Oakland officials bicker hours before capture of Oxford High shooter's parents

Pontiac — Oakland County’s prosecutor defended how her office pursued charges against the parents of an Oxford High School student accused in a mass shooting Tuesday against criticism from both the Oakland County undersheriff and the couple’s attorneys.

Prosecutor Karen McDonald charged James and Jennifer Crumbley with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter Friday in connection with their 15-year-old son’s alleged actions, but they had to be apprehended following a manhunt that went into the early hours Saturday morning. 

U.S. Marshals earlier announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to their arrests.

McDonald defended her office’s action during a CNN Friday night interview. She has not responded to messages from The Detroit News.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced charges against the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 before they were in custody. McDonald defended her office’s action during a CNN Friday night interview but is drawing criticism from sheriff's officials and the couple's attorneys.

“The prosecutor’s office doesn’t arrest people,” McDonald told CNN host Anderson Cooper. 

A day and a half before the press conference, McDonald said she asked an assistant prosecutor in her office if police had “eyes” on the parents. She said she was told police knew where the Crumbleys were.

Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said that isn’t true.

“We didn’t even know they had been charged with anything until we were informed this morning by the media,” McCabe told The News earlier Friday.

And Friday evening, after McDonald made her comments to Cooper, McCabe told The News that not only was his office not contacted by an assistant prosecutor about the case but that at no time did the department indicate to prosecutors that "eyes" were on the Crumbleys.

“No one ever talked to an assistant prosecutor and no one ever told anyone we had eyes on them,” McCabe said. “That just did not happen.”

Several hours after the search began, the couple's lawyers, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, said the husband and wife were returning to the area to be arraigned and criticized McDonald for a lack of communication.

"On Thursday night, we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned," Smith and Lehman told The News Friday afternoon. "Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges.

"The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports."

Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe speaks to the media at the scene of the Oxford High School shooting on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. Four students died and seven others, including a teacher, were wounded. McCabe said Friday his office did not know Prosecutor Karen McDonald was going to announce charges against accused shooter Ethan Crumbley's parents Friday without having them taken into custody first.

By Friday evening, federal marshals said they had "adopted the case of the search for James and Jennifer Crumbley" and would be working in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Team.

“They will be apprehended, one way or another,” McDonald told Cooper ahead of the arrests.

The Crumbleys' son, Ethan Crumbley, 15, is accused of bringing a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun to school Tuesday and using it to kill four fellow students and wound seven other people, including a teacher. He is charged as an adult and faces terrorism and murder charges among 24 felony counts and faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted as charged.

He is being held without bond at the Oakland County Jail.