PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — A jury has found Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford High School shooter, guilty on Tuesday in connection to the deadly November 2021 shooting.
Crumbley was convicted on all four counts of involuntary manslaughter. She faces up to 15 years in prison.
Speaking with 7 Action News following the verdict, former Wayne County Chief Judge Timothy Kenny said the jury's verdict came from the specific facts of the case.
“It is an unprecedented case, the charges that have been brought in this particular case, and for those of us who are parents and have raised children through those challenging teenage years, we recognize that there are things that our teenage kids don’t always share with us and can be concerning," Kenny said. "But in this particular case we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this case, I think, was driven by the facts, in great respect, with the fact specifics of the background, and particularly, I think what was compelling was the way that Jennifer Crumbley handled that school the day of the shooting. I mean with all of this concern about the mental health issues and his having a gun and the drawing, to then have an 11 or 12-minute meeting with school officials and then say ’I’ve got to go back to work’ I think is pretty strong evidence to indicate that it’s reflective that Jennifer Crumbley blew through a lot of red lights that she should have been aware of.”
One juror told reporters that they took their work seriously. She said the thing that really hammered it home was that Jennifer Crumbley was the last adult with the gun.
On Tuesday afternoon, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard issued a statement on the guilty verdict.
“My first thoughts today are with the families of the victims and the community so terribly impacted by this tragedy. You have my unwavering support. I know that this is not just a reopening of a wound, it is tearing wider a wound that has yet to heal. Each time my staff re-lives that terrible day in that school through their testimony, I can see the burden in their faces," said Bouchard in a statement. “I applaud the jury that plowed new ground with this verdict today. If among a parent’s first thoughts when you hear word there is an active shooter at your child’s school isn't to wonder if my child is hurt but is my son the gunman. That tells me you saw the signs and did nothing. Accountability and responsibility matter. There is ongoing help and support for the community not just through the Sheriff’s Office, but through the Oxford Resiliency center. Reach out.”
In November 2021, Crumbley’s son shot and killed four students – Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin. Several others were injured.
The shooter’s parents were arrested following the shooting and were set to have separate trials.
Following two weeks of witness testimony and then closing arguments in Crumbley’s trial, the jury came back with a verdict after two days of deliberating.
On February 5, the judge gave jury instructions to members of the case, and they began deliberating. The jury came back twice to ask questions – first related to the instructions.
The second time, they asked if they could draw their own conclusions as to why Crumbley's son, the shooter, never took the stand. Judge Cheryl Matthews told them no and that they could not make any assumptions as to why the shooter did not testify.
The shooter pleaded guilty to the murders of four of his classmates and was sentenced in December. But since he is planning to appeal his life sentence, if he were to get on the stand and plead the Fifth, the judge said it would have triggered a mistrial in his mother's case.
“The defendant is not required to prove her innocence or do anything. If you find that the prosecutor has not proven every element beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant not guilty,” Matthews had told the jury.
Crumbley’s trial received national attention, specifically from legal experts since the unprecedented charges against the parents could impact how future school shooting cases are handled by prosecutors.
Craig Shilling, the father of Justin Shilling, spoke to 7 Action News during jury deliberations with a statement he wanted to read about the trial. He said he understands the task given to this jury is a monumental one.
“I hope that they're taking their time and they’re making sure to look at all the evidence and make sure that they make the right decision,” Craig Shilling said. “Regardless of the outcome of this trial, it is my intention to maintain the search for the truth and for full accountability.”
To come up with their verdict, the jury had to determine if Crumbley was both careless and grossly negligent.
Throughout the trial, the court heard from several lawyers and saw nearly 500 pieces of evidence including text messages, video of the day police searched the Crumbley home following the shooting and items found at a Detroit warehouse where Jennifer and her husband James were arrested when authorities were searching for them.
Text messages between the shooter and his parents were also presented in court.
Testimony included law enforcement, school officials and Jennifer Crumbley herself.
The dean of students at Oxford High School at time of the shooting took the stand to speak about the day of the incident. After teachers found disturbing drawings and internet searches, the shooter’s parents were called in for an emergency meeting.
Afterward, the shooter was sent back to class and his parents left. Jennifer Crumbley returned to work. Her boss was one of two colleagues to testify about her the day of the shooting, saying after the school meeting, she had opportunities to leave work or continue working from home to address issues with her son but decided to stay.
Hours later when the shooting happened, colleagues testified that Jennifer Crumbley had a strong reaction and left work in a panic.
A 49-minute video showed Jennifer Crumbley in the back of a police car as officers searched her home. Prosecutors wanted jurors to take notes of her demeanor.
Inside their home, officers say they found multiple BB guns, knives and targets in the shooter's two bedrooms. Crumbley was asked about the gun and ammunition, which she said was her husband’s responsibility.
Evidence found at the warehouse after the couple’s arrest included cigarette butts near their vehicle, a mattress, food, $6,617 in cash and prescription medication.
A longtime friend of Jennifer Crumbley, who she admitted to having an affair with, also took the stand. She messaged him after the shooting saying "We're on the run again.”
However, Crumbley testified that she and her husband were not hiding but were waiting for their attorney to turn themselves in.
During closing arguments, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald spoke about what constitutes an involuntary manslaughter conviction and detailed it through the law. She then went through the different witnesses who testified for the prosecution.
"Just the smallest thing could have saved Hana and Tate and Justin and Madisyn," McDonald told the jury during closing arguments.
She pointed to what she said were many missed opportunities where Jennifer Crumbley could have helped prevent the shooting including seeking mental health treatment for him.
Defense attorney Shannon Smith said the evidence provided by the prosecution was cherry-picked to paint a picture that did not resemble Crumbley's actual life. Smith said the Crumbley “family played together,” “had fun together” and “did what families do.”
Smith also pointed to the school after leaders told his parents during an emergency meeting hours before the shooting that they didn't think the shooter was a threat.
"No parent would purchase a weapon if they believed their child had mental illnesses," Smith told the jury during closing arguments.
She also said the shooting “was not foreseeable for Mrs. Crumbley.”
The trial for James Crumbley is expected to start in March.