A Michigan mother, Jennifer Crumbley, has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for not preventing her son from executing a fatal school shooting. This marks the first time a US parent has been found guilty of manslaughter in connection to a mass shooting perpetrated by their child. Prosecutors argued that Crumbley was negligent in allowing her son access to a firearm and disregarding warning signs. Her husband, James, is awaiting a separate trial on identical charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Their 17-year-old son is serving a life sentence for murdering four fellow students at Oxford High School in Michigan on November 30, 2021.
The verdict was delivered in Oakland County court on Tuesday, with Crumbley showing no emotion. She faced four counts of involuntary manslaughter, each carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years. Some family members of the victims expressed relief at the verdict.
The central question of the trial was whether Crumbley could have anticipated and prevented the crime. The parents had purchased the gun used by their son just days before the shooting and were charged shortly after the incident. They were located in a Detroit industrial building following a public tip-off and have been held in county jail for over two years, unable to post bail.
During the trial, evidence was presented indicating that their son, Ethan Crumbley, had sought mental health assistance and reported hallucinations, but his parents did not seek treatment for him. On the day of the shooting, the parents ended a school meeting about a disturbing drawing Ethan had made early to go to work and refused to take him home. School officials allowed him back into class without checking his backpack, which contained the gun he later used to kill four classmates.
Some experts believe this case could lead to more charges against parents of children who commit mass shootings, while others argue its unique circumstances make it unlikely to set a precedent. Meanwhile, families of the victims have expressed frustration that the school officials have not faced the same repercussions as the Crumbleys. An independent investigation last year found multiple failures by the school system, including allowing Ethan to return to class without checking his backpack. The school district has promised to review and improve its practices and policies in response to these findings.