Crumbley parents denied reduction in $500K bond
Rochester Hills — James and Jennifer Crumbley lost their bid Friday to lower their $500,000 individual bonds on charges of involuntary manslaughter after their son was accused of killing four classmates at Oxford High School.
52-3 District Judge Julie Nicholson denied the request, citing the parents' ties to family in Florida, the seriousness of the alleged crimes and their flight to "an abandoned building" in Detroit. The Crumbley parents are charged in connection with the Nov. 30 shooting deaths of Oxford High School students Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.
During the 30-minute hearing, defense attorney Mariell Lehman requested that the bonds for both Crumbleys be lowered to $100,000. She said the Crumbleys would be willing to wear GPS tethers if they were released on bail.
Lehman struck back at the office of Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, arguing the office's mention in a late December filing of Jennifer’s alleged extramarital affair was inappropriate.
“The information provided by the prosecution related to extramarital relationships is not only clearly irrelevant to the issue of bonds or any criminal responsibility, but there's also a clear intention by the prosecution to create a conflict between the parties,” she said.
Defense attorneys Shannon Smith and Lehman argued McDonald will have a difficult time proving gross negligence by the parents, who are accused of buying the Sig Sauer Model SP 2022 9 mm semi-automatic handgun for their son Ethan Crumbley, 15, as a Christmas present.
Lehman argued that the gun was not “freely accessible,” and that Ethan’s own words in a journal entry prove it.
“In Ethan's journal, which was provided in discovery, he explicitly states that he has to find where his dad hid the firearm. That statement, from Ethan Crumbley in his own words, is kind of contrary to the false and misleading assertions that have been made by the prosecution in this case, the assertions that the firearm was freely accessible.”
Ethan faces 24 counts of first-degree murder, terrorism and felony firearm charges in the deaths of four students and the wounding of one teacher and six students.
McDonald fired back during her presentation, arguing that the Crumbleys have weak ties to the community, since their families lives in Florida. James has a job as a DoorDash driver, which she described as “discretionary.”
When the Crumbleys were arrested, they were found with $6,600 in cash, 10 credit cards and four cellphones, McDonald said. The parents “drained” Ethan’s bank account of $3,000 while they fled, leaving only 99 cents in the account, she said.
Between disappearing and being arrested in Detroit, the Crumbleys stayed in an Oakland County hotel across the street from a police station, McDonald said. But they checked out from the hotel on the day they were supposed to surrender to authorities, and left a car in the hotel parking lot.
“These are not the actions of people who are trying to turn themselves in,” McDonald said.
McDonald focused on the parents' flight risk. Assistant prosecutor Mark Keast focused on the likelihood of guilt.
"Defense counsel has alleged we can't prove our case," Keast said. "This case is strong. Defendants will be convicted. Once they're convicted, they will go to prison."
Keast described Ethan as "gravely troubled and fascinated with firearms," and said he filled an entire notepad with drawings of guns.
"He displayed terrifying tendencies and behaviors, and he literally sketched out what he planned to do in his journal in his drawings," Keast said.
The gun in the drawing on Ethan's math homework looked similar to the family's gun, and yet the parents made no mention of it in the Nov. 30 meeting, the assistant prosecutor said.
Back in March, Ethan allegedly texted his parents that he had seen a ghost or a demon at the house, on occasions when he was home alone, Keast said, based on cell phone evidence.
The assistant prosecutor said that in May, cellphone video Ethan allegedly filmed himself shows him "torturing and killing animals at the family home."
"Cellphone extraction also revealed that he searched school shootings in firearms so often on his phone that he received spam advertisements regarding his mental well-being," Keast said.
When Ethan and his parents were called in on Nov. 30, it was on the belief that he was showing suicidal ideations, the assistant prosecutor said.
He said the Crumbleys were shown Ethan's drawings and told that he needed therapy.
"They resisted, asserting that they couldn't possibly take him out of school because of work," Keast said.
A few times during the hearing, Jennifer Crumbley shook her head as if she was disagreeing with what prosecutors were saying. In one instance, she shook her head more forcefully when the assistant prosecutor said the parents had ample time to check to see if Ethan’s gun was missing after the meeting at school on the morning of Nov. 30.
The parents had no idea their son Ethan posed a threat to anyone and the gun police said they took from him after the Nov. 30 shooting had been hidden in a locked drawer in their bedroom, attorneys for the couple wrote in a December court filing.
The Crumbleys were the subject of a manhunt by local and federal authorities when they failed to show for an arraignment on charges as originally promised by Smith and Lehman. They claim in the filing that McDonald did not return messages from the lawyers and held a press conference on Dec. 3 knowing that Smith was in a trial and Lehman was traveling back to Michigan from Florida.
Attorneys said the Crumbleys, residents of Oxford and nearby Lake Orion for over a decade, are well-regarded by many in the community who will be glad to share their thoughts anonymously with officials because they fear for their own safety for speaking out in support for the couple.
McDonald's office responded in a later December court filing, arguing that the $500,000 bonds should not be lowered because the couple is "a greater risk of flight now than they were at the time of arraignment."
Keast argued in the 35-page response that the motion to reduce their bonds left out important details.
"As of October 18 2021, they were over $11,000 behind on their house payments. Their house is currently for sale. They have sold their horses," Keast wrote. "They have already shown that they will flee if given the opportunity."
The Crumbleys were found by police at an art studio on Detroit's east side.
The Prosecutor's Office also sought to undercut any sympathy for the Crumbleys by claiming that in the weeks leading up to the Oxford school shooting, suspect Ethan Crumbley's dog died, his only friend moved and he carried a baby bird's head in a jar to school.
Despite signs of sadness and disturbing text messages, his mom engaged in an extramarital affair and both parents spent hours each week tending to the family's horses, prosecutors said.
In addition, the Prosecutor's Office for the first time released troubling drawings that officials said caused teachers to remove Ethan from class hours before the shooting.
In exhibits one and two, the filing shows two versions of the drawings that landed Ethan Crumbley in the high school office on Nov. 30 in a meeting with his parents. The first is how the drawing initially appeared when a teacher captured a screenshot and alerted a counselor to her concerns.
The second is how the drawing appeared in the school office, after the teen allegedly had modified it.
In the original, a math homework sheet is overwritten with a drawing. There is a gun, a bullet and a bleeding shooting victim. At different points, hand-written additions to the page read: "My life is useless," "Blood everywhere" and "The thoughts won't stop, help me."
Toward the end of the hearing, while the judge and attorneys were off-camera discussing scheduling issues, James and Jennifer waved to each other and appeared to mouth the words “I love you."