Police seize tablets, phones of Detroit art studio owner in Crumbley case
Troy — An artist quizzed by detectives about his relationship with an Oxford Township husband and wife found by police in his Detroit art studio had reached out to the woman after hearing about the Nov. 30 Oxford High School shooting, his attorney said Tuesday.
Andrzej Sikora, 65, of Troy was questioned by investigators with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for two hours Monday in Rochester Hills, said his attorney, Clarence Dass.
Sikora is friends with James and Jennifer Crumbley, the 45- and 43-year-old parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is charged as an adult with killing four Oxford High students and wounding six others and a teacher in a shooting rampage.
“He (Sikora) had heard of the school shooting and texted Jennifer Crumbley to ask if they were all right,” Dass told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “On Friday, she contacted him and said they had received death threats and asked to meet with him at his studio. They wanted to put some distance between themselves and Oxford and the media, and wanted to wait to hear from their attorneys on what they should do next.
"He didn't know of any charges, but he was concerned about their safety.”
The Crumbleys became the subject of a manhunt involving local and federal authorities on Friday when they failed to show up for late-afternoon arraignments after they were charged in connection with the mass shooting. The couple were found in Sikora’s studio in the 1100 block of Bellevue on Detroit’s east side early Saturday morning.
Police had released a description of the vehicle and were tipped to the Crumbleys' whereabouts by the building owner, who spotted their Kia parked inside his enclosed lot.
“It was a friendly interview and he (Sikora) cooperated and answered every one of their questions,” said Dass, who insisted Sikora has no criminal culpability.
The Crumbleys each have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, felonies each punishable by up to 15 years in prison. They have both pleaded not guilty and are jailed in lieu of $500,000 bonds.
“The investigation is ongoing,” said Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe, who confirmed items removed from Sikora’s Troy home Monday night were still being analyzed by the sheriff’s computer crime lab technicians.
Dass said some electronic tablets and telephones were removed from the home by investigators with a search warrant.
“It was not a surprise,” Dass said. “I was told they were going to look for certain materials and we could be there during the search. It was very orderly.”
Dass assumes investigators want to establish what communication occurred between the Crumbleys and Sikora.
“The majority of the questions during the interview were about the Crumbleys,” said Dass, who declined to elaborate.
Sikora said he left the couple at his studio at 5 p.m. to go home and told them to lock up when they left.
“He never expected them to stay the night there — they said they were waiting to hear from their attorneys to figure out what to do next, but were planning on turning themselves in,” Dass said.
Dass said it wasn’t until Saturday, after Sikora learned the couple were actively being sought by authorities, that he contacted Detroit police and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. By then, the couple were already in custody, Dass said.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said the charges are in part due to the Crumbleys having bought their son the handgun as a Christmas present, leaving the gun where Ethan could access it and not mentioning the weapon to school officials during a meeting about their son's classroom behavior.
The school meeting was called on Nov. 30 because a teacher became concerned by Ethan searching for ammunition on his phone a day earlier. And on the morning of Nov. 30, officials say a teacher observed a piece of paper in front of him with the words: "the thoughts won't stop, help me" and a drawing of a bullet and the phrase: "blood everywhere."
There was a sketch of a person shot twice and bleeding, a laughing emoji and the final lines: “my life is useless” and “the world is dead.”
The teacher alerted a counselor, who summoned the Crumbleys to the school. The couple were told they had to get their son into counseling within 48 hours or the school would refer the case to Child Protective Services. Officials also asked that the couple take their son home, which officials said they refused to do, and he was permitted to remain in the building.
They are scheduled for a Dec. 14 probable cause conference in 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills.
Ethan Crumbley also is held in the Oakland County Jail without bond pending a Dec. 13 probable cause conference on 24 offenses.