PONTIAC, Mich. — In emotional testimony on Thursday, Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of teenage Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, said that while she doesn’t believe she was a failure as a parent, she deeply regrets her son’s actions.
“I wish he would have killed us instead,” she told the court through tears during her involuntary manslaughter trial. “I don’t want to say that I’m a victim, because I do not want to disrespect the families that truly are the victims in this, but we did lose a lot.”
Focusing on Relationship with Son Leading Up to Shooting
Her relationship with her son was the main focus of the highly anticipated testimony, which her defense said aimed to demonstrate why she “could have never anticipated” that Ethan would open fire inside Oxford High School in November 2021, killing four students and wounding several others.
The trial, which started on January 25, is an unusual case of a school shooter’s parent facing criminal charges. Crumbley’s testimony centered on the day of the shooting itself and her interactions with her son leading up to the tragedy.
Deflecting Blame onto Husband and School
Crumbley’s lawyer, Shannon Smith, questioned her in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from the defendant onto her husband, who purchased the gun for Ethan, and the school, which she alleges failed to fully inform her and her husband of their son’s difficulties.
Crumbley stated that her husband was responsible for securing the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol he had purchased for Ethan early as a Christmas present. She said storing firearms “was his thing.”
Claiming Unaware of Ethan’s Problems at School
She also testified that the school did not advise her of Ethan’s problems staying awake and concentrating in class. “If you heard your son was having a rough time, what would you do to follow up?” Smith asked. Crumbley replied that she would have spoken with Ethan to understand what was happening.
While acknowledging Ethan had general concerns about life after high school that caused him anxiety at times, Crumbley said his mental health never seemed alarming enough to necessitate seeing a professional.
Gun Purchase and Drawing Incident
The trial opened on January 25 with both prosecution and defense laying out Crumbley’s dynamic with her son, who was 15 at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors argued she was aware of Ethan’s declining mental state and isolation but cared more about her horses than getting him help. But the defense contends that while Crumbley tried to be a loving mother, she did not know Ethan was capable of such extreme violence.
In over a week of presenting evidence, prosecutors called more than 20 witnesses, including police and school staff. They also showed text messages, videos, and school surveillance footage of the shooting itself that led Crumbley to sob.
The day after Thanksgiving 2021, the Crumbleys purchased the handgun for their son. That Monday, a teacher reported Ethan searching for ammunition online. The next day, a teacher found Ethan’s drawing of a gun and shooting, with messages like “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.“
The school summoned the parents for a meeting but allowed Ethan to remain in class when they had to return to work. Officials testified that had they known he had access to a gun, they would have removed him from school immediately. Ethan went on to commit the mass shooting later that day.
Interactions with Ethan on Shooting Day
In her testimony, Crumbley described the gun range trip with Ethan that weekend as a fun day, though she felt uncomfortable storing his new gun. She hid the bullets after they returned home.
She expressed anger and disbelief when she and her husband were called to the school over Ethan’s disturbing drawing. Crumbley assumed he created it out of defiance from their argument about his poor math grades.
Crumbley stated she did not anticipate Ethan would harm anyone, even after learning he had the gun. She believed his “I love you” text before the shooting was abnormal but not an indicator of violence.
“I yelled in my talk-to-text ‘Ethan don’t do it’ because I thought he was going to kill himself,” Crumbley testified about her text to Ethan during the shooting.
Regret and Parenting Defending
Crumbley described the events after the shooting as a whirlwind, with loved ones concerned for Ethan’s safety before learning he was the shooter.
“That was the hardest thing I had to stomach was that my child harmed and killed other people,” she stated.
Much of her testimony sought to counter the prosecution’s suggestions that Crumbley was detached from Ethan’s struggles. This included explaining her failure to respond to his texts about demons in their home as his tendency to mess with them, not a serious cry for help.
Crumbley also discussed her affair with a man in the horse community, revealed by the prosecution. She maintained it did not cause her to neglect spending time with Ethan.
Crumbley’s testimony was anticipated to continue on Friday. She and her husband each face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. Their son Ethan was sentenced in December to life behind bars for the school shooting after pleading guilty.