© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: James Crumbley looks at his wife Jennifer Crumbley, both of whom face four counts of involuntary manslaughter, during a court procedural hearing in Rochester Hills, Michigan, US December 14, 2021. REUTERS / Seth Herald
(Reuters) -A Michigan judge held a preliminary hearing on Tuesday to decide whether prosecutors had enough evidence to bring involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of a teenager accused of killing four high school students.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, are accused of buying the weapon as a Christmas present for their 15-year-old son Ethan, and ignoring warning signs as late as the day of the Nov. 30 shooting in Oxford, Michigan. The shooter, Ethan Crumbley, has already been charged with first-degree murder in the deadliest US school shooting of 2021.
All three have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had called some witnesses during the preliminary hearing in front of Rochester District Court Judge Julie Nicholson, who will continue the hearing on Feb. 24 before deciding whether there is enough evidence for a trial.
“Due to the voluminous nature of the exhibits …., we are going to go ahead and continue the exam on Feb. 24”, said Nicholson.
The couple wore prison clothing as they sat in handcuffs at the defendant’s desk in the courtroom. Andrew Smith, Jennifer Crumbley’s supervisor at the real estate company where she worked, took the stand. He described his interactions with her the day of the shooting.
“I need my job. Please do not judge me for what my son did,” Jennifer wrote in a text to Smith after the shooting that he read on the stand. “I was surprised she was worried about her job at that point. I thought she would be more concerned about what was going on.”
Four students were killed and six other students and a teacher were wounded at Oxford High School, 40 miles (65 km) north of Detroit.
The case appears to be the first time that parents of a teenage school shooter have been charged for involvement in their offspring’s alleged crimes.
While other parents have been charged for deaths resulting from unsecured guns, those cases have involved much younger children, experts said.
It was the latest in a decades-long string of deadly American school shootings.
Four days before the shooting, Ethan accompanied his father to a gun shop, where James Crumbley bought a 9mm handgun, prosecutors said.
The next day his mother posted that the two of them were at a gun range “testing out his new Christmas present,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
Prosecutors have detailed a number of other warning signs that they said the parents failed to address, including Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his phone.
Prosecutors said that on the morning of the shooting, a teacher discovered drawings by Ethan Crumbley that depicted a handgun, a bullet, and a bleeding figure.
School officials then summoned the Crumbleys. The parents resisted the idea of taking their son home and did not search his backpack nor ask him about the gun, according to McDonald.
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