Crumbleys ask for lower bond to get out of jail

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

The parents of the teen who pleaded guilty to the deadly Oxford High School shooting spree last year have again requested that their bond amounts be lowered so they can get released from jail on bond while they await trial next year in their involuntary manslaughter case.

Attorneys for James and Jennifer Crumbley continue to argue that their clients aren't a flight risk, a conclusion that Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews has disagreed with. The filing came as the Michigan Supreme Court in November sent the involuntary manslaughter case back to the Michigan Court of Appeals to determine if there was sufficient evidence for them to stand trial.

Defense attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman on Wednesday filed motions with Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews describing the $500,000 bond for each of their clients as excessive and unwarranted. The Crumbleys want the judge to lower their bonds, which would allow them to be released from jail pending trial, along with conditions such as GPS tethers so their whereabouts could be monitored.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald's office responded Friday with a filing arguing that its case against the Crumbleys is stronger than when it was originally made and the parents of Oxford shooter Ethan Crumbley actually have become a "greater flight risk than ever before."

"The few ties the Defendants had to the community were severed when they sold their house and their horses, and to the extent there was ever anyone in the community who was willing to harbor them, there are none now," McDonald wrote.

She also questioned Smith's statements regarding what the Crumbleys told her and what she witnessed prior to their arrest, arguing that the defense attorney should recuse herself from the case and offer herself as a witness for seeking a lower bond.

The Crumbleys have been in jail since their arrest last December at a friend's Detroit art studio, where investigators believe they were temporarily hiding before fleeing the area. Law enforcement went on a hours-long manhunt for the Crumbleys before they were found.

Smith and Lehman said their clients were only at the studio because they had received threats at their home and intended to turn themselves into authorities for arraignment on the charges when they were taken into custody. Attorneys said neither Crumbley parent had any assaultive offenses or a criminal history and were now both unemployed and had to sell their house in Oxford to pay legal fees.

"The prosecution has advanced an inaccurate narrative to make the Crumbleys sound like they were fleeing prior to their arrest," the attorneys say in the motion.

McDonald has repeatedly pointed to the manhunt as the reason for believing the Crumbleys are a flight risk. The Crumbley's have made at least five previous unsuccessful attempts to have their bond amount lowered.

The Crumbleys are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of four Oxford High teenagers killed in the shooting: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17. In October, their son, Ethan Crumbley, confessed to killing the students on Nov. 30, 2021, and wounding six other students and a teacher. He faces up to life in prison and is awaiting a February hearing to determine whether, as a juvenile, he should be excepted from a life prison sentence.

McDonald has described James and Jennifer Crumbley as grossly negligent in their care of their son, who was 15 at the time of shootings. Ethan reportedly asked his parents to provide him with psychiatric counseling because he was hearing voices and having hallucinations. Instead, investigators say, the parents bought him a handgun as an early Christmas present, took him to a shooting range to learn how to fire the weapon and failed to keep the gun safely stored away from him.

From left, Jennifer Crumbley, attorney Shannon Smith and James Crumbley listen during a court hearing. The Crumbleys have again requested that their individual bonds be lowered from $500,000.

During his admission of guilt in court, Ethan Crumbley admitted he got access to the gun. McDonald highlighted this in her Friday filing, noting Ethan said in court the murder weapon was not locked up despite his parents' counsel's argument that it was. But legal experts said his statement likely would not be admissible in his parents' trial.

"The Crumbleys had plenty of time to flee to other states where they have family, and simply didn't do that. Instead, they secured counsel and stayed in Michigan," the motion said.

The Court of Appeals was ordered to hear the Crumbleys' appeal on having to stand trial after a three-judge panel in September rejected an appeal that sought a stay or delay their case and called for evidence such as their son's journals and text message be considered inadmissible.

“This is a big deal because, in theory, the Court of Appeals could dismiss the entire case if they feel there is not enough evidence that the parents’ conduct caused the deaths of the Oxford students,” Birmingham defense lawyer Wade Fink told The Detroit News.