Hours after a prosecutor announced the manslaughter charges against the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old accused of killing four fellow students at a Michigan high school, authorities said the parents were missing.
But in another twist, two lawyers who say they are representing the couple have released a statement that says the Crumbleys have left town for safety and are returning for prosecution.
“On Thursday night, we contacted the Oakland County Attorney to discuss this matter and advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would turn themselves in for prosecution,” said the statement from attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman. “Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce the charges.”
The statement added: “They are not fleeing law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.”
An official told CNN that parents withdrew $4,000 from an ATM in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on Friday. Police were able to track the couple’s whereabouts via their cell phone, but are no longer able to do so because the couple’s phones are turned off, the official said.
The source did not specify when the phones were turned off. The parent’s indictment was scheduled for late Friday afternoon (3), but as of Friday night the parents were still missing, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Sheriff Michael McCabe told CNN that a county fugitives task force sergeant had spoken with one of the attorneys, who said she had not actually spoken to her parents. The deputy said he is confident the couple will be found and that “it’s a matter of when.”
Sheriff Michael Bouchard previously told CNN that police did not speak to James and Jennifer Crumbley, but their lawyer told authorities that if there were any charges, she would arrange for them to be arrested. He said the lawyer tried to contact the parents by phone and text message, without success. When asked by CNN whether the parents are missing, Bouchard said “correct.”
“If they think they’re going to run away, they’re not,” he said.
The couple weren’t under surveillance until “they were closer to last night,” when the charges were pending and detectives began the process of monitoring them, Bouchard said. There was no early surveillance on them because there were no charges pending.
All available resources are dedicated to locating them, the sheriff said, adding that people should not approach the couple. US Marshals and the FBI are involved in the search for the Crumbleys, according to Bouchard.
“The US Marshals Detroit fugitive arrest team is leading the search,” the agency said in a tweet. The sheriff’s office released a statement that the Crumbleys may be driving a black 2021 Kia Seltos with Michigan license plate number DQG 5203.
Georgia criminal defense attorney Page Pate warned that parents may not be on the run. “I’ve been in this position before, representing someone who has just been charged with a crime,” Pate told CNN. “They tend to panic, and when they panic, they do stupid things.”
Pate said parents may be looking for another lawyer, someone to give them the answers they want to hear. “You’re like, ‘I don’t want to be accused. I don’t want to go to jail’ and try to find someone else,” he said.
CNN tried several times to contact the parents’ attorney, but she didn’t return messages asking for comment.
In this rare parenting indictment case, prosecutors will try to prove that those responsible for suspected gunman Ethan Crumbley were criminally negligent and contributed to a dangerous situation that resulted in the death of four teenagers last Tuesday (30).
“It’s been a devastating week for us,” Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald said at a news conference. “There are other individuals who have contributed… and it is my intention to hold them accountable as well.”
Mom said the gun was “her new Christmas gift” on social media, says the prosecutor
McDonald said James Crumbley bought the gun four days before it was used in the shooting. His son Ethan was with him and later posted on social media about the gun, calling it “my new beauty”.
Jennifer Crumbley also posted about the gun on social media, calling it “her new Christmas present,” McDonald said.
These are among the chain of events that led to the shooting, McDonald said. Bouchard said the boy could not legally own the gun or carry it to most places — with rare exceptions, such as shooting ranges.
Ethan Crumbley was accused – as an adult – of terrorism, murder and other charges in the riot north of Detroit that also left seven people injured. The shooting was the deadliest on a US campus since 2018 and the 32nd attack since August 1st.
Lt. Tim Willis, head of the special investigations unit at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, said officers planned to arrest the parents.
Addressing reporters, McDonald said he was charging his parents in part for questioning the responsibility of gun ownership, but that the facts of the case were blatant in their own right.
“I am angry as a mother. I’m angry as a prosecutor. I’m angry as a person who lives in this county,” she said. “There were a lot of things that could be so simple to prevent and, yes, there was a perfectly executed response, and he was arrested right away and we have great law enforcement officers and good training.
“But like I said before, four kids were murdered and then seven more wounded, so yeah, I think we should all be really angry.”
Promoter describes a frightening progression of events
McDonald said a teacher saw Ethan Crumbley researching ammunition on his cell phone during class the day before the shooting and reported this to school officials. The school contacted Jennifer Crumbley by voicemail. Authorities also sent an e-mail but received no response from either parent, McDonald said.
“Jennifer Crumbley texted about the incident with her son that day, stating, in quotes, ‘LOL [expressão usada para risada, nos EUA], I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.’ End of citation,” said McDonald.
On the day of the shooting, a teacher found a note on Ethan Crumbley’s desk that scared her so much that she took a picture on her phone, McDonald said. The note included a drawing of a semi-automatic weapon pointing to the words, “Thoughts don’t stop. Help me,” she said.
Another section was a drawing of a bullet with the words “Blood Everywhere” written above it. Between the draw of the gun and the bullet is an image of a person who appears to have been shot twice and is bleeding, McDonald said.
“Below that picture is a cartoon of a laughing emoji,” said McDonald. Also found in the note, according to McDonald: “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”
James and Jennifer Crumbley were “immediately summoned to school,” said McDonald. A counselor met with the parents and the boy, who altered the design by crossing out the designs of the gun and the bloodied figure, along with the words, according to McDonald.
Parents were instructed to place their child in counseling within 48 hours, McDonald said. Neither parent asked the child to see the gun or “inspect his backpack to see if the gun he was carrying was present,” according to McDonald.
The parents dropped out of school and the boy was sent back to class. When news emerged of the shooting, according to McDonald, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son: “Ethan, don’t do this.” James Crumbley called 911 to report that a gun was missing and that his son could be the sniper.
McDonald said investigators found the gun used in the shooting was kept unlocked in a drawer in the couple’s bedroom.
School staff: No disciplinary action taken
When the meeting was held before the shooting, no disciplinary action was warranted, the school district superintendent said on Thursday.
“No discipline was guaranteed. There are no records of discipline at the school,” said Tim Throne, superintendent of Oxford Community Schools, in a video statement on Thursday. “Yes, this student had contact with our board. And yes, your parents were on campus on November 30.”
There is a “strong possibility” that Crumbley has the gun he allegedly used in the shooting in his backpack during the meeting, McDonald told the CNN on Thursday night.
The school’s video surveillance cameras will allow investigators to “really map exactly and literally observe what the perpetrator did” from the meeting to the shooting and being taken into custody, Oakland County Sheriff Bouchard told CNN on Friday morning.
The sniper had the gun “with him or in his backpack or somehow hid it” from a school location, he said.
Another red flag came on Monday — the day before the shooting — when a different teacher “saw and heard something she found disturbing” related to Crumbley’s conduct in the classroom, Bouchard said. School officials held a counseling session with Crumbley about the behavior in question, and his parents were notified by phone, added Bouchard.
Crumbley’s defense attorney asked the court on Wednesday to file a guilty plea on behalf of his client.
The school is like a ‘war zone’, says the superintendent
Two days after the deadly attack, Oxford High School is “like a war zone,” Throne told the school community in the 13-minute YouTube video.
“This school is a disaster right now,” he said, adding that repairs could take weeks. The shooting took the life of Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17, authorities said.
More than 100 calls to the police were made to report the shooting as the police rushed to the school at 12:52 pm. local time, said Bouchard. “Two to three minutes” after the police arrived, the sniper surrendered.
“I believe they literally saved lives by shooting the suspect down with a loaded firearm while in the building,” the sheriff said.
(Text translated, read original in English here)
Reference: CNN Brasil