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Before school shooting, Ethan Crumbley wrote in journal he was searching for gun his father had hidden

In a journal entry before shooting up his Michigan high school, Ethan Crumbley wrote in clear language of his plans to find the gun his father had hidden and carry out the attack.

“I will have to find where my dad hid my 9mm before I can shoot the school,” the then-15-year-old wrote.

The entry was among the disturbing writings read aloud Tuesday by Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Det. Lt. Timothy Willis as part of the manslaughter trial of his father, James Crumbley.

James Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP
James Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP

In another entry, he wrote he had obtained a SIG Sauer 9mm firearm. “The shooting is tomorrow. I have access to the gun and the ammo. I am fully committed this to now (sic),” he wrote.

“I have zero HELP for my mental problems and it’s causing me to SHOOT UP THE F—ING SCHOOL,” he wrote in another entry. “I want help but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help.”

The testimony comes as prosecutors argued James Crumbley acted with “gross negligence,” saying he did not properly secure the firearm and ignored warning signs of his son’s spiraling mental health. Ethan Crumbley was ultimately able to access the 9mm weapon, which his father bought for him on Black Friday, and used it to kill four students and wound six students and a teacher at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021.

James Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. His wife, Jennifer Crumbley, was convicted of the same charges last month.

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Det. Lt. Timothy Willis holds up Ethan Crumbley's journal during the trial of James Crumbley on Tuesday, March 12. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Det. Lt. Timothy Willis holds up Ethan Crumbley's journal during the trial of James Crumbley on Tuesday, March 12. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP

Several witnesses on Tuesday spoke about the search and arrest of the Crumbley parents days after the shooting. At another point, a female juror put a tissue to her eyes as pictures of the victims were shown and their causes of death were described.

In addition, the jury watched video of the shooting from surveillance cameras inside the school. When the video ended, there was silence in the courtroom. Prosecutors waited for about 15 seconds and then asked the judge for a break.

Ethan was sentenced last year to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to terrorism causing death, four counts of murder and 19 other related charges. He did not testify in his mother’s trial, as his attorneys had said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right to silence if called.

The case against James Crumbley, like the one against his wife, is set to test the limits of who is responsible for a mass shooting. Prosecutors aiming to expand the scope of blame in mass shootings have used an unusual and novel legal strategy by arguing the shooter’s parents are responsible for the deaths because they got him a gun and disregarded signs of his mental health issues.

Parents have previously faced liability for their child’s actions, such as with neglect or firearms charges. Yet Jennifer Crumbley’s case was the first time a parent of a school shooter was held directly responsible for the killings.

Gun safe had default code ‘0-0-0’

An empty gun case and ammunition box are seen on the bed of James and Jennifer Crumbley in an evidence exhibit shown in court on Tuesday. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP
An empty gun case and ammunition box are seen on the bed of James and Jennifer Crumbley in an evidence exhibit shown in court on Tuesday. - Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP

Earlier in court Tuesday, a detective testified that James Crumbley stored two other firearms in his home in a gun case locked with the default combination “0-0-0.”

Adam Stoyek, a detective with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, spoke with James Crumbley the day of the mass shooting as investigators searched the family’s home. Sitting in the back of a police vehicle, Crumbley told Stoyek two firearms – a .22-caliber Derringer and a .22-caliber KelTec – were locked in a gun case in a bedroom dresser, according to video of their conversation.

The combination to unlock the case was “0-0-0-0,” Crumbley said, although Stoyek later discovered the safe only had three numbers.

“I’m completely open, and I want you guys to do what you have to do,” Crumbley said, according to the video.

Under the gun case, investigators found two magazines, a holster and a box of .22 caliber ammunition, Stoyek testified.

In cross-examination, Stoyek acknowledged that James Crumbley had been “cooperative” in describing where in the house the two firearms were stored. Yet the questioning still left unanswered questions about how Ethan gained access to the SIG Sauer 9mm firearm, which had been purchased four days before the shooting.

When investigators searched the master bedroom, an open gun box was sitting on the bed next to an empty box of 9mm ammunition, Stoyek testified.

“Did James ever once tell you that the SIG Sauer 9mm used to commit the Oxford high school shooting was ever locked up?” Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Marc Keast asked.

“He did not,” Stoyek said.

Testimony focuses on arrest of Crumbleys

Clockwise, from top left: Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin and Tate Myre were killed in the attack. - Obtained by CNN
Clockwise, from top left: Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin and Tate Myre were killed in the attack. - Obtained by CNN

Several other witnesses testified Tuesday about the search and arrest of the Crumbleys when they were fugitives days after the shooting.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were supposed to attend an arraignment on December 3 after being charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, but they missed the arraignment, making them fugitives and setting off a search. They were apprehended in the early morning hours the next day in a building about 40 miles from their home.

David Hendrick, a former detective sergeant on the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office fugitive apprehension team, testified his team went to the office of the couple’s attorney at the time but did not find either Crumbley parent there. Hendrick said he made contact with the attorney but did not provide details about their discussion.

Luke Kirtley, a business owner, testified he spotted the Crumbleys’ vehicle in a building parking lot and recognized it from a wanted poster about them. He then called 911 and reported the sighting, leading to their arrest.

David Metzke, an officer with the Detroit Police Department’s special response team, testified he and a group of officers traveled to the office building to search and arrest the Crumbleys. In court, the jury was shown an 8-minute body camera video that shows the moment law enforcement discovered the couple lying on a mattress inside an art studio.

Near the couple, investigators found more than $6,000 in cash, four cell phones turned off, clothing, bank envelopes, an empty bottle of whiskey and more, crime scene investigator William Creer of the Detroit Police testified.

CNN’s Jean Casarez and Nic F. Anderson contributed to this report.

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