How Teen Gunman’s Parents Ended Up Hiding Out in Local Artist’s Studio

Matthew Hatcher/Getty
Matthew Hatcher/Getty
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After the parents of alleged Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley were found by fugitive teams early Saturday morning, “hiding” out in a commercial property in east Detroit, attention has turned to who might have helped their extraordinary attempt to go on the lam.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Saturday afternoon that his his office was considering charging an unnamed person with aiding-and-abetting or obstruction of justice for assisting Jennifer Crumbley and James Crumbley, even as police were issuing nationwide alerts and the U.S. Marshals were getting involved.

“We have enough early indication that clearly somebody helped them into that location and made it available to them, and it was after it was publicly announced that there were warrants for them,” he said.

Video of the arrest scene captured by Miles Michael:

A closer look by The Daily Beast of footage from the arrests of the Crumbleys show the couple exiting a room with signage for Andrzej Sikora, a Polish-born, Detroit-based artist with connections to Oxford.

According to a news article in the Oxford Leader last month, Sikora finished a mural at Red Knapps American Grill, a bar just around the corner from the Crumbleys’ house. A picture accompanying the story indicated the photo of Sikora was taken by a “Jehn Crumbley,” a nickname Jennifer Crumbley, a realtor-turned-marketing director, has been known to go by professionally and socially. The article appeared to have been updated to remove the caption, but a WayBack Machine archive still featured it.

Reached by phone on Saturday morning, Sikora said he had just been made aware of the investigation and was in conversations with people, but he would not specify whether those were law enforcement officers or lawyers, and declined to comment further.

“You will see more information,” he said.

Sikora studied and worked in Poland before moving to the U.S. in 1990, according to an art representation agency biography of him. He is an avid muralist, with his work displayed in mansions, restaurants, and an opera house. Property records show he has been associated with a Lake Orion property from 2003-2020. The Crumbleys purchased their house in Oxford in 2015 after living in Lake Orion, their attorney said during their arraignment Saturday.

A Red Knapp employee said she couldn’t provide more details on the photograph. The writer of the Oxford Leader article and the newspaper’s publisher did not respond to inquiries as to why the caption was removed. Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, the Crumbleys’ lawyers, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

At an early morning press conference following the Crumbleys’ arrest by fugitive teams, Detroit Police Chief James White indicated that the department was aware of an individual helping the Crumbleys find refuge.

“We are working an angle on one other person who was assisting them,” White said, indicating charges could be forthcoming.

Asked on Saturday afternoon for comment on Sikora’s possible involvement, Rudy Harper, Second Deputy Chief of Detroit Police, told The Daily Beast: “We have not publicly identified the third person to my knowledge. At this time, our investigation continues.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office told The Daily Beast the Sikora matter was going to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for review. They did not respond to a request for comment.

<div class="inline-image__credit">OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE</div>

At an arraignment on Saturday morning, shortly after their dramatic capture, James and Jennifer pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each of the four students who died at Oxford High School.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald charged the parents over their “egregious” conduct before and after the shooting—from buying their 15-year-old son a handgun four days before the shooting, to keeping it unsecured in a bedroom drawer, to saying nothing when teachers told them just hours before the shooting that Ethan had made a disturbing drawing about shooting people.

When a teacher found Ethan searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class on the day before the shooting, Jennifer ignored emails and voicemails from worried school officials and instead texted her son, “Lol, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” McDonald said.

Jennifer, whose attorney said she worked as a marketing director for a large company, cried during the arraignment as she said she understood the charges against her. James, a former tech salesman, smiled, laughed, shook his head, and raised his eyebrows at various points.

Meanwhile, Smith and McDonald squabbled over whether the pair had planned to turn themselves in at all.

“These are not people that we can be assured are going to return to court on their own,” McDonald told the judge, prompting James Crumbley to laugh.

The couple had last been seen by the public on Thursday when they tuned into their son’s virtual arraignment from a car. McDonald said they withdrew $4,000 from an ATM before vanishing, prompting police to issue a Be On the Look (BOLO) alert and the U.S. Marshals to get involved, offering a $10,000 reward for information.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>An eagle-eyed tipster spotted the couple’s black car outside a Detroit building.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Matthew Hatcher/Getty</div>

An eagle-eyed tipster spotted the couple’s black car outside a Detroit building.

Matthew Hatcher/Getty

For several hours, Detroit law enforcement searched areas close to the water raising questions about whether the couple was attempting to escape to nearby Canada. But White did not respond to questions on that theory at his press conference on Saturday.

A tipster then spotted the couple’s black Kia Seltos parked outside a Detroit industrial building, described in ads as an “Albert Kahn gem” that houses businesses including a print shop, coffee shop and auto supplier. Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said the tipster observed a female smoking near the car who ran off when 911 was called.

Just after 1:30 a.m. heavily armed police descended on the building, pulling the couple out from Sikora’s studio. White said they both seemed “distressed” when found.

Smith, however, claimed in court that her clients always planned to turn themselves in. She said prosecutors failed to inform her of the imminent charges, and the “terrified” parents were just getting their affairs in order.

“It was just a matter of logistics,” she said. McDonald disagreed. “I can’t imagine why they were surprised,” she said. “The whole country knew that these charges were coming.”

Bouchard said Saturday that he believed the couple were evading arrest.

“I think where they were and how they were, seems to support the position they’re hiding and they weren’t looking for surrendering at that point,” he said.

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