Parents of Michigan school shooter sentenced to at least 10 years for manslaughter in historic case

The teenager shot dead four classmates after his parents gave him a gun

Jennifer and James Crumbley in a court room while being sentenced
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The parents of a school shooter have been jailed for manslaughter in a historic case in the US, after giving their teenager a gun as a Christmas gift.

On 30 November 2021, 14-year-old Hana St Juliana, 16-year-old Tate Myre, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, and 17-year-old Justin Shilling were killed in a school shooting carried out by Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time.

Then, in a historic and unprecedented case, his mother and father, Jennifer and James Crumbley, both went on trial. The parents faced four counts of involuntary manslaughter, as prosecutors had accused them of ignoring their child's mental health deterioration after he exhibited signs of depression and making a gun accessible at home.

The case has highlighted the catastrophic consequences that prosecutors say came about when Ethan's parents failed to talk about school shooting to their child - a plan that they are accused of suspecting in advance.

While Ethan is serving life in prison for murder after killing the four students at Oxford High School, near Detroit in Michigan, his parents have also been behind bars for over two years. They were arrested days after the shooting and both were unable to post the $500,000 (£394,000) bond before trial.

Now, Jennifer and James Crumbley have become the first parents to be convicted of manslaughter in a child's school shooting, after prosecutors argued they bore responsibility because they gave their son the gun and ignored signs of violence. The pair had gifted Ethan the weapon he used - a 9mm semi-automatic handgun - as a Christmas present just four days before the shooting.

On the day of the shooting, both parents were summoned to their son's school after teachers discovered violent messages like "blood everywhere" and "the thoughts won't stop - help me" plus violent drawings on his schoolwork, while one teacher had noticed him searching online for ammunition. Though the Crumbleys were told Ethan needed to go home that day and seek immediate counselling, prosecutors said the couple resisted taking him home.

However, both James and Jennifer challenged this account in their trials, saying teachers in the meeting mutually agreed Ethan could remain in school that day and at no point did they think he posed a danger.

After returning to class, Ethan later walked out of a bathroom with the gun and began firing, according to prosecutors. He killed four fellow students and injured seven other people.

Ethan's mother Jennifer, 46, was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter - one for each victim - in February this year, and was jailed for 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, father James, 47, was convicted in March on the same charges and was also sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison.

Before the pair were sentenced, Jennifer said to the court: "My husband and I used to say we have the perfect kid. I truly believed that. I didn't have a reason to do anything different. This is not something I foresaw."

Her husband James said: "I am sorry for your loss as a result of what my son did. My heart pours out to every single one of you."

In a victim impact statement, Nicole Beausoleil - the mother of Madisyn Baldwin, who died in the shooting - said: "You failed as parents. The punishment that you face will never be enough. It will never bring her back... and it will never heal the pain."

She added, "You show no remorse, no respect or compassion for our family. The same traits you bestowed upon your son... which tore my family to pieces," and said that, as well as Ethan, Jennifer and James Crumbley "both killed" her daughter.

Mariell Lehman, James Crumbley's lawyer, said he "did not believe that there was reason to be concerned that his son was a threat to anyone."

Meanwhile, Jennifer Crumbley's lawyer, Shannon Smith, previously said the defendant was "not a threat to the community."

The Crumbleys will be eligible for parole after serving 10 years in custody and will get credit for having already served nearly two-and-a-half years in jail. If parole is denied, they cannot be held for longer than 15 years.

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.