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Crumbley parents sentenced to 10 to 15 years in Michigan school shooting

Crumbley parents sentenced to 10 to 15 years in Michigan school shooting

Jennifer and James Crumbley, who were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for failing to stop their teenage son from killing four of his classmates in the deadliest shooting in Michigan history, were each sentenced Tuesday to 10 to 15 years in prison.

Their separate jury trials resulted in guilty verdicts in February and March, making them the first parents in the country to be convicted in the death caused by their child in a mass shooting.

In Michigan, manslaughter charges carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, and prosecutors requested in sentencing memos filed in court last week that the Crumbleys each serve at least 10 years. Both have been in prison for more than two years awaiting trial and will have time served counted.

“Parents are not expected to be psychics,” Judge Cheryl Matthews of Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan, said before handing down the sentence. “But these beliefs are not about bad parenting. These convictions confirm repeated acts or lack of actions that could have stopped a runaway train coming in the opposite direction – repeatedly ignoring things that would make a reasonable person feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand up.

Before the hearing, prosecutors said Ms Crumbley, 46, was asking to be placed under house arrest on her lawyer’s property, rather than serving a prison sentence. And Mr Crumbley, 47, said he had been wrongly convicted and his sentence should match the time he had already served in prison, adding he felt “absolutely horrible” about what had happened.

On Tuesday, each of them spoke at the hearing before the judge pronounced his sentence.

“I rise today not to ask for your forgiveness, because I know that may be out of reach, but to express my sincerest apologies for the pain that has been caused,” Ms Crumbley told the court , speaking to the relatives of the killed students. .

Mr Crumbley also apologised. “I can’t express how much I wish I knew what was going on with him or what was going to happen, because I absolutely would have done a lot of things differently,” he said.

Relatives of some victims also spoke during the hearing, describing the life-altering effects the shooting had on their lives.

“The repercussions of James and Jennifer’s inaction have devastated us all,” said Jill Soave, the mother of 17-year-old Justin Shilling, killed in the Oxford High School shooting on November 30, 2021. “This tragedy was completely avoidable. If only they had done something, your honor, anything, to change the course of events on November 30, then our four angels would be here today.

Steve St. Juliana, whose daughter Hana, 14, was killed, said the Crumbleys continue to fail to take responsibility for what happened.

“They chose to remain silent,” he said. “They chose to ignore the warning signs. And now, as we have heard through all the objections, they continue to choose to blame everyone but themselves.”

The Crumbleys’ son, Ethan, was 15 when he shot Justin and Hana, as well as 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin and 16-year-old Tate Myre. Seven other people were injured. Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including first-degree murder, and was sentenced last year to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He can still appeal this decision. His parents could also appeal.

In both parents’ trials, prosecutors focused in part on their failure to remove their son from school after he drew a violent drawing the morning of the shooting. It included a written appeal for help.

They also pointed out that Ethan had access to a handgun that Mr Crumbley had purchased. And they said Ms Crumbley failed to notice signs that her son had mental health problems, adding that she had taken him to a shooting range just days before the shooting.

Defense attorneys for both parents said they could not have predicted the unspeakable violence their son would commit.

Ms. Crumbley grew up in Clarkston, a Detroit suburb about 20 minutes from Oxford, her lawyer said at a hearing after the couple’s arrest in 2021. Before her arrest, she had worked as a marketing director, said his lawyer.

Mr. Crumbley’s professional experience included work at a handful of small software and technology companies.

The couple formerly lived in Florida but returned to Michigan several years ago, their lawyers said. They bought their house near downtown Oxford in 2015.

The trials of Jennifer and James Crumbley have become a lightning rod for issues of parental responsibility in an era of high-profile gun violence by juveniles. In recent months, parents in other states have pleaded guilty to charges of reckless driving or negligence after their children injured or killed others with guns.

But the manslaughter charges against the Crumbleys were unique, and legal experts said their trials could serve as a model for other prosecutors seeking to hold parents accountable in the future.

Ekow Yankah, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, said the effect of Tuesday’s ruling could be felt beyond the state.

“This will set a precedent, especially in Michigan and its home jurisdiction, but prosecutors across the country will see it as a new and viable form of accountability,” Mr. Yankah said. “I think we should not underestimate the precedential power of this case, even as we recognize that the facts were quite extraordinary. »

For Matthew Schneider, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan, what makes this case so different from many others is that most criminal convictions are tied to a defendant’s actions, rather than being “about inaction and manner in which a person’s inaction results. in a criminal conviction.

The sentencing is “essentially about setting an example for the defendants,” Mr. Schneider said. “This is a warning shot to all parents, to all people who have guns in their home, to keep them locked up, if they are at risk of getting into the hands of the wrong people.”

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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