James and Jennifer Crumbley plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges

·4 min read

The mother of a teen charged in the Oxford High School shooting broke down when asked if she understood the charges against her during a court hearing Saturday morning.

Jennifer Crumbley, 43, and James Crumbley, 45, each face four charges of involuntary manslaughter connected to the mass shooting Tuesday in which their 15-year-old son is accused of being the gunman.

The Crumbley parents both pleaded not guilty during their video arraignments Saturday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the teen charged in the Oxford High School shooting, appear at their arraignment through a video feed Dec. 4, 2021.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the teen charged in the Oxford High School shooting, appear at their arraignment through a video feed Dec. 4, 2021.

"These charges are very, very serious. There's no question about that," said Judge Julie Nicholson of 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills. "The court does have some concern about the flight risk along with the public safety given the circumstances that occurred yesterday and the fact that the defendants did have to be apprehended in order to appear for purposes of arraignment."

She set bond for each at $500,000 cash, substantially more than the $50,000 to $100,000 the couple’s attorneys requested, but the amount prosecutors sought. Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Police arrested the couple early Saturday morning in Detroit after an intense search that spanned much of Friday. The Oakland County Sheriff's Office issued a news release about three hours after the couple was charged Friday saying they were trying to find them. Later that night, the U.S. Marshals Service released posters that said "WANTED" and offered a reward for information leading to their arrests.

A citizen saw the Crumbleys’ vehicle Friday night and called police, leading to their arrests inside a light industrial building on the east side, a couple of blocks north of the Detroit River, just west of Belle Isle.

More: James and Jennifer Crumbley caught, arrested after vehicle is found in Detroit

Jennifer and James Crumbley appeared in court via a video connection from the Oakland County Jail for the hearing that lasted more than 30 minutes Saturday.

James Crumbley, left, and Jennifer Crumbley
James Crumbley, left, and Jennifer Crumbley

The couple's attorneys, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, have accused prosecutors of cherry-picking facts in the case and said there is more going on than the court is aware.

“Our clients are going to fight these charges,” Smith said. “Our clients are just as devastated as everyone else.”

She said Jennifer and James Crumbley planned to turn themselves in Saturday morning and defense attorneys planned to meet their clients at 7:30 a.m.

More: Latest updates on Oxford High School shooting: Parents found, arrested

“There is absolutely no doubt that our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in,” Smith said. “It was just a matter of logistics.”

She said defense attorneys were in contact with their clients Friday. Jennifer and James Crumbley were scared, figuring out what to do and getting finances in order, she said.

Smith, who has represented other high-profile clients, including now-imprisoned former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and the lead defendant in a female genital mutilation case, accused Oakland County prosecutors of not communicating with defense attorneys and said they made multiple attempts to get in contact.

Prosecutor Karen McDonald also appeared during the arraignment and said they didn’t have an obligation to cooperate.

McDonald said Jennifer and James Crumbley withdrew $4,000 in Rochester Hills on Friday morning, didn’t turn themselves and fled.

The day of the high school shooting, Ethan Crumbley's parents were called to the school about a drawing from their son that depicted threats and acts of violence and didn't disclose their son had access to a gun, McDonald said.

“This is a very serious, horrible, terrible murder and shooting and it has affected the entire community” she said. “And these two individuals could have stopped it.”

They had reason to know their son was dangerous, had given him a weapon and didn’t secure it, McDonald said.

Smith countered, telling the judge the gun was locked.

“When the prosecution is stating that this child had free access to a gun, that is just absolutely not true,” she said.

During the hearing, James Crumbley shook his head no multiple times when McDonald was speaking.

The next court hearing for the couple is a probable cause conference scheduled for Dec. 14.

Their son was charged as an adult. He faces 24 counts, including four counts of first-degree murder and terrorism causing death.

Detroit Free Press reporter Christine MacDonald contributed to this report. Contact Elisha Anderson: eanderson@freepress.com or 313-222-5144.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: James, Jennifer Crumbley plead not guilty at arraignment

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