James and Jennifer Crumbley bond motion denied, judge says they're a flight risk
PONTIAC, Mich. (FOX 2) - James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of alleged Oxford High School shooter 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, are both still being held on a $500,000 cash bond after a judge rejected their motion for a reduction.
The Crumbley parents were both in court at 1:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7 as their defense attorneys argue to have their bond lowered from $500,000 each to $100,000. However, the judge rejected the motion, citing their actions on the day they were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter days after their son was arrested for allegedly shooting several people at Oxford High School on Nov. 30. Four students died in the shooting and 7 others were seriously hurt.
James and Jennifer will both appear in court on Friday, the same day as Ethan. The parents were both found early in the morning on Dec. 4 inside of art studio in Detroit, one day after they were supposed to have turned themselves in to the Oakland County Sheriff.
After their arrest, they each held on a $500,000 bond. Their defense attorneys argued for a reduction in bond to $100,000.
According to FOX 2's Charlie Langton, the judge will base the decision on two questions: are the Crumbley parents a danger to society and are they a flight risk.
Neither James nor Jennifer have a criminal record and the shooting at the high school was not committed by either one of them. Langton said they will likely not be considered a danger based on those factors and that they are well-established in the area.
The other factor, Langton says, is where it will get interesting. The prosecutor will argue that they fled and hid in the Detroit art studio after they were charged, and it took a search with the United States Federal Marshals to find them. Langton said that is almost a "textbook definition" of being a flight risk.
However, that doesn't mean the judge will keep the bond at half of a million dollars each.
According to Langton, the defense will argue that they need time to prepare their defense while outside jail and that $100,000 is a sufficient amount to secure their appearance in future court proceedings.
The judge will decide whether to side with the prosecution and keep the bond at $500,000 or the defense and lower the bond.
The Crumbleys are expected to physically be in court but are not expected to speak during the hearing.
The Oxford High School shooting
Ethan's alleged rampage began in the early afternoon of Nov. 30, shortly following a meeting between himself, his parents, and a school counselor that had received a report of disturbing drawings made by the teenager.
The suspected firearm that Ethan used in the shooting had been purchased as part of Black Friday sale days before Nov. 30. According to Prosecutor Karen McDonald, the firearm - a semiautomatic 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun - James Crumbley had bought the gun on Nov. 26.
A store employee confirmed with the prosecution that Ethan was present at the time of the purchase.
Prior to that purchase, a teacher at Oxford High School had alerted the district that she saw Ethan searching for ammunition on his cell phone. On the day of the shooting, a separate teacher came across a note on Ethan's desk with a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words "the thoughts won't stop, help me."
In another part of the note, the words above a bullet read "blood everywhere."
In the weeks that followed, McDonald would release more evidence of Ethan's drawings. They offer a window into the shooter's mental state at the time.
Ethan Crumbley charged as an adult
The day after the tragedy, Ethan was charged as an adult on 24 counts, including first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, terrorism, and possession of a firearm. His attorney entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment.
MORE: Prosecutor 'doesn't have words' after watching Oxford High School video
Ethan was ordered to be held without bond.
He was also assigned his own defense counsel: Paulette Michel Loftin.
While the murder charges track with similar cases of mass shooters, the count alleging terrorism is a novel approach made possible by a law enacted after 9/11.
The state’s 2002 anti-terrorism law defines a terroristic act as one intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to affect the conduct of a government through intimidation or coercion.
McDonald admitted that it wasn't a "typical charge" for the crime. But "what about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now, who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school? Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that."
James and Jennifer Crumbley charged
Ethan's parents were both charged two days later, on Friday Dec. 3, with 4 counts of involuntary manslaughter each.
"The parents were the only individuals in the position to know the access to weapons," McDonald said at the time. The gun "seems to have been just freely available to that individual."
RELATED: 'Ethan don't do it': Parents of Oxford High School suspect sent messages during shooting
The Crumbleys were expected to turn themselves in on the charges and their attorneys said that day that they were returning to area after a Be On the Lookout (BOLO) was issued.
"The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports," the attorneys said in a statement.
Crumbley parents found in Detroit art studio
Around 4 p.m. on that Friday, a statewide BOLO was issued for the Crumbleys, who were supposed to turn themselves in with their attorney that day but authorities said they stopped communicating and cooperating with their attorney and went the run.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, the Crumbley parents were wanted by the Oakland County Sheriff. Authorities from the entire state and the United States Federal Marshals Service all participated in the search for the Crumbleys
Late that Friday night, Detroit Police Chief James White said they received a tip about the Crumbleys and their vehicle on the city's east side. They were found in the basement of an art studio at 1111 Bellevue Street.
White said they didn't break in and were let in by the owner of the studio. No charges have been presented against the owner of the studio.
White said "They appeared to be hiding" in the building before being arrested.
Later that same day, the Crumbley parents were formally arraigned on the manslaughter charges and ordered held on a $500,000 bond.
Crumbleys probable cause delayed
James and Jennifer appeared in front of a judge on Dec. 14 for their probable cause conference. However, it was delayed after both the prosecution and defense said they did not have all of the discovery.
McDonald asked for an extension of the probable cause conference until after the new year with a preliminary exam taking place in February. The Crumbleys' attorneys joined in the request to extend the hearing until January.
During that hearing, the prosecution and defense met at the bench with the judge. That's when James tried to get a message to his wife, who was sitting just a few feet away at the defense table.
During the hearing, the defense said they intended to ask for a lowered bond but did not do so at the time.
Crumbley attorneys ask for reduced bond
Nine days later, on Dec. 23, defense attorney Shannon Smith filed an appeal for a lowered bond.
Smith acknowledged that Jennifer Crumbley sent a text message to her son that day, telling him "don’t do it." But Smith said it was a plea for him to not kill himself after the shooting at Oxford High School had already occurred and the gun was missing from home.
The attorneys asked for the bond to be reduced to $100,000 and that they would wear electronic monitoring if released from jail.
"The Crumbleys, like every parent and community member, are devastated by the school shooting," Smith and co-counsel Mariell Lehman said in a court filing. "The last thing they expected was that a school shooting would take place, or that their son would be responsible."
Smith said they had planned to appear the next day at a different court handling Saturday arraignments and were not trying to flee.
"It is clear from the media appearances by Ms. McDonald that this case is one she takes very personally, was filed out of anger and filed in an effort to send a message to gun owners," Smith said of the charges against the parents.