Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of a teenage gunman who killed four people and injured seven more at the Michigan high school he attended, pointed the finger at her husband in dramatic testimony Thursday as part of a trial to determine her own culpability for the 2021 bloodbath.
She denied responsibility for buying and storing the gun her son Ethan Crumbley used in the shooting, instead fingering her husband as the one ultimately responsible for allowing him access to the firearm.
“I just didn't feel comfortable being in charge of that. It was his thing,” Crumbley said, telling the jury that her husband was the one who handled the firearm their son would later use to murder his classmates.
Crumbley is also accused of ignoring Ethan’s mental health problems when he expressed signs that he could have been a danger to others. During her testimony, she maintained that she never felt his issues were severe enough to warrant seeing a professional.
“There were a couple of times when Ethan expressed anxiety over taking tests,” she said. “Anxiety about what he was going to do after high school—college? military? But not at the level where I felt he needed to see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional.”
Prosecutors also showed text messages in which Ethan appeared to describe hallucinations of “demons” throwing items off shelves at home, which Jennifer Crumbley shrugged off as typical antics. The most damning point of evidence was Ethan’s own journal, parts of which were read aloud to the jury.
“My parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist,” the teenager wrote. “Many people have about a day left to live.”
Crumbley’s lawyer, Shannon Smith, shifted the blame to the school for failing to properly notify the Crumbleys of Ethan’s disturbing behavior. Smith described the shooting as something Jennifer Crumbley “could have never anticipated or fathomed or predicted.” Smith told the jury, “The school never advised Mrs. Crumbley of problematic issues.”
But in the hours before the shooting, school staff showed the Crumbleys a drawing their son had made of a gun and bullets with the words, “The thoughts won't stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.”
The Crumbleys bought their son Ethan, then 15, a gun in November 2021 as an early Christmas present. He brought it to school four days later and opened fire on his classmates, killing four and injuring dozens more. He pled guilty in December 2023 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
They are the first parents in the U.S. to be tried over their child’s school shooting.