Crumbleys seek lower bond again: We never tried to flee. We can prove it.




  • In US
  • 2022-12-08 15:28:47Z
  • By Detroit Free Press
Jennifer Crumbley, second from left, and James Crumbley, right, in a pretrial hearing April 19, 2022.
Jennifer Crumbley, second from left, and James Crumbley, right, in a pretrial hearing April 19, 2022.  

With their trial on hold indefinitely and their son now a convicted killer, the parents of the Oxford school shooter are asking again to be released on a lower bond, arguing they have new evidence that supports their release.

In a new court filing, lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley say they have obtained evidence that proves their clients were never on the run after learning they were being charged last year, as prosecutors have long alleged. The Crumbleys say they never fled, but left Oxford to stay in a friend's Detroit art studio "for their own safety" and planned to surrender the following day at their scheduled court hearing.

Their son Ethan has pleaded guilty to murdering four fellow students on Nov. 30, 2021, and injuring seven others. James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with involuntary manslaughter, the first parents to be charged in a school shooting.

Crumbleys, jailed more than a year, have sold their home

"Throughout this case, the prosecution has advanced an inaccurate narrative to make the Crumbleys sound like they were fleeing prior to their arrest," defense attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman argue in a motion filed late Wednesday.

In the filing, the defense says it has new information that can explain why the Crumbleys had four cellphones, used cash versus credit cards and stayed in local hotels and a friend's Detroit art studio in the wake of the shooting - all details the prosecution has previously cited in arguing that the couple was on the run.

The Crumbleys have requested lower bond numerous times, to no avail. They have been jailed for more than a year on $500,000 cash bonds. In their latest request, their lawyers are asking for a more reasonable bond, along with a GPS tether, and say their clients will have a place to stay - though that location was not disclosed.

"This case is obviously very serious," the Crumbleys' lawyers note. "Because it is a rather novel case in Michigan to charge parents with involuntary manslaughter for a school shooting committed by their child, this case will present legal issues that are unprecedented."

According to the filing, the Crumbleys sold their home to cover their legal bills.

More:Prosecutor seeks life without parole for Oxford school shooter Ethan Crumbley

More:Michigan Supreme Court temporarily halts trial of James, Jennifer Crumbley

Oakland county Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and Oakland County Executive David Coulter during a press conference after the guilty plea entered by Ethan Crumbley in front of Circuit Court Judge Kwame L.
Oakland county Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and Oakland County Executive David Coulter during a press conference after the guilty plea entered by Ethan Crumbley in front of Circuit Court Judge Kwame L.  

Crumbley parents' case is on hold

Their latest request for bond comes eight days after the Michigan State Supreme Court temporarily halted the Crumbleys' trial, ordering the appeals court to review the parents' claims that they were improperly bound over for trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

That leaves a trial date up in the air. And the Crumbleys are tired of jail life.

The parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter for what prosecutors have alleged amounts to gross negligence: They say the Crumbleys ignored a mentally ill son who was spiraling out of control, and instead of getting him medical help they bought him a gun. Prosecutors also argue the parents belong in jail pending the outcome of their case, maintaining they are a flight risk.

The Crumbleys disagree.

"While the facts of this case are certainly serious and important," the Crumbleys' lawyers argue, "there is no question that the school shooter was charged separately as an adult and pled guilty to the murders that he absolutely committed."

The Crumbleys have maintained that they never knew that their son was going to shoot up his school and that he is the only one responsible for the four students' deaths.

Explanations for cash, cellphones and more

In their latest plea for a lower bond, the Crumbleys cite the following information, which they say debunks inaccurate claims that have been widely reported about them:

  • Possessing multiple cellphones: When the Crumbleys were arrested, they had four phones between the two of them, a detail the prosecution has used as evidence they were trying to flee. But there's a reason for this. When police searched their home on the day of the mass shooting and seized their phones, a sergeant advised the Crumbleys to go to Meijer and get disposable "track" phones so that they could still make calls. When the couple realized their phone numbers could not be ported to the track phones, they went to MetroPCS/T-Mobile and obtained new phones whose numbers could be ported and accessed. They had to do this, their lawyers say, to shut down social media accounts, access bank accounts and have correct phone numbers for two-factor authentication often required by websites.

  • The Crumbleys' use of cash versus credit cards. Their lawyers maintain the parents weren't trying to flee, but rather were attempting to avoid "being threatened and hurt by members of the public who were rightfully emotional and angry." Moreover, they write, "they also needed money from their various accounts to secure attorneys, to live on, and again, to avoid going into banks and showing identification as to who they were."

  • Hotel stays. Prior to charges being announced against them, the Crumbleys stayed in local motels until they knew what was going on. Due to fears and threats, they couldn't go home or stay with immediate family members, who were "terrified" to have the Crumbleys stay with them. "The Crumbleys had plenty of time to flee to other states where they have family, and simply didn't do that," their lawyers write. "Instead, they secured counsel and stayed in Michigan."

  • Their stay at a Detroit art studio. "The news has repeatedly tried to make it sound like an empty warehouse or commercial building, however, the video surveillance shows the comings and goings," the Crumbleys' lawyers write.

More:Ex-board members: Ethan Crumbley should've been sent home - but Oxford H.S. ignored policy

More:On a drizzly Saturday, Oxford and Uvalde survivors unite in joy

According to surveillance records listed in the court filing, the Crumbleys were let into the building at 10:57 a.m. Their friend is on the phone, opens the gate and the Crumbleys drive their Kia into the lot. About 25 minutes later, surveillance video shows the Crumbleys entering the building. Their friend shows them around and leaves just before noon.

"Jennifer and James Crumbley simply stay in one spot - at the art studio. They do nothing to hide that they are there as the video shows them going outside to talk on the phone and smoke," their lawyers argue in court records.

At about 5:15 p.m. that day, while the defense lawyers are still waiting on the prosecutor to return phone calls and set up arrangements with them, the Crumbleys' friend returned with grocery bags. He left 40 minutes later.

Defense attorney Shannon Smith cross-examines Amanda Holland at a hearing for James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Ethan Crumbley who are accused of the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School in late November, sit in the courtroom of Judge Julie Nicholson of 52/3 District Court in Rochester Hills on Feb.
Defense attorney Shannon Smith cross-examines Amanda Holland at a hearing for James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Ethan Crumbley who are accused of the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School in late November, sit in the courtroom of Judge Julie Nicholson of 52/3 District Court in Rochester Hills on Feb.  

Defense attorneys see conviction as less likely

"Again, the Crumbleys do not go anywhere. They simply wait for instructions about plans to turn themselves in," their lawyers argue, adding the Crumbleys had planned to meet their lawyers at 7:30 a.m. the following day and turn themselves in at the Novi District Court at 8:30 a.m. for arraignments.

Then at 11:20 that night, the Detroit police rolled up and arrested them.

"Contrary to the false media narrative that Mr. and Mrs. Crumbley were found crouching in a corner, they were asleep on an air mattress in plain view," their lawyers write. "Despite the prosecution's repeated claims they were a flight risk, they clearly did not "flee" from Michigan or go anywhere far - they were stuck between not being able to go to their home and trying to arrange to be arraigned with counsel."

Moreover, the defense maintains that new information has surfaced that lessens the parents' chance of being convicted, including an admission by a school counselor that the Crumbleys never refused to take their son from school on the morning they were summoned over a disturbing note.

The defense also argues that there are members of the community who can vouch for the Crumbleys, confidentially to the court, but wish to remain anonymous to the public for their own safety due to the intense media attention of the case.

Tresa Baldas: tbaldas@freepress.com

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: James, Jennifer Crumbley seek lower bond again: We never tried to flee

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