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Michigan School Shooter Tortured Animals, Kept ‘Baby Bird’s Head in a Jar’ While Parents Focused on ‘Extramarital Affairs’: Prosecutors

Jennifer Crumbley, Ethan Crumbley, and James Crumbley appear in mugshots taken by the jail in Oakland County, Mich., in Dec. 2021.

Jennifer Crumbley, Ethan Crumbley, and James Crumbley appear in mugshots taken by the jail in Oakland County, Mich., in Dec. 2021.

Prosecutors say that the parents of accused school shooter Ethan Crumbley knew that their son was troubled but did nothing to stop him from allegedly murdering his fellow students.

The allegations are part of a brief filed by Oakland County prosecutors on Thursday to oppose a bond request from James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley, the 15-year-old’s parents. Both parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter in a late November school shooting that left four dead and seven others injured. James and Jennifer Crumbley are currently being held on $500,000 bond.

Prosecutors opposed the request by painting a picture of a disturbed child who was largely overlooked by his parents.

“When defendants left Oxford High School at approximately 10:55 a.m., on November 30, 2021, over an hour before the shooting, they knew that their son was depressed, that he was fascinated with guns, that they had purchased a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun for him just days before, that he had been researching ammunition while at school, and that he was seen watching violent video of shootings that morning,” prosecutors say in the brief filed Thursday. “Before they left the school that day, they had also seen the disturbing drawings attached to this response as Exhibits One and Two.”

Those drawings allegedly depict the thoughts of a troubled mind.

“The thoughts won’t stop” is written under a drawing of a handgun on a mathematics test review sheet dated Nov. 30, 2021, the day of the shooting.

“Help me,” the document also says.

The words “Blood everywhere” are also one the paper, along with a hand-drawn image of a person appearing to have been shot.

Prosecutors say that a staff member photographed Ethan’s review sheet before he scribbled out portions of his artwork, including the words “help me,” “my life is useless,” and the drawing of the handgun. Therefore, prosecutors filed two images which they say portray the same piece of paper — before and after Ethan is said to have altered it.

In addition to scratching out the images of mayhem and violence, Ethan added the words “I love my life so much!!!!” and “We’re all friends here,” prosecutors allege. He also added the phrase “Video game this is” after a teacher saw the drawings and the Crumbley parents were called to the school.

Drawings by Ethan Crumbley before he allegedly shot and killed four people at Oxford High School. The drawings on the left are the original, as photographed by a teacher; the drawings on the right were modified after Crumbley's parents were called to the school, prosecutors say.

Photo courtesy Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Even before the day of the shooting, prosecutors say Ethan’s parents knew their son sent “disturbing texts” to his mom.

“Defendants had information long before November 30 (within the six months prior to the shooting) that their son’s only friend moved at the end of October 2021; that the family dog died; that their son was sadder than usual; and that he was sending his mother disturbing texts about his state of mind,” prosecutors say.

James and Jennifer, however, paid more attention to their horses and extramarital affairs than to their son, according to prosecutors.

“Meanwhile, during that same period, Defendants spent their time at the barn caring for their horses (3-4 nights a week for up to 3 hours at a time), and seeing other relationships, including Defendant mother’s extramarital affairs,” the brief says. “Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun.”

Prosecutors say that James and Jennifer “willfully ignored” Ethan and the risk he posed to others.

“Their son was torturing animals, even leaving a baby bird’s head in a jar on his bedroom floor, which he later took and placed in a school bathroom,” the brief says.

The document also says that the Crumbley parents are a flight risk. It says the couple was $11,000 in debt as of October, had sold their horses, and are trying to sell their family’s house.

“Defendants are at a greater risk of flight now than they were at the time of the arraignment,” the brief says, adding that the Crumbleys “have already shown that they will flee if they get the opportunity.”

James and Jennifer went missing after Ethan was arraigned, setting off an urgent manhunt. They were eventually found in Detroit.

Read the prosecutor’s brief below.

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