared to be hiding in the building,” Detroit Police Chief James White told reporters after their arrests. “This isn’t indicative of turning themselves in… hiding in a warehouse.”

He said they were both “very distressed” after they were caught.

Prosecutors said the shooter personally chose the murder weapon he wanted to use and that he gave his father the funds to buy it for him, MLive reported.

The gunman had written about his plan in his journal prior to the attack.

“First off, I got my gun. It’s an SP2022 SIG Sauer 9mm,” he wrote, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Second, the shooting is tomorrow, I have access to the gun and ammo… the first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer like me.”

He told the court in October of last year that his parents’ claims the gun was secured and stored in a location where he couldn’t access it were false, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“It was not locked,” the gunman told the judge.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Keast previously told the court he couldn’t find “the words to describe how horrific” the surveillance footage of the mass shooting was, according to FOX News.

The gunman shot his fellow students at close range, hitting them in their necks, shoulders, and faces, the Daily Mail reported.

“He methodically and deliberately walked down a hallway, aimed the firearm at students and fired it,” Keast said, according to FOX News. “After children started running away from the defendant, he continued down the hallway, again at a deliberate and methodical pace, pointing and aiming inside classrooms and at students who hadn’t had the opportunity to escape.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard revealed last year that school officials sat down with the alleged gunman’s parents hours prior to the attack to discuss his “concerning” behavior, WDIV reported.

Prosecutors said the suspect had been caught researching ammunition online during class one day prior, and that he was seen with a drawing of guns and blood with the words, “The thoughts won’t stop, help me,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

The suspect’s parents assured school officials during the meeting that they would get their son into mental health counseling, but they refused to take him home with them that day and insisted that he go back to class, prosecutors said.

After his parents left the building, the suspect went into a bathroom, took the gun out of his backpack, and began murdering his classmates, the Detroit Free Press reported.

He fired more than 30 rounds during the mass shooting, according to WDIV.

Sheriff Bouchard said his office did not receive any calls about the gunman prior to the attack.

“We received no information about this individual prior to the shooting,” the sheriff told WDIV. “We also were told that the school had some information or some contact with the individual. We had no information from the schools, but we have since learned that the schools did have contact with the student the day before and the day of the shooting for behavior in the classroom that they felt was concerning.”

The massacre occurred school shortly after 1 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2021.

More than 100 people called 911 to report the active shooter, Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said, according to NBC News.

Officers had the suspect in custody within five minutes of the initial 911 call, he noted.

Sheriff Bouchard said deputies were able to apprehend the killer when he came out of a bathroom holding a loaded semiautomatic handgun, the Associated Press reported.

The weapon still had seven rounds, according to the sheriff.

“I believe they literally saved lives having taken down the suspect with a loaded firearm while still in the building,” Sheriff Bouchard said.

Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Justin Shilling, 17, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17, were all murdered in the horrific mass shooting, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The gunman pleaded guilty on Oct. 24, 2022 to all 24 counts against him.

Prosecutors said no plea agreement had been reached prior to the suspect changing his pleas, WDIV reported.

The hearing marked the first occasion in which a school shooter in the United States has been convicted of terrorism, according to WDIV.

The suspect, who was 15 at the time of the Nov. 20, 2021 mass shooting and had been charged as an adult, also pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, according to the Detroit Free Press.

His sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled to take place on June 2, The Detroit News reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin


Sign up to our daily newsletter so you don't miss out on the latest events surrounding law enforcement!

Follow Me

Follow us on social media and be sure to mark us as "See First."