Michigan school shooter's mom was worried he might do 'something dumb,' friend says

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Defendant Jennifer Crumbley, left, and her defense attorney, Shannon Smith, right, listen during Crumbley's trial at the Oakland County Courthouse on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, in Pontiac, Mich. Crumbley is charged with involuntary manslaughter. (Katy Kildee/Detroit News via AP, Pool)

PONTIAC, Mich. – Hours before a 2021 mass school shooting in Michigan, the mother of a teenager who killed four students said she was worried that he was "going to do something dumb,” a man who had a close relationship with her testified Wednesday.

Brian Meloche said Jennifer Crumbley explained to him that she had to go to Oxford High School after a teacher discovered a violent drawing on Ethan Crumbley's math assignment the morning of the tragedy.

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“Something with Ethan. (She) was worried he was going to do something dumb,” Meloche said.

Meloche, who was having an extramarital affair with Jennifer Crumbley at the time, said he knew through social media posts that the parents had recently purchased a gun for the boy.

“I asked where the firearm was. ... If something was going to occur it would produce immediate irreparable damage,” Meloche testified.

Meloche spoke on the fifth day of trial in the involuntary manslaughter case against Jennifer Crumbley. She and husband James Crumbley are accused of ignoring their son's mental health needs and making a gun accessible at home. Four students were killed Nov. 30, 2021, and more were wounded.

A meeting between school staff and the Crumbleys before the shooting has been a focal point in the case.

The parents were presented with a disturbing drawing their son had scrawled on an assignment. It depicted a gun and bullet and the lines, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.”

The school recommended that the couple get him help as soon as possible, but they declined to take him home, saying they needed to return to work, a counselor has testified. Their son stayed in school and later pulled a handgun from his backpack to fire at students.

The Crumbleys are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child.

Meloche and Jennifer Crumbley repeatedly exchanged messages until her arrest four days later. Pages of their communications were shared with the jury.

Jennifer Crumbley told Meloche she was angry at the school for not checking her son's backpack for a gun. She claimed the gun had been properly secured at home. She also said she didn’t know how her son’s “brain snapped.”

Her new priorities, according to a message: “Staying out of jail and not going into a financial hole.”

Long before trial, Judge Cheryl Matthews barred prosecutors from disclosing the affair. Jennifer Crumbley dropped her opposition during a lively exchange among attorneys on both sides of the case.

“Her life is more important than her dignity,” Jennifer Crumbley's attorney, Shannon Smith, said. “She had an affair. Lots of people have affairs. Doesn't mean you know your kid’s a school shooter. Doesn't mean you know your child is going to kill people.”

Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard more of the prosecution’s effort to portray Jennifer Crumbley as a cold, thoughtless parent whose gross negligence contributed to the deaths.

Hours after the shooting, she said her son was "going to have to suffer” as a result of what happened, an investigator testified.

“I found that odd," said Detective Lt. Sam Marzban of the Oakland County sheriff’s office. “She was referring to someone who was her son.”

Marzban was in charge of getting a warrant to search the Crumbley home and collect their phones.

“I told her that there were several dead kids and kids shot in the school. It was on the national news. Even the president had addressed it,” Marzban testified.

Jennifer Crumbley seemed “irritated and frustrated,” he said, especially about giving up her phone.

He said investigators were interested in the phones after seeing text messages from the parents on their son's phone.

“Ethan don't do it,” Jennifer Crumbley, 45, wrote about an hour after the shooting started.

Smith said last week that Jennifer Crumbley was referring to her son possibly killing himself.

Seventeen-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, is serving a life sentence. James Crumbley, 47, faces trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in March.

The jury also learned how the parents, possessing more than $6,000, were captured by police. Roughly 13 hours after charges were announced, they were found on a mattress at an acquaintance's Detroit art studio, roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of their home.

A sharp-eyed coffee roaster in the building said he spotted their car in the parking lot and called 911.

Smith insists the parents were not on the run. She has said they couldn't stay at home because they had received threats and that they had planned to voluntarily appear in court.


Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwritez

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