The parents of 15 year-old Ethan Crumbley who shot and killed four students at Oxford High School in Michigan have been charged with involuntary manslaughter after prosecution accused them of not only buying him the weapon used in the shooting but also ignoring repeated warnings of their son's unstable behaviour in the days before the shooting.
Under Michigan law, the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents can be pursued if authorities believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high chance of harm or death
According to testimony from the school, a teacher had raised the alarm just days before the shooting when Ethan was found searching for ammunition on his phone and again when a disturbing drawings of dead people and guns appeared on his desk. "The thoughts won't stop. Help me" and "Blood everywhere" were written on the drawings alleged Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald.
An SMS message sent by Jennifer Crumbley to Ethan's phone on the day he was caught searching for ammunition in class allegedly reads: "Lol. I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught".
In one drawing, a gun and the bullet are depicted, along with a person who appeared to have been shot twice and is bleeding. He also wrote, "My life is useless" and "The world is dead," according to the prosecutor.
The teenager and his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were summoned to a meeting before school authorities on the day of the shooting where they were strongly urged to get Ethan into counselling and remove him from class. The parents denied both requests and Ethan returned to class only to commit the shooting hours later according to reports.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of buying Ethan the gun as a Christmas present for which there is evidence on their Facebook profiles say prosecutors.
"The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable — it's criminal," the prosecutor said, adding that she expected parents to have some humanity in such situations.
Jennifer Crumbley texted her son after the shooting, saying, "Ethan, don't do it," McDonald said. James Crumbley called 911 on the day of the shooting to say that a gun was missing from their home and that Ethan might be the shooter. The gun had been kept in an unlocked drawer in the parents' bedroom, McDonald said. Both are now being traced by the police after they allegedly left for their own safety but are expected to return to be arraigned.
Parents are rarely charged under US law for shooting committed by their children in such cases. Under Michigan law, the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents can be pursued if authorities believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high chance of harm or death.
"I expect parents and everyone to have humanity and to step in and stop a potential tragedy," McDonald told reporters. "The conclusion I draw is that there was absolute reason to believe this individual was dangerous and disturbed."