Michigan school shooter’s father, on trial for manslaughter, is now accused of making threats from jail

The manslaughter trial of James Crumbley continued in a Michigan courtroom Friday, just weeks after his wife, Jennifer, was convicted in relation to their son’s mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2021. Their son, Ethan Crumbley, killed four students and wounded seven others. Here are the latest developments:

James Crumbley was caught making threatening statements by phone and electronic messages while in custody, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to CNN on Friday.

As a result, Crumbley’s access to the jailhouse phone is now primarily limited to communication with his attorney, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said.
Authorities would not disclose the nature of Crumbley’s threats or their intended targets.

The issue came to light at trial Thursday, but attorneys were careful not to reveal any details about the communications in open court.

After the jury was dismissed Thursday afternoon, prosecutors asked that Crumbley’s communications be limited to only counsel and legitimate clergy for the remainder of the trial.

After considerable push back from Crumbley’s attorney, prosecutors announced they had reached an agreement.

“Mr. Crumbley’s communications will be revoked, but not his ability to do research or otherwise participate in his own defense,” Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams said Thursday afternoon. “So not just communicating with counsel, but his ability to read or get other information.”

Williams said the restrictions would expire once a verdict is reached.

Jurors hear testimony about father’s storage of gun, bullets; court adjourns for the week

James Crumbley’s trial adjourned for the day Friday after Judge Cheryl Matthews told jurors the prosecution ran out of witnesses to call because the trial was running so far ahead of schedule. Jurors are set to return for court Monday at 9 a.m.

Before court wrapped up for the day, jurors heard from Det. Joe Brian, one of the investigators who interviewed the father after his son’s attack.

Shortly after the shooting, James Crumbley told investigators the murder weapon his son used had been hidden in a case and the bullets were stored separately, according to testimony in court Friday.

Prosecutors showed video of James Crumbley and his wife speaking with investigators at a police station the afternoon of the shooting before briefly visiting with their son. The video was previously shown during Jennifer Crumbley’s trial.

James Crumbley told the investigators he had a Sig Sauer handgun hidden in an armoire in a case and the bullets were hidden in a different spot under some jeans, Brian said.

Crumbley told investigators he and his wife didn’t have any trouble with their son, but he had mediocre grades, Brian testified. The night before the attack, the parents had found out their son got an ‘E’ in geometry and there was an argument about it, Brian testified.

Crumbley indicated his son seemed fine the morning of the shooting, Brian testified. The father told investigators he and his son had discussed the grades problem and he told his son they just wanted him to try, Brian said.

Brian testified Crumbley was emotional and seemed to be concerned about his son after the attack. Defense attorney Mariell Lehman pointed out that as Crumbley was leaving his son, he repeatedly told him he loved him.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Marc Keast said while Crumbley was loudly repeating “I love you,” his son was saying “I did it.”

“Did he say it at the same time his son was confessing to a crime?” Keast asked.

“He was,” Brian said.

Forensic analyst gives timeline of Crumbley’s actions the day of his son’s mass shooting

Using cell phone data, forensic analyst Edward Wagrowski outlined James Crumbley’s actions leading up to the school shooting during testimony Thursday.

James Crumbley dropped his son off at school at 7:46 a.m. before returning home at 8:04 a.m., Wagrowski testified. By 9:04 a.m., location data showed the father at the horse barn, the analyst said.

At 9:33 a.m., Jennifer Crumbley messaged her husband saying “CALL NOW. Emergency” and then sent him photos of the math worksheet their son had drawn on, according to messages shown in court.

That morning, a teacher found a drawing from Ethan showing a gun and a person bleeding along with the phrases “the thoughts won’t stop help me,” “blood everywhere” and “my life is useless,” prosecutors have said.

Forensic analyst Ed Wagrowski looks over text messages while on the stand in an Oakland County courtroom Friday in Pontiac, Michigan. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP
Forensic analyst Ed Wagrowski looks over text messages while on the stand in an Oakland County courtroom Friday in Pontiac, Michigan. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP

“My god. WTF,” James Crumbley responded at 9:44 a.m., before adding that he was still waiting on their horse’s veterinarian.

“He said he was distraught about last night,” Jennifer Crumbley wrote.

“We talked about it this morning. You talked to him?” James Crumbley responded before his wife asked him to call her.

James Crumbley’s location data showed him leaving the barn around 9:38 a.m., Wagrowski testified. The father did not stop by their house on the way to the school.

At 10:29 a.m., the Crumbleys were on the phone for about seven minutes, according to cell phone logs shown in court.

The parents entered the school around 10:38 a.m., according to surveillance footage. The footage shows them in the counselor’s office for approximately 12 minutes.

During that meeting, the Crumbleys were advised to take their son home and get him immediate mental health treatment, but the parents declined to do so, the counselor testified during Jennifer Crumbley’s trial.

Around 11 a.m., James Crumbley logged into DoorDash to work as a delivery driver, Wagrowski testified. He had four orders that morning and did not stop by his house while he was delivering, Wagrowski said.

At 1:09 p.m., the school sent out an email saying “Active Emergency at OHS.” Cell phone records show James Crumbley then called his son at 1:13 p.m. and again at 1:17pm.

James Crumbley then called his wife and headed home at 1:17 p.m., Wagrowski testified. They had a 57-second phone call before she left her workplace at 1:18 p.m. A minute later, they spoke on the phone again for about 10 minutes, Wagrowski said.

By 1:20 p.m., James Crumbley was at home, according to his location data. Wagrowski testified that the father was on the phone with his wife when she texted her then-boss: “The gun is gone and so are the bullets.”

There was a three-minute phone call between the Crumbleys at 1:30 p.m. before James Crumbley called 911 at 1:34 p.m., Wagrowski testified.

“I have a missing gun and my son is at the school, and we had to go meet with the counselor this morning because of something that he wrote on a math paper,” James Crumbley said in the 911 call, which was played in court.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were both at a sheriff’s substation at 1:58 p.m. and then back home at 2:30 p.m., Wagrowski testified.

Ethan texted a friend about mental health and firearms in months before the shooting

During his testimony, Wagrowski also outlined Ethan Crumbley’s text conversations with a friend – and the sudden end to those texts – in the months before the shooting.

In more than 20,000 texts exchanged between January and October 2021, Ethan detailed concerns for his own mental health and sent at least one video showing him handling a loaded gun, the investigator said. During that same time period Ethan exchanged less than 1,000 texts with other people combined, Wagrowski said.

In early April 2021, Ethan texted the friend to say he was hearing people talking to him and seeing someone in the distance, according to the messages.

“I actually asked my dad to take (me) to the Doctor yesterday but he just gave me some pills and told me to ‘Suck it up,’” Ethan said in the messages. “Like it’s at the point that I am asking to got [sic] the doctor. My mom laughed when I told her.”

In her trial, Jennifer Crumbley denied that she laughed and said she didn’t think her son had ever asked to see a doctor.

The video of Ethan handling a gun was sent in August 2021, Wagrowski said.

“My dad left it out so I thought. ‘Why not’ lol,” he wrote shortly after midnight, according to messages shown in court. Both of his parents’ locations were at home around that time, Wagrowski testified.

Then, on October 30, James Crumbley messaged the friend’s father saying Ethan had been trying to get a hold of him for a few days, according to messages shown in court.

“Unfortunately [the friend] is in a bad place with the OCD unable to go to school most of this week,” the friend’s father responded. “We are taking him out to Wisconsin tomorrow to put him in residential treatment. He will be gone for 60-90 days.”

In November, after the friend left, there were only 48 total text messages on the shooter’s phone, which included a combined six to his parents and several to an app appearing to help with schoolwork, Wagrowski said.

“He did not communicate with hardly anybody at all,” he said.

CNN’s Maria Sole Campinoti contributed to this report.

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