The Crumbleys Captured in Detroit But Will the Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Succeed?

The parents of Ethan Crumbley, 15, were arrested in Detroit after allegedly hiding out in a warehouse as police searched for them. Both James and Jennifer Crumbley face involuntary manslaughter charges. The police are suggesting that they were assisted in their alleged flight and may charge third parties.  There was a $10,000 reward posted for their arrests.  The question now is whether the involuntary manslaughter charges will survive challenges at the trial or appellate levels.

The attorney for the Crumbleys reportedly said that they were not fleeing, though there will have to be some explanation why, if true, they were found in a warehouse near the Canadian border.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Friday announced that each of the parents will face four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Each count could carry a 15 year sentence, though they would likely run concurrently if the parents are convicted and sentenced.

If the reported facts are correct, there was ample evidence of negligence. First, the police allege that the parents purchased the gun for their son. Under Michigan law, Ethan Crumbley was not allowed to own a gun until he was 18. Yet, on the day of the purchase on “Black Friday,” Jennifer Crumbley reportedly posted on social media, writing, “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present.”

Ethan posted photos of the gun on social media, writing, “Just got my new beauty today” and adding a heart emoji.

The police also say that the Crumbleys kept the gun in an unlocked drawer in their bedroom.

On Nov. 29, the parents were called about Ethan searching for ammunition on his phone. Jennifer Crumbley sent him a text saying “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”  That can be dismissed as a kid obsessed with a new gun. However, what followed should have removed any doubt of a more troubling context.

Later Ethan was seen drawing disturbing images including a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”  Other images showed victims and blood with such statements as “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”

The parents left Ethan in school after their meeting on Nov. 30. After the shooting was reported, Jennifer Crumbley sent a text message to her son after news of the school shooting became public, writing, “Ethan don’t do it.” A little while later, James Crumbley called 911 and reported that a gun was missing from his house, and that he believed his son may be the shooter at Oxford High School.

That is all, if true, incredibly negligent, but does it amount to negligent homicide?

Under the state provisions for manslaughter (750.321 and 750.322), the crime does not require malice aforethought.

The state must prove that the Crumbleys caused the death of the deceased victim, that the deceased individual died as a result of their actions by (1) intending to kill the victim, (2) intending to do great bodily harm to the victim, or (3) creating a situation where the risk of great bodily harm or death was very high, knowing that as a result of the defendant’s actions he or she knew that serious harm or death would likely result.  The prosecutors must also show that the defendant caused the death of the victim without justification or lawful excuse.

It is obviously the third option that is the likely basis for these charges.

However, the charge seems a workaround of the fact that Michigan opted not to enact a child access prevention law.  The purchase of the gun could be explained as a promise that he would eventually receive the gun when he was 18 but that, until then, it would remain under their control. Children are allowed to use guns in the state under parental supervision.

The key question is whether this level of negligence is sufficient to create a situation where the risk of great bodily harm or death was very high, knowing that as a result of the defendant’s actions he or she knew that serious harm or death would likely result. The fact that they left the gun in an unlocked drawer would not be sufficient. Unfortunately, that is all too common and is not a crime in a state without a child access prevention law.  This demands more than simply negligence but a recklessness that led to conditions likely to cause such fatalities.

The issue will come down any prior knowledge of his instability and murderous fantasies. They obviously were made aware of those fantasies on Nov. 30th. Even if Jennifer sent that text after the news of the shootings, it is clear that she immediately thought of her son. It is not clear if they had already discovered the gun was missing at that point. That fact will be key in any proceedings.

The viability of these charges will depend on the police having additional information showing knowledge by the parents of the son’s violent inclinations or potential. It is not clear how much information that they were able to get from the parents or their son before these charges. We have seen in cases like Rittenhouse, a rush to bring charges before all of the facts were known by prosecutors. It is not clear whether the prosecutors had a more complete picture in this case.

57 thoughts on “The Crumbleys Captured in Detroit But Will the Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Succeed?”

  1. One of the problems in this case is that the School bears equal negligence.

    We are being constantly bombarded by the claims that Schools are responsible for kids – not parents.

    In this case there was a meeting at the schools with Ethan and the parents immediately before the shooting and the SCHOOL allowed Ethan to remain in school.

    The left can not have it both ways. Parents can not be responsible for everything that goes wrong with a kid, while leaving schools control of nearly everything.

  2. When parents want to be pals instead of parents, this is what can happen. They knew their son had big anger issues and yet they brought a gun into their home.
    Years ago my 16 yr old son had issues; we locked up his hunting rifle. Sadly, he died at 19 of leukemia. When I sadly said I was sorry that we went toe to toe about his behavior when he was 16 he explained it to me this way….
    Mom, that’s what parents do when they love you. They don’t give in or give up. I ran a social service for almost two decades and we had a drug and alcohol program for troubled teens kicked out of school. I told many parents that story about my son. And although my family thought that I was too hard on my son, luckily my son didn’t see it that way, in perspective.
    Had his parents not bought the gun and brought it into the home… perhaps we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Same thing with the boy who murdered so many in Sandy hook… you’re not being a parent by enabling your child when they are out of control.

  3. I’m not surprised at all. Trailer-trash, in-bred, uneducated, gun-toting, meth-heads.

  4. More of the Left’s war on parents and gun owners. That prosecuor’s a real doll. Annoucing charges before apprehension just to leave the cops hanging out there in a hunt for fugitives. Self-aggrandizing beeaatch.

    Nobody could have anticpated that kid would break bad. Not the parents, not the guidance counselor and not the principal. Bottom line the kid is responsible for the kid. He deserves the blame. My guess is that he was bullied as a loner and lashed out at his tormenters. You wanna stop this nonsense? You stop teasing and bullying and then you stop the retribution that only an undeveloped mind would think appropriate.

    1. During the Jim Crow era and the blacks being spit on and called everything except human while trying to integrate the schools I never heard of one black child shooting up the school and killing innocent children out of anger. This was bullying on steroids because the states they lived in condoned the whole black inferiority, white supremacy idea. Soooo… I don’t want to hear no lame-ass ‘blame it on the bully’ excuse. SMH

  5. Why does a 15, 16, 17, 18 year old teenager need a pistol? For protection? For hunting?

    Gun zealots support arming teenagers with handguns/pistols.

    Handguns kill far more Americans than all other weapons combined.

    The high national suicide rate, including teenage suicide rate, is directly attributable to the ease and availibility of hand guns.

    Over 60% of all suicides are executed with a handgun – usually their own handgun.

    So why does a 15, 16, 17, 18 year old teenager need a handgun?

    “Saturday Night Special” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

    Two feets they come a creepin’

    Like a black cat do

    And two bodies are layin’ naked

    Creeper think he got nothin’ to lose.

    So he creeps into this house, yeah

    And unlocks the door

    And as a man’s reaching for his trousers

    Shoots him full of thirty-eight holes.

    Mr. Saturday night special
    Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
    Ain’t good for nothin
    But put a man six feet in a hole

    Big Jim’s been drinkin’ whiskey

    And playin’ poker on a losin’ night

    And pretty soon ol’ Jim starts a thinkin

    Somebody been cheatin’ and lyin’

    So big Jim commence to fightin’

    I wouldn’t tell you no lie.

    Big Jim done pulled his pistol

    Shot his friend right between the eyes.

    Mr. Saturday night special
    Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
    Ain’t good for nothin
    But put a man six feet in a hole

    Hand guns are made for killin’
    They ain’t no good for nothin’ else.

    And if you like to drink your whiskey
    You might even shoot yourself.

    So why don’t we dump ’em people
    To the bottom of the sea

    Before some ol’ fool come around here
    Wanna shoot either you or me.

    Mr. Saturday night special
    Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
    Ain’t good for nothin
    But put a man six feet in a hole

    It’s the saturday night special
    And I’d like to tell you what you could do with it too

    1. ronharold2021 :

      “Why does a 15, 16, 17, 18 year old teenager need a pistol? For protection? For hunting?”
      I had a shotgun at 12, a handgun at 15 and a scoped rifle at age 18. Proficent in all three and yes for protection and hunting. Now I have an assortment of weapons and not once have I ever thought to shoot up a school. Quit projecting the worst on people and quit running around like a coward trying to deny the responsible for fear of the irresponsible or just plain evil and crazy. If you were in that school with that psycho coming down the hall and given your disdain for protecting yourself, you’d have wanted my there in full combat array or with an M1 Abrams. BTW there Southern rocker with a cause, Ronnie VanZant was a gun enthusiast and varmit hunter. He wanted to crack down on illegal guns.

      Beta males are so anoying.

        1. Infamous last words: “I thought he was a beta male.”
          Yeah, usually about the beta male as he flees out of sight. Followed by “Now, I know for sure.”

  6. The Crummy Crumbleys paid out of pocket for their own private attorney, but their son — the shooter — has a court-appointed lawyer defending him. They were even already on the lam in their car when they attended his questioning by video. Even their lawyer acted like an accomplice who should be jailed.
    A new word needs to be invented for them. Calling them heinous sounds like a compliment.

  7. Won’t happen. What’s up with these prosecutors now-a-days . highly politicized .. they ought to be awarded the Mike Nifong Award of prosecutorial malfeasance. Judicial overreach. It’s like they throw the entire book and hope some charges result in convictions. Ridiculous.

    1. The parents were negligent. They buy him a gun. That is fine. They do NOT lock it up. They see his behavior at home and send him to school. They meet with the school and see his pictures drawing pictures of death and read his statements where the child admit he is having these fantasies and leave him there when the school asks them to take him home to get counseling. The mother is laughing with her son when he is caught looking up a potential ammo purchase in the same time frame as drawing the pictures. I would say they had a complete failure to connect the dots. Then they took off. These two are adult punks.

      1. Well it is nice to know that their progeny will end with this killer. He will die in prison.

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