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Judge rules that Ethan Crumbley’s parents will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter

<i>David Guralnick/Detroit News/AP</i><br/>Ethan Crumbley is led away from the courtroom after a placement hearing at Oakland County circuit court in Pontiac
David Guralnick/Detroit News/AP
Ethan Crumbley is led away from the courtroom after a placement hearing at Oakland County circuit court in Pontiac

By Laura Ly, Holly Yan and Amir Vera, CNN

The parents of Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, a judge ruled Thursday.

“After hearing extensive testimony, as well as evidence, and reviewing and viewing extensive exhibits, the court finds that the deaths of the four victims could have been avoided if James and Jennifer Crumbley exercised ordinary care and diligence in the care of their son,” District Court Judge Julie A. Nicholson said

Jennifer and James Crumbley are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors accused the parents of giving their son easy access to a gun and disregarding signs that he was a threat before the November 30 shooting at Oxford High School.

Four students were killed and six students and a teacher were injured at Oxford High School.

Jennifer and James Crumbley have pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

They were arrested days after the shooting in a Detroit warehouse following a manhunt after they failed to come to court for their initial arraignment.

Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder — along with an array of other charges, including one count of terrorism causing death. He has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys have said they plan to use an insanity defense at trial.

In the days leading up to the shooting, Ethan Crumbley displayed concerning behavior that had alarmed school officials.

Hours before the student allegedly opened fired, a guidance counselor called his parents in and told them he worried the teen had suicidal ideations, the counselor testified Thursday.

And phone messages reveal the 15-year-old had told a friend that he asked his parents to take him to a doctor after having hallucinations and hearing voices — but said his parents scoffed at the request, a detective testified at the preliminary hearing for his parents.

CNN asked attorneys for the parents for comment Thursday but did not immediately receive a response.

Officers testify on items found in home, journal

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matthew Peschke and Det. Adam Stoyek testified about the search of the family’s home.

Peschke said he found a number of items in Ethan Crumbley’s bedroom, including a coin in a plastic covering — with a “Nazi symbol” on it — and gun range targets taped to the walls.

The coin with the symbol could have been a collector’s item, Peschke said. He added that he did not remember seeing any other such coins in the home.

Stoyek testified Thursday that an empty gun case and empty ammunition box was found “seated on the bed” in the master bedroom. Stoyek said there did not appear to be any security lock on the case.

Stoyek also said that police found a gun safe in a dresser drawer in the master bedroom and the drawer did not have a lock on it. Stoyek said James Crumbley gave him the code to the gun safe and police found two unloaded guns inside.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were present when police searched the home, Stoyek said.

Ethan Crumbley’s backpack — with his journal inside — was found in a bathroom at Oxford High School on the day of the shooting, said Lt. Timothy Willis.

Willis said every page in that journal that was written on contained references to a shooting Ethan Crumbley was planning at Oxford High School. There were 21 pages written or drawn on in the journal, Willis said.

According to testimony, the last entry by Ethan in the journal was dated November 29 — the day before the shooting — and said, “The shooting is tomorrow. I have access to the gun and the ammo.”

Other entries in Ethan Crumbley’s journal include:

“The first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer like me.”

“I have fully, mentally lost it after years of fighting with my dark side. My parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist.”

“I’m sorry for this mom and dad, I’m not trying to hurt you by doing this. I have to do this.”

The journal also included drawings of bullets, a severed head and what appeared to be a “demon,” Willis said.

James Crumbley cried during the testimony about the journal.

When cross-examined, Willis confirmed there were no messages in the journal written by the student’s parents or anything that indicated that he told them his alleged plans for the shooting.

There was no indication from the journal that said how Ethan Crumbley gained access to the gun and ammunition allegedly used in the school shooting or any proof that Jennifer or James Crumbley gave him the gun, Willis said.

Text messages say the teen asked for help

As part of the investigation, an Oakland County sheriff’s detective extracted data and texts from the phones of Ethan Crumbley and his parents.

Det. Edward Wagrowski said he found messages from Ethan to a friend saying he had asked his parents to take him to a doctor after he was having hallucinations and hearing voices.

Ethan told his friend that in response to that request, his father gave him pills and told him to “suck it up.” According to the phone messages, Ethan told his friend that his mother laughed at him, Wagrowski testified.

The detective said Ethan texted his friend, saying his mother believed he takes drugs and that she doesn’t worry about his mental health.

“They make me feel like I’m the problem,” Ethan Crumbley texted. “My mom makes everyone feel like a piece of sh*t.”

Shannon Smith, an attorney representing Ethan’s mother, cross-examined the detective.

Wagrowski confirmed he did not find any text messages between James and Jennifer Crumbley about concerns that Ethan would shoot up a school or hurt anyone. He said there were multiple texts discussing Ethan’s schoolwork and rides home.

While there were some texts between Ethan Crumbley and a friend discussing guns and joking about shooting up a school, there were no such texts from Ethan to either of his parents, Wagrowski said.

“In the grand scheme of all of the messages (between Ethan and his friend) … there is nothing to indicate that Jennifer or James were told or were aware of a plan to commit a school shooting like what happened at Oxford High School on 11/30?” Smith asked the detective.

“Correct,” Wagrowski answered.

A counselor said he noticed signs of suicidal ideation

A guidance counselor at Oxford High School testified Thursday that he told Ethan Crumbley’s parents about disturbing behavior the morning of the shooting — but said the parents didn’t seem concerned.

Counselor Shawn Hopkins said he called Ethan’s parents to the school on November 30 after he was notified that Ethan was watching a video of a shooting and later making disturbing drawings on a math assignment that morning.

Hopkins said he met one-on-one with Ethan Crumbley before his parents arrived. He said Ethan claimed the video was actually a video game, and that the drawings were for a video game he wanted to design.

But later in that one-on-one meeting, Ethan’s demeanor changed, the counselor testified. He said the teen appeared sad as he spoke about his dog dying, the recent loss of a grandparent, the stress of the pandemic and a friend who had moved away.

Once Ethan’s parents arrived, Hopkins said, they did not appear “friendly or showing care” and did not greet, touch or hug Ethan. Hopkins said he told Ethan’s parents he was concerned that Ethan not only had suicidal ideation but that he could be a danger to himself.

Hopkins testified that he gave a list of mental health options to Ethan’s parents and said he should seek help immediately — even that day if possible.

But he said Jennifer Crumbley told him getting same-day mental health assistance wasn’t possible because the parents had to go back to work.

Hopkins said the meeting with Ethan Crumbley’s parents ended “abruptly.” He said he asked the dean of students, who was also at the meeting, whether there was any disciplinary reason why Ethan could not return to class. The dean said no, Hopkins testified.

Shortly after Ethan Crumbley was cleared to return to class, the mass shooting started.

During cross-examination, Smith asked Hopkins whether he had insisted Ethan Crumbley go home.

Hopkins said he’s not involved with student discipline nor making decisions on sending students home. But the counselor said he didn’t tell the dean of students that Ethan Crumbley should go home, nor did he look in Ethan’s backpack.

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CNN’s Julian Cummings, Tanika Gray and Adam Jones contributed to this report.

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