Two parents charged with their son in a Michigan school shooting failed to get their USD$500,000 bond reduced Friday, as prosecutors offered new allegations about the teen’s hallucinations, passion for guns and boasts about violence.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, who are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Oxford High School shooting, ignored numerous warning signs about Ethan Crumbley and instead bought him a gun that was used to kill four students and injure others on November 30, assistant prosecutor Marc Keast told a judge.
In August, Ethan made a video with a different gun and told a friend in a message that it was “time to shoot up the school — jk, jk, jk,” Keast said, apparently a reference to “just kidding.”
The 15-year-old was fascinated with Nazi propaganda, even keeping a Nazi coin in plain view in his bedroom and drawing Nazi symbols in a notebook that was also used to make family grocery lists, Keast said.
Prosecutors said in late December the teen had beheaded a bird and kept its head in a jar in his bedroom, according to local publications.
“He did this at the family home. He filmed himself doing it,” Keast said.
Earlier in 2021, Ethan told his mother in text messages that he thought “there was a demon or a ghost or someone else inside the home,” the prosecutor said.
“These weren’t one-time messages. He would repeatedly text what he was perceiving to his mother, who sometimes would not respond for hours.”
Keast said the parents failed to intervene. He also said Ethan started seeing online ads about mental health after regularly searching for information about school shootings and guns.
“They did not schedule therapy,” Keast said. “Did not investigate what might be in his room, on his phone or on his (internet) browsers.”
The parents are accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan and breaching their responsibility by refusing to remove him from school two hours before the shooting when counselors confronted them with his distressing drawings of violence.
“Are we done here?” Keast quoted Jennifer Crumbley as telling school officials.
Ethan Crumbley is charged as an adult with murder and other crimes.
The elder Crumbleys at times shook their heads in disagreement as Keast spoke during a court hearing held over Zoom. Judge Julie Nicholson refused to lower their bond to USD$100,000, and seemed mostly swayed by arguments that the pair might flee Michigan if released from jail.
The couple had more than USD$6,000 in cash and numerous phones and credit cards when they were arrested miles away in a Detroit art studio on December 4, hours after charges against them were announced, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
Defence attorney says plea deal is possible
Their attorneys insist the Crumbleys didn’t know that a school shooting was in the works and didn’t make the gun easy to find at home.
Defense lawyer Mariell Lehman said Ethan’s journal, which was seized by police, says “he has to find where his dad hid the firearm.”
“This statement in Ethan Crumbley’s own words is contrary to the false and misleading assertions that have been made by the prosecution,” Lehman said in court Friday.
Earlier, at a separate court appearance, the teen and his lawyers waived a key evidentiary hearing and moved his case directly to a trial court. Ethan is being held in jail without bond.
Defence attorney Paulette Loftin later told WWJ-AM that a plea deal was a “definite possibility,” though “it’s too early to jump to that phase.”
Oxford High students are expected to return to school next week for the first time since the shooting but at a different building. The high school, roughly 50 kilometres north of Detroit, could reopen during the week of January 23.
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