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The parents of the Michigan school shooting suspect make a court appearance

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley are the parents of Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of killing four students at Oxford High School in Michigan.
Oakland County Sheriff's Office via AP
James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley are the parents of Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of killing four students at Oxford High School in Michigan.

The parents of Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan high school student charged with killing four other students, will be in court Tuesday for a probable cause hearing related to charges they face in connection with the tragedy.

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. They each face a maximum prison sentence of 60 years and maximum fines of $30,000 if convicted on all four counts.

The court will hear testimony to determine whether there is enough "probable cause" to proceed to trial. According to WDIV-TV, it is possible that additional charges could be filed against the Crumbleys.

Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin and Justin Shilling were killed in the Dec. 1 shooting that devastated the community of Oxford Township. Six other students and one teacher were injured.

Prosecutors say James Crumbley bought the 9 mm handgun used in the shooting for Ethan Crumbley days before the massacre.

The elder Crumbleys have been held at the same Oakland County, Mich., jail as their son since their arraignment.

It's highly unusual for parents to be charged in connection with a shooting done by their child. But prosecutors say the Crumbleys contributed to their son's actions.

The parents may not be the last to face charges in connection with the shooting. School officials are being investigated for possible failures at taking steps to protect other students.

Attorneys have claimed "incomplete facts"

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has said there is a "mountain of digital evidence" in the case.
Carlos Osorio / AP
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has said there is a "mountain of digital evidence" in the case.

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley are being represented by two different attorneys, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, who work for the same firm, but will appear jointly.

Smith previously represented Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor now serving a lengthy prison sentence for abusing members of the U.S. women's national gymnastics team.

Smith and Lehman have not responded to NPR's request for comment.

Previously, the two said in a statement that prosecutors have altered facts to fit a desired narrative of the Crumbleys.

"The prosecution has very much cherry-picked and slanted specific facts to further their narrative to do that," the two lawyers said in a statement to Fox 2 Detroit. "We intend to fight this case in the courtroom and not in the court of public opinion. We know that in the end the entire story and truth will prevail."

According to Karen McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, on the day of the shooting, a teacher noticed a disturbing drawing by Ethan. It depicted "a semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words 'the thoughts won't stop help me'" and a drawing of a bullet with "blood everywhere" written above it, McDonald previously said.

School officials called the parents in for a conference after which they refused to take their son out of school and he was allowed to return to class.

McDonald told CNN that during the meeting the parents didn't attempt to locate the gun or to see if their son had it in his possession.

McDonald later told CNN's Anderson Cooper: "They didn't even disclose it at that moment or check to see if their son had that weapon, or go right home and look to see where the weapon was. ... We know that because right after the public being notified about an active shooter, Dad drives to his house, and it was for one reason: to look for that weapon. And finds it missing, and then makes a 911 call and says this gun is missing, and I think my son is the shooter."

Authorities did not provide a motive, but McDonald has said there was a "mountain of digital evidence" against Ethan Crumbley, suggesting that the massacre had been planned.

"This was not just an impulsive act," she said.

Assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said the suspect "deliberately brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could."

All three defendants are scheduled to appear in court again later this month for preliminary examination hearings. Ethan Crumbley's court date is Dec. 20, and his parents' court date is Dec. 21.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 14, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the shooting at Oxford High School. The attack took place on Nov. 30, not Dec. 1.
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