DETROIT — The online presence of Jennifer and James Crumbley might have seemed normal before Tuesday, when authorities say their teenage son opened fire in the halls of Oxford High School, killing four classmates and wounding seven others.
Before Tuesday’s tragic events, videos show the father and son teaming up for a boyish prank on mom. There is a mother’s glowing yet crass letter praising President Donald Trump as well as concern over her then 10-year-old son, who was struggling with school and needed tutoring. There is that same 10-year-old making videos about basketball, video games and a family vacation — eerily quotidian considering the devastation police say he brought to the halls of his high school.
A deeper dive into the lives of Jennifer and James Crumbley reveals blemishes, tucked in court records, that include court proceedings for minor crimes by the parents and custody issues.
It’s a stark contrast from the depiction of family interaction laid out by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald over several days of news conferences and court proceedings.
Jennifer Crumbley, 43, and James Crumbley, 45, each face charges of involuntary manslaughter for the roles they allegedly played leading up to the shooting deaths of four high school students.
Their son, Ethan, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and 20 counts for other crimes for his alleged slaying of the four students and the wounding of six teenagers and a teacher at Oxford High School.
James Crumbley purchased the weapon with his son on Black Friday and stored it in an unlocked drawer, McDonald said. She also said he and Jennifer Crumbley ignored warning signs including pictures the 15-year-old sophomore drew depicting a handgun, a person bleeding from a gunshot wound and messages including “the thoughts won’t stop, help me,” “my life is useless” and “the world is dead.”
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable, and I think it’s criminal,” McDonald said. “It is criminal.”
Curiosity about the couple grew even greater on Friday when they became the target of a fugitives’ search and a $10,000 reward by the U.S. Marshals Service after they stopped responding to attorneys’ messages and didn’t appear for arraignment.
They were arrested in the early morning hours of Saturday in an eastside Detroit building after the hourslong search. Police found them in a building “locked somewhere in a room, hiding,” McDonald said during their Saturday morning arraignment in 52nd District Court.
They had withdrawn $4,000 from an ATM in Rochester Hills and took multiple steps to conceal their location, the prosecutor said.
The couple each pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were arraigned.
McDonald’s evidence presented Friday included posts on the Crumbleys’ social media accounts. Days before the shooting, Ethan posted a picture of a semiautomatic handgun his father had purchased, describing it as “my new beauty.” Jennifer Crumbley posted about taking Ethan to a gun range to test out his new Christmas present.
“I expect parents and everyone to have humanity and to step in and stop a potential tragedy,” McDonald said.
James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley have been protective of their son, who did not talk to authorities following his Tuesday arrest. Ethan’s attorney at the arraignment, Scott Kozak, objected when a judge ordered the son held without bond at the Oakland County Jail after he was transferred from Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility in Pontiac. Kozak argued, “these are all allegations, and he has not been found guilty.”
James and Jennifer Crumbley reportedly met with school officials just hours before the shooting to talk about the troubling images and notes Ethan had written during class.
McDonald also said the day before the shooting, a teacher at the school reported Ethan was searching for ammunition on his phone. The school reached out to Jennifer Crumbley but never heard back.
Authorities say Jennifer Crumbley later texted Ethan about the episode: “LOL, I’m not gonna get mad at you, you have to learn to not get caught.”
What records show about the couple
Police in the village of Oxford, where the family lives, say they had no contact with the teen or runs to the family home to indicate there was trouble behind closed doors. School officials also said the youth had not posed any special trouble or required disciplinary action.
Oakland County Circuit and Probate Court records don’t indicate any prior problems with the teenager or his family. But they do reveal the elder Crumbley had problems meeting fiscal responsibility concerning children raised by their respective mothers in Florida, and both had brushes with the law.
Court filings indicate James Crumbley was in arrears for several thousand dollars in out-of-state child support for two different women, both in Duval County near Jacksonville, Florida. A filing from last month involved more than $1,721 in overdue support payments dating back to June 2005 for a daughter born in 1997. A separate complaint filed in June 2017 claimed $7,617 in arrears for his financial support of a son born in August 2003.
The criminal records of Jennifer and James Crumbley show both were convicted of drunken driving for an offense in Florida on the same day in 2005. Court records indicate they each pleaded no contest and were sentenced to probation, $250 fines plus additional fees and fines, plus the revocation of their licenses for six months. James Crumbley also has faced repeated charges in Florida for driving with a suspended license.
Jennifer also was charged with writing a worthless check for less than $150 in Florida in 2003. There is no indication of how the case was resolved.
She “has never been in serious trouble with the law,” Smith said during the couple’s arraignment on Saturday.
Couple’s online activities
Jennifer Crumbley published a blog post in 2016 describing her admiration for Trump with occasional vulgarities and derision for “illegal immigrants” whose children she alleges “threaten to kill” her mom, a teacher, “for caring about their grades.”
“Do you realize Mr. Trump that they get free tutors, free tablets from our Government so they can succeed,” she wrote. “Why cant (sic) my son get those things, do we as hard working Americans not deserve that too?
“My husband suffered a stroke and a broken back and we were with just my income. Do you know how hard it is to support a family on only $40,000 a year? I couldn’t qualify for State Aid. I made to (sic) much.”
Jennifer Crumbley’s name is not on the blog, but James Crumbley posted a link to it on his Facebook page and said it was written by his wife. In it, Jennifer briefly mentions her son, then 10. She said he struggled in school and that she hired a teacher to help him.
She also specifically lauded Trump’s support for weapons.
“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” she wrote. “Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”