The counselor of a 15-year-old boy charged with killing four students at his Michigan high school says he told the teen’s parents the morning of the shootings that he believed their son was a threat to himself and needed mental health support.
“I said as soon as possible, today if possible,” Shawn Hopkins testified Thursday in the preliminary examination for Jennifer and James Crumbley. But, he testified, Jennifer Crumbley told him, “today was not an option because they had to return to work.”
“I didn’t want Ethan to be alone at home,” Hopkins added.
Ethan Crumbley is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, terrorism and gun charges in the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit. In addition to the four students slain, six other students and a teacher were wounded.
The judge presiding over the proceedings in Rochester Hills District Court will decide if there’s enough evidence to send the Crumbleys to trial for involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of making the gun used in the shooting available to the teen and failing to intervene when he showed signs of mental distress at home and at school.
On the morning of the shooting, Ethan’s parents were summoned to the school and confronted with his drawings, which included a handgun and the words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” Authorities said the parents refused to take him home after the 13-minute meeting.
Hopkins testified that he provided Ethan’s parents with a list of mental health support resources at that meeting and that as it was ending Jennifer Crumbley asked, “Are we done?”
“I wrote Ethan a pass back to class,” Hopkins continued. “I told him, ‘I just want you to know I care about you.’ I don’t remember them saying goodbye (to Ethan).”
Earlier Thursday, defense attorneys asked Oakland County sheriff’s Detective Edward Wagrowski whether he thought Jennifer and James Crumbley were aware their son was planning the shooting.
Videos and texts between Ethan and his friend, Brady, in August show Ethan with a gun and inviting Brady to a gun range, said Shannon Smith, Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney.
“The friend is saying things like ‘Nice. Now pull the trigger. jk, jk, jk,’” Smith told Wagrowski, who explained that “jk” is shorthand for “just kidding.”
“Ethan responds about how his dad left the gun out but Ethan knows gun safety so its no problem. And then he says: ‘Now, it’s time to shoot up the school. JK JK JK JK,’” Smith said.
“This conversation existed between Ethan and his friend, but there is not any kind of conversation like this between Ethan and his mother or Ethan and his father?” Smith asked, to which Wagorwski responded “no.”
But prosecutors alluded to a disconnect between Ethan and his parents, including texts to his friend in which he talks about his “dark side.”
“In a text on April 5, 2021, Ethan writes: ‘Now my mom thinks I take drugs. Like she thinks the reason why I’m so mad and sad all the time is because I take drugs, and she doesn’t worry about my mental health,’” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said. “And then he writes: ’They make me feel like I’m the problem.’”
A day before the shooting, the school left a voicemail for Jennifer Crumbley informing her that a teacher was concerned that Ethan had been searching for ammunition online using his phone. A sheriff’s office computer crimes investigator testified Feb. 8 at the couple’s preliminary examination that she later asked her son in a text if he “at least” showed school officials a photo of the gun the parents gave Ethan as an early Christmas gift.
The Crumbleys are jailed on $500,000 bond. The case against them is highly unusual because parents are rarely held criminally responsible for teens accused in mass school shootings.
The Crumbleys’ attorneys have insisted the couple didn’t know their son might be planning an attack and didn’t make the gun easy to find in their home.
Last month, Ethan Crumbley’s attorneys filed a notice of an insanity defense.
He is lodged alone in a cell in the Oakland County Jail’s clinic to keep him from seeing and hearing adult inmates. Defense attorneys want him moved to a juvenile facility, but prosecutors say he would pose a potential risk of harm to the safety of other juveniles.
An Oakland County Circuit Court judge said during a hearing for Ethan Crumbley on Tuesday that he expected to have a ruling by early next week on whether the teen will remain in the adult jail or be transferred to the county’s Children’s Village.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.