Crumbley family's damaged relationship shown in court, expert gives warning signs

In the first few days of the Jennifer Crumbley trial, the prosecutors painted a picture of a fractured relationship between the mother and her son, the convicted Oxford High School shooter.

In police recordings shown in court, Jennifer appeared to be shocked at her son’s actions on Nov. 30, 2021 – when he shot and killed four students and injured seven others, including a teacher.

Prosecutors said there were warning signs, including graphic drawings that were initially ignored by the shooter's parents.

Evidence shown in Jennifer Crumbley's trial.

"Sometimes we may assume that they’re OK. And then once you start talking with children, you’ll find that they’re not OK," said Chanelle Topp, a mental health expert. "Maybe they needed an adult to come and talk to them or ask questions so that they have a safe space to communicate."

But how can parents differentiate between normal teen angst and real, troubling behavior?

Topp is a supervisor at Kids-Talk Children's Advocacy Center in southeast Michigan. She says it is important to look at consistent behaviors in children to determine if they are struggling with their mental health.

"I think that’s the most important thing to look for… the patterns of behavior," Topp said. "Are they just having a bad day? Are they just irritable for the moment? Or are you starting to actually notice a pattern of behavior?"

Here are some of the red-flags in teen behavior that parents should look out for, according to Topp: 

  • Sleeping more and losing interest in usual activities
  • Increasing self-isolation
  • Becoming more temperamental
  • Frequent school absences and poor academic performance
  • A change in their social groups and/or appearance

Many parents may face some difficulty in having a conversation with their teenager who is exhibiting concerning behaviors. 

"You can start off just having a regular conversation (and say) 'Hey I noticed some changes in your behavior lately," Topp said. "I think conversations with children are extremely important. Even if they are difficult conversations, it's important to understand where your child is in terms of how they're thinking."

For more information on child and teenage mental health, visit the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

To check resources available at Kids-Talk Children's Advocacy Center, click here.


Jennifer Crumbley 'didn't look closely' at her son's drawings until after Oxford High School shooting

Jennifer Crumbley told an Oakland County Sheriff's deputy she didn't look closely at her son's drawings until after he shot several students at Oxford High School.