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James and Jennifer Crumbley, a school shooter's parents, are sentenced to 10-15 years

(From left) James Crumbley, his attorney Mariell Lehman, Jennifer Crumbley and her attorney Shannon Smith sit in court in Pontiac, Mich., for Tuesday's sentencing on four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of four Oxford High School students who were shot and killed by the Crumbleys' son.
Bill Pugliano
Getty Images
(From left) James Crumbley, his attorney Mariell Lehman, Jennifer Crumbley and her attorney Shannon Smith sit in court in Pontiac, Mich., for Tuesday's sentencing on four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of four Oxford High School students who were shot and killed by the Crumbleys' son.

Updated April 10, 2024 at 5:14 AM ET

James and Jennifer Crumbley, whose son murdered four classmates and shot seven other people at Oxford High School in 2021, were each sentenced Tuesday in a Pontiac, Mich. courtroom to between 10 and 15 years in prison.

Both Crumbleys were found guilty in separate trials on four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Each of those charges carried a maximum penalty of 15 years, and the sentences are to be served concurrently.

In court, the Crumbleys looked visibly shaken, breathing heavily as they read from prepared statements prior to learning their fate.

James Crumbley spoke directly to the parents of the students his son had murdered. Several family members attended the sentencing.

"I am sorry for your loss as a result of what my son did," he said. "I cannot express how much I wish that I had known what was going on with him or what was going to happen. Because I absolutely would have done a lot of things differently."

In her statement, Jennifer Crumbley said she, her husband and her son, Ethan, were an average family.

"We weren't perfect but we loved our son and each other tremendously," Crumbley said. "This could be any parent up here in my shoes. Ethan could be your child, could be your grandchild, your niece, your nephew, your brother, your sister. Your child could make the fatal decision not just with a gun but a knife, a vehicle, intentionally or unintentionally."

The teenagers who lost their lives during the shooting rampage were Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin, both 17, Tate Myre, 16, and 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana. Six other students and a teacher were injured.

When it was time for their families to speak, several members described how the murders still haunted them.

Nicole Beausoleil, whose daughter Madisyn Baldwin was shot at point blank range, told the Crumbleys buying their son a gun when he was already spiraling into despair made them just as responsible as the shooter.

"Not only did your son kill my daughter but you both did as well. The words 'involuntary' should not be a part of your offense. Everything you did that day, months prior and days after were voluntary acts (helping) your son to commit a murder. Not just one, but multiple," Beausoleil said.

A rare prosecution

The Crumbleys are believed to be the first parents of a mass school shooter to have been charged and convicted of such crimes. Many legal experts say it could set a precedent for charging parents with serious crimes because of actions taken by their child.

Their son, Ethan Crumbley, pleaded guilty to murder and previously was sentenced to life without parole for the school shooting he carried out when he was 15.

Prosecutors never claimed the parents knew about their son's plans to go on a killing spree at Michigan's Oxford High School. However, they argued the Crumbleys ignored signs their son was seriously troubled and bought him a powerful Sig Sauer 9mm handgun as an early Christmas present.

They never told counselors about the gun they gifted their child when they were called to a meeting at the school the day of the shooting, not even when they were shown drawings the teen made. The images featured a pistol resembling the Sig Sauer alongside a figure with bullet wounds and phrases like "blood everywhere" and "help me, the thoughts won't stop."

Instead, the Crumbleys left their son at school and returned to work. A few hours later, Ethan emerged from a school bathroom with the gun and began firing his first of 32 shots.

Prosecutors told the jury if the Crumbleys had taken a "tragically few steps," four Oxford students would likely still be alive.

They showed evidence that the murder weapon was never properly secured away from their troubled son.

In court, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald used the murder weapon to demonstrate how to use a cable lock to keep the gun from being fired.

The process took about 10 seconds.

A 'chilling' lack of remorse

The prosecution had asked for the Crumbleys to serve 10 to 15 years in prison, citing what they called a "chilling lack of remorse" on the part of both parents after the shooting.

Prosecutors noted that Jennifer Crumbley testified during her trial that "I've asked myself if I would've done anything differently. And I wouldn't have."

And they pointed to repeated profanity-laced threats James Crumbley made against Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on jailhouse phone calls he knew were being recorded, as well as in an electronic message.

'Mistakes any parent could make'

James Crumbley's attorney countered that his client had not physically threatened the prosecutor, he merely "vented" his anger over what he saw as an unjust incarceration.

The Crumbleys said they, too, were victims of their son, who they claimed had "manipulated" them into the purchase of a gun they had no idea he would use to kill.

They argued they made "mistakes any parent could make," given the information they had.

Defense attorneys for the couple noted an Oxford High counselor determined Ethan could remain in school the day of the shooting because he did not seem to pose a danger to himself or anyone else.

The couple maintained they thought their son was a normal teenager simply depressed over the loss of his grandmother, a pet dog and a friend who had moved away.

In a pre-sentencing interview with state officials, Jennifer Crumbley said that with the benefit of hindsight, "There are so many things I would change if I could go back in time."

Defense claims extra prison time unnecessary

The Crumbleys had asked to be sentenced to time served.

Defense attorneys argued the parents had already spent more than two and a half years in prison locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, and that further prison time was not necessary because the Crumbleys were not a threat to the public.

Defense attorney Shannon Smith also said more time would not deter others from committing a similar offense because "there is no person who would want the events of Nov. 30, 2021, to repeat themselves."

Smith added that, far from being the uncaring, remorseless mother prosecutors had portrayed to the public and the media, Jennifer Crumbley was focused on her son and distraught over the devastation her son caused.

In a sentencing memo, Jennifer Crumbley's parents and others pleaded with the court for leniency. A young woman, who said she was 18 when she became Crumbley's cellmate for a year and a half, also wrote to the judge.

She said Crumbley had greeted her with a basket of snacks and served as a mother figure to her.

The woman also wrote that inmates screamed threats at Crumbley, who tearfully told them she was sorry and "wished she could change everything her son had done."

Though Judge Cheryl Matthews sentenced the Crumbleys to the stiffest penalty possible, she said that the sentences were not designed to send a message to other parents or prosecutors that they should hold families responsible for children's crimes.

"These convictions are not about poor parenting. These convictions confirm repeated acts, or lack of acts, that could have halted an oncoming runaway train. About repeatedly ignoring things that would make a reasonable person feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up," Matthews said.

Moments after they were sentenced, the Crumbleys began filling out paperwork in the courtroom for an appeal.

Their son, Ethan, who pleaded guilty in October 2022 to murder and terrorism charges, is also likely to appeal his sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

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Quinn Klinefelter