How Ethan Crumbley is blaming his parents, and going back on his word

Convicted Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley isn't having much luck convincing his parents to help him appeal his life sentence, at least on one front: getting access to their confidential pre-sentencing reports.

Those reports include details about the parents' lifestyles and their son's upbringing — information the shooter's lawyers believe could help the teen appeal his life-without-parole sentence.

Jennifer Crumbley glances at her husband James Crumbley during their sentencing hearing in the Oakland County courtroom of Cheryl Matthews on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. The Crumbleys were found guilty each on four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Jennifer Crumbley glances at her husband James Crumbley during their sentencing hearing in the Oakland County courtroom of Cheryl Matthews on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. The Crumbleys were found guilty each on four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

But the parents, through their lawyers, maintain their son has no right to their confidential reports. Only they do, they argue, and they're not willing to waive that privilege.

The dad was the first to state his objection to this request in a filing last week.

On Monday, the boy's mom followed suit.

Mom: Ethan has no right to my private information

"Under the law, the court should deny (Ethan Crumbley's) motion for the production of Mrs. Crumbley’s confidential pre-sentence report " Jennifer Crumbley's appellate lawyer, Michael Dezsi, writes in a filing, maintaining there's a state law that "expressly" states that "all records and reports of investigations made by a probation officer … shall be privileged and confidential [and] not open to public inspection.”

Moreover, Dezsi writes, the shooter "has put forth no articulable reason" why his mom should waive her privilege to have her confidential report be disclosed. Rather, the shooter has "merely" argued that his appellate lawyers have a duty to "ensure" that his trial lawyers were effective.

"Seemingly, (Ethan Crumbley's) appellate counsel simply wishes to review Mrs. Crumbley’s presentence report with an eye on discovering a possible basis to assert that (Ethan Crumbley's) trial counsel was ineffective," Dezsi writes. "Without identifying any specifics, it appears that (Ethan Crumbley) is simply attempting to engage in a fishing expedition for information that (he) hopes will prove helpful."

In her pre-sentencing report, Jennifer Crumbley talks about, among other things, her consumption of alcohol — the prosecution portrayed her as having a drinking problem — and alleges that her husband engaged in threatening behavior.

Is shooter now blaming his parents?

James and Jennifer Crumbley made history this year after two separate juries convicted both of involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the Nov. 30, 2021, massacre carried out by their son, who murdered four students and injured seven others, including a teacher. The boy committed the shooting using a gun his father had purchased for him four days before the tragedy.

Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the rampage, pleaded guilty to all his crimes and is serving a life-without-parole sentence. At his sentencing, he called himself a "really bad person," did not ask for leniency and told the judge to honor the victims' wishes that he spend the rest of his days behind bars.

"Any sentence that they ask for, I ask that you impose it on me," Crumbley said during the sentencing. "I want them to be happy.”

He also took full blame for his actions.

"My parents did not know what I planned to do," Ethan Crumbley told the judge. "They are not at fault."

This contradicts a journal entry the boy wrote, in which he states: "I have zero help for my mental problems and it's causing me to shoot up the f------ school,"

Despite the teenage shooter's comments at his sentencing, his recent filings raise questions about a possible about-face, now blaming his parents again, much like Oakland County prosecutors did at both parents’ trials when they argued repeatedly that the teenager was in crisis and asking for help, but instead his parents allegedly ignored him and bought him a gun.

This issue is now being raised by the teen’s appellate lawyers, who argue in new filings that Ethan Crumbley's childhood may not have been investigated thoroughly prior to his sentencing. They note that no lay witnesses ever testified on the teenager's behalf at his crucial Miller hearing, during which a judge concluded a life-without-parole sentence was appropriate for the shooter.

The appellate defense team also appears to be digging deeper into the child's upbringing, noting it has new witnesses who have never testified before and have "sensitive information about Ethan and his family when Ethan was a minor."

The shooter's parents, meanwhile, argue if their son's new lawyers want to find out about his upbringing, the teenager can tell them himself.

"(T)o the extent that (Ethan Crumbley's) family and home environment may be relevant … (Ethan Crumbley) should be able to provide such information to his counsel," Dezsi writes.

Deszi's filing echoed the same arguments made by James Crumbley's lawyer in a similar filing last week.

Like their son, the Crumbleys — who each received 10-15-year prison sentences — also are pursuing appeals. The couple maintains that they never saw any signs that their son was mentally ill; that they never knew of his plans to shoot up his school; and that the gun he used was not a gift to freely use, but was hidden in an armoire unloaded, with the bullets hidden in a separate drawer.

Contact Tresa Baldas:tbaldas@freepress.com

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Oxford school shooter gets rebuffed by both parents in appeal process