A jury in the U.S. state of Michigan found the mother of a 17-year-old school shooter guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Tuesday.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 deaths of the four students her son Ethan Crumbley killed at Oxford High School: Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin.
She faces up to 15 years in prison per count. She will be sentenced on April 9.
The case is the first instance in the United States of parents being charged in a school shooting committed by their child. Jennifer Crumbley’s husband, James Crumbley, 47, will be tried separately in March.
According to prosecutors, Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent in her failure to inform Oxford High School of key details that could have prevented the shooting.
The prosecutors said she failed to tell them that their family owned guns, including a 9mm handgun purchased for her son before the attack.
Additionally, before the attack, school officials met with the parents, concerned about disturbing images drawn on a math assignment, featuring the same gun the Crumbleys had recently purchased for their son. The image also featured pleas for help, prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
After the meeting, Jennifer and James Crumbley resisted taking their son home and were advised to seek counseling for him.
“He literally drew a picture of what he was going to do,” McDonald said Friday, during closing arguments. “She knew that he was proficient with the gun. She knew he had access to ammunition.”
The Crumbleys are also accused of neglecting their son’s mental health needs. Their son Ethan kept a journal leading up to the attack, where he wrote that his parents ignored his cries for help. He wrote, “I have zero help for my mental health issues,” saying that it led him to shoot up the school.
Defense Attorney Shannon Smith argued that this case would set a dangerous precedent. She said that Ethan was a “skilled manipulator,” not someone with a mental illness, and that the gun was not Jennifer Crumbley’s but her husband’s responsibility.
The prosecution decided to charge too quickly, Smith said, arguing that it was done for political gain and media attention.
Among the jury, comprised of six men and six women, are gun owners and people who grew up in households that owned firearms. The jury said that this wouldn’t interfere with their fair judgment.
During the trial, Jennifer Crumbley testified that the gun was purchased as an early Christmas present to be used only at the shooting range. She told the jury she was unaware of discipline issues, and only knew that her son had trouble turning in assignments.
“I thought we were pretty close,” she said, adding that she had no reason to believe that her son would commit the acts he did.
Some material for this report came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Press.