Exam for parents accused Oxford High School shooter set for February

Rochester Hills — The parents of accused Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley on Tuesday agreed to adjourn their preliminary examination to February on charges tied to their alleged roles in the rampage.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the Nov. 30 shooting that left four high school students dead and injured seven other people. 

The couple's hearing before 52-3 District Judge Julie Nicholson came a day after their son made his own brief appearance in court. The pair walked into court Tuesday shackled at their wrists and ankles. James Crumbley wore a blue jail jumpsuit and Jennifer Crumbley was in red.

The Crumbleys are set to return to court on Feb. 8 and told the judge Tuesday that they wanted to work with the same defense team. 

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley appear in 52nd District Court for a probable cause conference in the case of the Oxford High School mass shooting Dec. 14, 2021 in Rochester Hills, Michigan. James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley who allegedly shot 10 of his schoolmates and 1 teacher at Oxford High School, killing four of them, each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter for their alleged roles.

On Monday, lawyers for Ethan Crumbley unsuccessfully argued to have him moved to a youth facility. His probable cause conference was adjourned until Jan. 7.

More:Judge refuses to transfer accused Oxford High shooter into youth facility

On that same day, James and Jennifer's defense team plans to argue for lower bond. 

The three Crumbleys are housed at the Oakland County Jail, but have no access to one another. At one point during Tuesday's hearing, while the couple's attorneys were at the bench talking with Nicholson, they appeared to be whispering to one another until a deputy stepped forward and stopped the exchange.

James and Jennifer Crumbley

Ethan, 15, who is charged with 24 counts including terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder, was denied bond. James Crumbley, 45, and Jennifer Crumbley, 43, are both being held on a $500,000 bond. 

Shannon Smith, an attorney for James and Jennifer, told the judge Tuesday that she expects to file a motion to address bond "within a week," but is awaiting more document discovery.

In a rare appearance, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald addressed the court during the brief Tuesday hearing, telling Nicholson that the complex case is "unprecedented in Oakland County."

When asked outside the courtroom whether she planned to continue to personally handle the case, McDonald told reporters "this isn't the first time that you've seen me appear on a case."

"This is just the kind of leader I am. I'm engaged and I'm going to remain engaged, but I certainly won't do it on my own because I have a lot of skill and experience and talent behind me," McDonald said. "But our entire office is absolutely moved and engaged and in tune on this.”

McDonald asked the court for an adjournment until next year because of the large amount of evidence to be reviewed in the case. She noted funerals for students killed in the attack had just taken place and that continuing to interview multiple witnesses to the shootings would better be handled after the holidays.

"We anticipate 15 to 20 witnesses and it (the preliminary exam) to take three to five days," McDonald told Nicholson, adding about 500 pages of discovery — from interviews and investigative processes — had been provided to defense attorneys on Monday.

"Which is about one-third of our discovery," McDonald said.

Nicholson signed a protective order Tuesday restricting the release of crime scene and autopsy photographs.

"Those items of discovery shall be permitted to be shown to defense counsels at the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office upon request by defense counsels, at a date and time mutually convenient between the parties," the order reads.

Attorneys for both sides "shall not be permitted to disclose any discovery received in this case with any party," except during criminal proceedings. 

Other than "potential expert witnesses, investigators, doctors, potential witnesses and other attorneys not related to any civil litigation," trial evidence is to remain off-limits, it adds. 

The Nov. 30 shooting left four Oxford High School students dead: Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17. Seven others were wounded.

Legal experts have told The Detroit News that Ethan's parents "will have no influence, and likely no insight, into their juvenile son's high-stakes criminal case or life in the near term."

More:Crumbley family estrangement hardens between son, parents as court looms

On Friday, District Judge Nancy Carniak appointed Deborah McKelvy to serve as Ethan Crumbley's guardian.

More:What role Ethan Crumbley's court-appointed guardian will play

More:Who are the Crumbleys? Court records, social media posts give clues

James Crumbley purchased the weapon with his son on Black Friday and stored it in an unlocked drawer, McDonald has said.

The prosecutor also has said James and Jennifer Crumbley ignored warning signs including pictures the 15-year-old sophomore drew depicting a handgun, a person bleeding from a gunshot wound and messages including "the thoughts won't stop, help me," "my life is useless" and "the world is dead."

More:Parents knew Oxford High suspect was troubled, charged with manslaughter, officials say

McDonald was asked Tuesday by reporters whether her office was investigating Oxford Community Schools officials. She did not answer the question in the moment, but in a statement later Tuesday said school officials "are cooperating with the investigation and our prosecution of the defendants."

"Based on the evidence we have reviewed to this point, our focus remains on the defendants in custody and their role in these unspeakable murders," she said.