Updated Apr 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Michigan school shooters' parents get up to 15 years in prison in landmark case

Crumbley parents at trial

James and Jennifer Crumbley sit in court on April 9 in Pontiac, Michigan. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The parents of a convicted Michigan school shooter were sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison Tuesday on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Why it matters: James and Jennifer Crumbley are the first parents in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a mass shooting committed by their child.

Catch up fast: Their son, Ethan Crumbley, killed four students and wounded seven others in a 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Michigan.

  • He pleaded guilty to all charges in 2022 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole last December.
  • His parents each pleaded not guilty in 2021 to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Both parents were in jail for over two years awaiting trial because they couldn't afford bond.
  • Both James and Jennifer Crumbley were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter at separate trials earlier this year.

The big picture: The sentencing hearing Tuesday marked the first time the parents have seen each other since last fall and brought them face-to-face with the families of the victims killed by their son, NBC News reported.

  • Both Jennifer and James Crumbley were sentenced with credit for more than two years already served.
  • Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews said the sentences were in the "best interest of justice, and are reasonable and proportionate to the seriousness of the matter."
  • Matthews also instructed both Crumbleys to make no contact with the families of the victims.
  • Involuntary manslaughter charges carry a maximum prison term of 15 years in the state of Michigan, per the New York Times.

What they're saying: Families of those killed in the shooting read victim impact statements ahead of the sentencing.

  • Nicole Beausoleil, the mother of 17-year-old victim Madisyn Baldwin, told the court Tuesday that the Crumbleys "took the right away for me to be a mother."
  • "Not only did your son kill my daughter, but you both did as well. The words 'involuntary' should not be a part of your offense," she added, asking the judge to bestow the maximum sentence.
  • Craig Shilling, who lost his 17-year-old son Justin Shilling in the shooting, told the Crumbleys that "the blood of our children is on your hands too."

The other side: In a statement to the court ahead of her sentencing, Jennifer Crumbley spoke of the "anguish and shame I carry knowing what my son did."

  • She expressed her "deepest sorrows for the families" of the victims but defended her and her husband, saying, "we were good parents."
  • James Crumbley also addressed the court, saying he couldn't "imagine the pain and agony" experienced by the victims' families.
  • "I cannot express how much I wish that I had known what was going on with him or what was going to happen, because I absolutely would have done a lot of things differently," he added, referencing his son.

State of play: Prosecutors in Michigan's Oakland County requested in a sentencing memo last week that the Crumbleys be sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison each, per NBC News.

  • Both of the Crumbleys' lawyers had asked the judge to take into account the more than two years they have already spent in jail.

Flashback: Days before the 2021 shooting, school administrators contacted Crumbley's parents after a teacher caught Ethan searching for ammunition on his phone during class.

  • On the day of the shooting, a teacher found a drawing by Ethan with a figure of a gun and a person who was shot. His parents were contacted again and advised to take their son home, which they declined to do.
  • Prosecutors have argued that "tragically simple actions" by both parents could have prevented the shooting, per AP.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest.

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