Oakland County sheriff says his office did not wait for Crumbleys to turn themselves in

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said Saturday his office pursued the arrest of James and Jennifer Crumbley as soon as it received the warrant, and did not wait for them to turn themselves in.

"We're not going to sit there and tap our fingers on the front desk and wait for them to come in," Bouchard said at a press conference Saturday. 

"We don't wait for that when we have serious charges like felonies," Bouchard said. "You can turn yourself in, you can go to court and come to any one of our substations, but we are going to go look for them. ...

"As soon as the prosecutor gave some indication that there would be potentially charges, our detectives began to do what we call a packet to prepare for it: their charges where they might go," Bouchard said. "We began to do what we could to look for them, short of what the expanded capabilities are when you have an actual warrant, either a search warrant or an arrest warrant."

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard speaks about the capture and arrest of James and Jennifer Crumbley during a news conference in Pontiac on Saturday, December 4, 2021. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

The Crumbleys each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Son Ethan Crumbley, 15, faces 24 charges and the possibility of life in prison without parole in the Tuesday shooting, which killed four students and wounded seven people, including one teacher. The victims ranged in age from 14 to 47.

The Crumbleys were found by police Saturday morning in a Detroit warehouse, about 50 miles south of their home, at about 2 a.m. — 12 hours, police say, after they were supposed to surrender, and 10 hours after they were to be arraigned.

"We activated a manhunt when charges were issued, to locate them immediately. (Federal partners and OC fugitive apprehension teams) went into action. Detroit police were amazing," Bouchard said at the press conference.

Owen Cypher, U.S. Marshall for the Eastern District of Michigan, thanked the public for its assistance. He credited Detroit Police Chief James White, saying his officers did a "phenomenal job" locating the vehicle and looping in investigators.

More:Oxford shooting suspect's parents apprehended on Detroit's east side following manhunt

Bouchard said the sheriff's office is asking the public for tips about a person who may have helped the Crumbleys hide.

"We believe they were assisted in that location, to get there and get in. We're gathering information and will present that to our prosecutor for potential charges for either aiding and abetting, or obstruction of justice."

Bouchard said all three Crumbleys are "segregated, individually, in isolation" in jail. He said there is no indication that any are suicidal, but "out of an abundance of caution" they are on suicide watch.

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

Earlier, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald described as "egregious" the alleged culpability of the Crumbleys in the school shooting.

Son Ethan Crumbley, 15, faces 24 charges and the possibility of life in prison without parole in the Tuesday shooting, which killed four students and wounded seven people, including one teacher. The victims ranged in age from 14 to 47.

McDonald said the parents illegally purchased the 9 mm Sig Sauer for a person too young to own a handgun, and left the gun where Ethan could access it.

After mentioning Ethan Crumbley's name once, at the Wednesday press conference announcing charges against him, McDonald has used it sparingly since, mostly calling him only "the shooter." McDonald had vowed on Wednesday to say his name only the once, "to keep the focus on the victims."

More:Oxford High suspect named, charged with murder, other crimes in school shootings

James and Jennifer were both given $500,000 bonds by Judge Julie Nicholson, who cited "concerns of a flight risk" in assigning the high bond. That's 10 times higher than the $50,000 bond requested by attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, who contend the couple was not fleeing prosecution.

More:Parents of teen accused in Oxford High shooting given combined $1M bond

Police say the Crumbleys were to turn themselves in at 2 p.m. Friday, for a 4 p.m. arraignment at 52/3 District Court. Those arrangements were made through their attorneys.

Both the surrender time and the court date came and went, but the Crumbleys were nowhere to be found. By nightfall, the U.S. Marshals had joined the search effort, which ended early Saturday morning on Detroit's east side.

After their arrest, the Crumbleys were transported to Oakland County Jail for their 9:30 a.m. video arraignment. Prosecutor McDonald handled the bond hearing personally. 

"We know James Crumbley purchased this weapon for his son," McDonald said. "These two individuals could have stopped it."

McDonald also cited alleged texts and social media posts from Jennifer Crumbley after her son was reported for allegedly looking up ammunition on his phone.

The mother allegedly told her son in a text "LOL...I'm not mad. You have to learn not to get caught."

McDonald's office has not responded to queries from The Detroit News, but in an appearance Friday night on CNN the prosecutor said: "The prosecutor’s office doesn’t arrest people."

A day and a half before the Friday press conference announcing charges against the Crumbleys, 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 Friday 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.

Prior to their arrest, the last time police saw the Crumbleys was Tuesday night, when their home was searched after the shooting.

More:Authorities swarm family home of suspected Oxford High shooter

"At that point, there was no indication that the parents may or may not have been involved, it was purely an execution of a search warrant for evidence related to the shooting," Bouchard said.