Michigan School Shooter’s Parents Sentenced to More Than 10 Years in Prison

Chase Smith
By Chase Smith
April 9, 2024US News
The first parents convicted in a U.S. mass school shooting were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison Tuesday as a Michigan judge lamented missed opportunities that could have prevented their teenage son from possessing a gun and killing four students in 2021.

The two parents who were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after their son killed four of his classmates at Oxford High School in 2021 were sentenced to 10–15 years in prison on April 9 in Pontiac, Michigan.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are the first parents in the United States to be held criminally liable for a school shooting committed by their child, both having been found guilty in separate jury trials earlier this year.

They will each receive credit for 858 days served and were both ordered to have no contact with the families of the victims. A separate order by the judge will follow as to whether they are allowed contact with their son, Ethan, the shooter.

“The advisory set of sentencing guidelines in this manner do not capture the catastrophic impact of the action or inaction and in these manners, and the guidelines do not take into account the complete lack of insight both defendants have and their behaviors to this very day,” Judge Cheryl Matthews said prior to reading her sentence. “In addition to the seven wounded, each of the defendants’ gross negligence has caused unimaginable suffering to hundreds of others as a result of what happened that day. Each act or inaction created a ripple effect.”

Prosecutors had previously sought the 10–15-year sentence for the parents. According to a court filing by prosecutors on April 3, Mrs. Crumbley, 46, showed a “chilling lack of remorse” for her role, while Mr. Crumbley, 47, “failed to exercise even the smallest measure of ordinary care” that could have prevented the tragic deaths.

The maximum prison sentence imposed for the parents was 15 years per the four counts, each representing one of the students killed by their son. Students Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17, were killed in the shooting.

The parents do not stand accused of having had knowledge of their son’s plan to murder the teenagers. However, prosecutors said they did not take adequate measures to lock up the gun used in the killings at their home in addition to having ignored warning signs relating to the mental health of their son.

Sentencing Hearing

The defense criticized the narrative summary and descriptions in the pre-sentencing investigation for inaccuracies and bias, arguing that it did not reflect the specific defendant and contained incorrect information.

The prosecution’s compilation of the narrative for sentencing faced objections, especially regarding a proposed no-contact order for co-dependent defendants in the Michigan Department of Corrections, which was debated for its necessity and legality.

Attorneys for the Crumbleys asked the judge to lift a no-contact provision between the three Crumbleys in the early moments of the sentencing hearing, arguing they still retained the right to “be a family.”

Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Marc Keast asked the court to hold the defense’s request in abeyance so prosecutors can respond, and Judge Cheryl Matthews agreed, giving them the next few weeks to respond to the matter.

Judge Matthews added that if James and Ethan Crumbley are both in prison, the Michigan Department of Corrections will categorize them in a way so they won’t be housed in the same facility. Co-defendants normally aren’t housed together, the judge added.

Defense attorneys repeatedly challenged the basis for sentencing guidelines, including the scoring of offense variables.

The court deliberated over the intent and actions of the offenders, with discussions on how these factors influenced the charges and the sentencing guidelines.

Victim impact statements were read in the courtroom by victims themselves and others were submitted in writing to Judge Matthews, including by parents of the murdered students and others injured or affected by the shooting.

“The lack of compassion that you show is outrageous,” the mother of Madisyn Baldwin said in the first victim impact statement. “Not only did your son kill my daughter, but you both did as well. The word ‘involuntary’ should not be a part of your offense. Everything you did that day, months prior and days after were voluntary acts of your son to commit a murder. Not just one, but multiple.”

Reina St. Juliana, the older sister of Hana, said the maximum sentence being 15 years is “too short,” adding “Hana didn’t even have 15 years to live.”

Buck Myre, father of victim Tate Myre, said in his impact statement that he wants the government to perform an investigation of the shooting and the response, calling for “the whole truth” to be brought to light, also laying blame on the school as well as first responders.

“Many don’t know that our government has not investigated this murder,” he said, calling the response to the shooting “horrible” and “disrespectful” to families.

In their own statements to the judge prior to her sentencing, the Crumbleys apologized to the families for the incidents that took the lives of their loved ones.

They both also asked the judge to sentence them “fairly,” adding that public perception of them in the years following the tragedy as not being remorseful was unfair and untrue.

In addition, Mr. Crumbley addressed a statement made by Mr. Myre, adding he was in agreement with him that the public needed to know “the whole truth” from other entities actions in response and prior to the shooting including from the school and first responders.

The Shooting and Trials

The Crumbleys had visited the school on the day of the shooting to meet with teachers and school officials over a drawing their then-15-year-old son had made, depicting a gun and bullet, as well as a wounded figure. The drawing on a math assignment also included phrases such as “The thoughts won’t stop” and “Help me.”

After the meeting at the school, the Crumbleys left without their son and returned to work. Just hours after, Ethan pulled a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun from his backpack and began shooting.

School officials reportedly advised the parents to seek medical help for Ethan’s mental health but did not comply with the school’s recommendation.

At the time, school staff was unaware that the gun used in the shooting was purchased by his father just days prior and that it resembled the one in the drawing, trial testimony revealed.

During Mr. Crumbley’s trial, he was ordered to not have access to a phone or tablet after he allegedly made multiple expletive-laden threats against Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald.

In one call from jail before the trial, according to the sentencing memo, he said, “Karen McDonald, you’re going down.” In other calls, he threatened retribution.

“I am … on a rampage, Karen. Yes, Karen McDonald. You better be … scared,” he said on Jan. 3, according to Mr. Keast.

According to NBC, some sources confirmed that Mr. Crumbley allegedly told his sister during several phone calls that he was going to make it his goal in life to destroy Ms. McDonald. His attorney argued in the trial and in the sentencing hearing on Tuesday that these comments were never made as threats and were made out of anger and to vent his frustration.

The judge sided with the prosecution that his comments could only be construed as threats against the prosecutor.

Their son pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism for his actions and is now serving a life sentence with no chance for parole.

Parents Hoped to Avoid Prison

Both parents were hoping to avoid prison time, according to the sentencing memo filed by prosecutors. However, prosecutors argued that the parents’ cases called for sentences that exceeded the advisory guideline range, as the parents’ “gross negligence changed an entire community forever.”

“Such a proposed sentence is a slap in the face to the severity of tragedy caused by defendant’s gross negligence [toward] the victims and their families,” Mr. Keast said, referring to Ms. Crumbley.

The sentencing memo also shows that Mr. Crumbley believes he was wrongfully convicted.

“I feel horrible for what happened and would do anything to be able to go back in time and change it! But I can’t. And I had nothing to do with what happened,” Mr. Crumbley wrote, according to the prosecution memo. “I don’t know why my son did what he did. HE is the only one who knows.”

Attorneys for the parents have asked for their clients to be sentenced to fewer than five years in prison each.

Defense attorney Shannon Smith said Mrs. Crumbley is “not a threat to the community” in pre-sentencing filings and even said she was willing to house her in a guest property of hers with an electronic monitor.

“Putting Mrs. Crumbley in prison does nothing to further deter others from committing like offenses,” Ms. Smith said in a court filing. “There is no person who would want the events of Nov. 30, 2021, to repeat themselves.”

Ms. Smith said “any gross negligence” were mistakes “that any parent could make.”

Neither of the parents’ lawyers confirmed whether they would appeal the convictions and have not yet commented on the sentencing.

Kos Temenes contributed to this article.

From The Epoch Times

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