PONTIAC, MICHIGAN - APRIL 9: Jennifer Crumbley looks at her husband James Crumbley during their sent...
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Parents Of School Shooter Ethan Crumbley Sentenced To 10 To 15 Years In Prison

“These convictions are not about poor parenting. They concern acts that could have halted a runaway train.”

On Nov. 30, 2021, Ethan Crumbley, then 15, shot and killed four of his classmates and injured seven others at Oxford High School outside of Detroit. Now, James and Jennifer Crumbley, Ethan’s parents who were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter earlier this year, have been sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison.

The prosecution argued that the Crumbleys were complicit in their son’s crimes, both by purchasing a gun for him despite apparent mental health concerns and by failing to act in the lead-up to the shooting. The pair had been called to the school that morning after administrators were concerned about a picture Ethan had drawn in math class — a handgun and a bleeding body beside the words “The thoughts won’t stop help me.” After a brief meeting, during which James demanded ‘Are we done here?’ both the Crumbleys and the school determined that Ethan could go to class. No one checked the boy’s backpack, which held the handgun used to murder Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Justin Shilling, 17; and Madisyn Baldwin, 17. Ethan, who was charged as an adult, was sentenced to life without parole after pleading guilty to 24 charges.

The defense — Shannon Smith for Jennifer and Mariell Lehman for James — argued that the sentencing guidelines were inadequate for the unique and unprecedented nature of this case. They suggested sentencing should be based on one “grossly negligent act” (i.e. their failure to take steps to prevent the shooting) rather than for the four ensuing murders, which they argue could not have specifically been foreseen.

Nicole Beausoleil during James Crumbley’s trial.Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

They were denied by Judge Cheryl Matthews, and Jennifer and James will be in prison for at least another eight years. Matthews said that the sentence would ideally act “as a deterrent” to parents who might find themselves in similar circumstances.

“[Parents] are not expected to be psychic,” she said. “But these convictions are not about poor parenting. They concern acts that could have halted a runaway train. ... Opportunity knocked over and over again, louder and louder, and it was ignored.”

Among those who spoke during the hearing was Nicole Beausoleil, Madisyn Baldwin’s mother, who delivered a powerful juxtaposition of her experiences on the day of Nov. 30 and beyond to the Crumbleys’.

“When you were on the phone for 10 minutes with each other trying to figure out where the gun was, I was on the phone with her father and family trying to figure out where she was,” she said, before continuing, “When you texted ‘Ethan, don’t do it’ I was texting ‘Madisyn, I love you, please call mom.’ ... While you were hiding, I was planning her funeral, and while you were running away from your son and your responsibilities, I was forced to do the worst possible thing a parent can do, I was forced to say goodbye to my Madisyn.”

“As a parent, we all make mistakes,” she told them. “This is a normal way of life. Usually when mistakes happen we learn from them, we try to fix, or talk it over. But continuing to make the same mistake over and over again is no longer a mistake, it’s a choice. That becomes a decision. Those decisions that you made ultimately took my daughter’s life, because you decided you didn’t want to parent and listen to your son, you took the right away from me to be a mother.”

The Crumbleys are eligible for parole after they serve 10 years in prison, which includes times already served since their 2021 arrest, but could serve up to 15 if denied.