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After Overnight Search, Detroit Police Nab ‘Very Distressed’ Parents of Accused Michigan High School Shooter Ethan Crumbley ‘Hiding’ in Building

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley appear in mugshots taken by the Oakland County Jail in Michigan.

James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley appear in mugshots taken by the Oakland County Jail in Michigan.

The parents of alleged Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley, 15, were caught in the early hours of Saturday morning in Detroit, police announced overnight.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office put out an alert for James and Jennifer Crumbley on Friday, Dec. 3, the same day prosecutors charged them with four counts of involuntary manslaughter each over their son’s alleged murder of four people at Oxford High School on Tues., Nov. 30.

Detroit Police Chief James E. White personally made the announcement that the parents had been captured. The two were nabbed at a commercial building about ten minutes east of downtown Detroit, he said; the police chief described the couple as being “distressed” when they were caught.

“One of them, you know, head down — had a hoodie on — just very upset,” the chief said. “As you can imagine . . . it’s hard to paint the the picture — just very distressed in light of being taken into custody.”

“They appeared to be hiding in the building,” the chief added.

The parents are currently being held in the Oakland County Jail pending an initial court appearance.  James was processed at 2:45 a.m.; Jennifer was booked at 2:58 a.m., jail records indicate.

The search for the duo unfolded with a police call for information about the pair which quickly spread both locally and nationwide.

“The Crumbleys are driving a black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV with the Michigan Plate DQG 5203,” the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department said at 3:55 p.m. Friday afternoon. “Please call 911 immediately if you have information about their whereabouts.”

The U.S. Marshals Service said later Friday it was also part of the search for the wanted duo.

The couple’s attorneys claimed the duo had fled town “for their own safety” after the shooting and and were making their way back to face the charges, both CNN and Lansing, Mich. television station WLNS reported.

“On Thursday night we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned,” attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman said in a statement to a number of newsrooms. “Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges. The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.”

That story repeatedly changed as Friday progressed.  Authorities said the couple had vanished when they sought to effectuate an arrest after prosecutors announced charges against the couple; the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said later that the couple’s attorney indicated she could not reach the Crumbleys by phone or by text message.

WLNS said that the parents of the alleged shooter were supposed to turn themselves in at about 2:00 p.m. Friday. The couple was supposed to then face a judge for the first time at 4:00 p.m., the television station said.  The courthouse closed at 5:00 p.m. without the couple appearing, the Detroit News reported.

As Friday night wore on, the U.S. Marshals Service eventually issued a reward of up to $10,000 for information about each of the two suspects.

Late into the night, several Detroit television stations reported that police located the couple’s car on Bellevue near East Lafayette Street about ten minutes east of downtown Detroit.

Four students died after Ethan Crumbley “methodically and deliberately” walked down a school hallway, aiming and firing, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast said in a court appearance Thursday.  Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17, were all killed.

Authorities have since accused Ethan Crumbley’s parents of purchasing a handgun, effectively gifting it to the teen, and turning a blind eye to the warning signs that suggested he may have intended to commit harm.  James Crumbley purchased the Sig Sauer 9mm at Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford, Mich., with Ethan by his side on Friday, Nov. 26, said Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald at a press conference.  The same day as the purchase, the teenager wrote an effusive social media post calling the handgun his “new beauty,” the prosecutor said.

“Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas present,” Jennifer Crumbley also wrote in a subsequent social media post on Nov. 27, McDonald noted.

A teacher on Mon., Nov. 29, caught Ethan looking for ammunition on his phone.  Authorities tried to contact his parents, but the parents did not respond to a phone call or an email, McDonald said.

The next day, a teacher saw Ethan drawing violent scenes involving a shooting and bloodshed.  Officials called his parents to the school.  Ethan, McDonald said, had scratched out the pictures, but a teacher had taken pictures of them on her phone before that happened.

The parents were told they had to seek counseling for Ethan within 48 hours, but they protested the thought of Ethan leaving to go home with them immediately, McDonald continued.

Keast said in court on Thursday that surveillance video shows Ethan leaving the meeting between his parents and school administrators, going to a school bathroom with a backpack, emerging with the 9mm handgun, and opening fire in the hallway.

“Ethan, don’t do it,” Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted her son at 1:22 p.m. — but that was after the shooting.

James Crumbley allegedly drove home to see if the gun was missing.  When he heard that a shooting had occurred at the school, McDonald said he called 911 at 1:37 p.m. to report that the weapon was gone and that his son may be the Oxford High School shooter.

A judge on Thursday entered a not guilty plea on Ethan Crumbley’s behalf to charges of terrorism causing death, first-degree murder, assault with the intent to murder, and other weapons offenses.

UPDATE:  James and Jennifer Crumbley were arraigned Saturday morning.  Law&Crime’s coverage of the proceeding is here.

[Images via the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office]

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