James and Jennifer Crumbley broke down crying when this journal entry of their son Ethan was read in court: “I’m sorry for this mom and dad. I’m not trying to hurt you by doing this. I have to do this … I hope my parents can forgive me for what I do.”
Soon after, the judge ordered the Crumbleys to stand trial for their roles in the Oxford school shooting. They have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“The court finds that the deaths of the four victims could have been avoided if James and Jennifer Crumbley exercised ordinary care and diligence in the care of their son,” said Judge Julie Nicholson.
A trove of chilling journal entries told Ethan’s story.
- “I will cause the biggest school shooting in Michigan’s history. I will kill everyone I f—— see,” Ethan allegedly wrote. “I have fully mentally lost it after years of fighting my dark side. My parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist.”
- “I have zero help with my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot the school. My parents won’t listen to me.”
There were also text messages to a friend that laid out the negligence of the Crumbleys in the months before the shooting.
- “They make me feel like I’m the problem,” Ethan texted his friend one night. “My mom makes everyone feel like a piece of s—. I actually asked my dad to take me to the doctor the other day, and he just gave me some pills and said to ‘suck it up.’ My mom laughed when i told her.”
School Counselor Also Testified Before the Court
Shawn Watkins, the Oxford High School counselor who met with the Crumbleys before the shooting revealed details of that meeting.
Watkins said the Crumbleys appeared cold in his office on the morning of the shooting, never hugging or touching their son, who had just drawn a violent picture of a gun and the words: ‘My life is useless” and “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
The defense grilled the counselor about why he let Ethan return to class, and why the backpack wasn’t checked.
“You could have said, ‘he has to leave,’” the defense stated. The counselor answered, “Correct.”
The defense asked if he was aware that the gun was in his backpack, and the counselor answered, “I don’t know.”
The defense asked the counselor if he did not see a reason to file a Child Protective Services form, and the counselor explained that he asked the parents to take their son. But when they said it wasn’t an option, he said, he gave them 48 hours to get the boy into therapy, and then he would call CPS.
Watkins had met with Ethan when he was found researching bullets and when the violent note was drawn in class.
- Ethan admitted that researching bullets “was not school-appropriate behavior,” and explained he had been target shooting with his mother and was researching in class. The school district left a voicemail with the mother.
- The following day Ethan drew the note. “He said, ‘I can see why this looks bad. I’m not going to do anything,‘ ” Hopkins recalled Ethan telling him, noting he was worried that Ethan was suicidal. “I wanted to make sure he was OK.”
He then called the teenager’s mom and put her on speakerphone. She wanted to talk to Ethan and asked what was going on. Ethan responded with: “I don’t know.”
“I asked her to please come to the school. She said she was at work and she would try getting a hold of his dad,” Hopkins said.
Both parents eventually showed up at about 10:30 a.m. Hopkins met the parents in the counseling office lobby and brought them to his office.
The counselor sat at his desk. Dad and son sat across from him. Mom sat farther away. The dean of students joined the meeting.
Hopkins said the parents were not friendly and did not reach out to greet or hug their son.
Hopkins expressed his concern for their son’s mental health and suicide ideation asking them to seek help for their son, “today if possible.”
But Jennifer Crumbley said that day was not an option because she had to return to work. He doesn’t recall the dad saying anything, and noted “I have never had parents arrive at the school and not take their student home.”
According to Hopkins, the meeting with the parents and Ethan lasted about 15 minutes. He doesn’t remember the mom saying anything to her son, but he recalls the dad looking over the gun drawing, and telling his son: “You have people you can talk to. You have your counselor you can talk to. You have your journal.”
Watkins and the dean pondered whether there was a disciplinary reason to keep Ethan from returning to class and they agreed there was not. Watkins told Ethan that he cared about him, but Ethan did not respond.
“I cared about him in that moment particularly,” Hopkins testified. “I thought it was a really rough situation to be showing signs of needing help, of needing support, and it felt like he got the opposite when I tried to get him that help and support.”
When asked about the backpack which police believe contained the gun, Hopkins said that Ethan did not have it with him during the meeting with his parents. It was left behind in math class, he said, and a teacher brought it to him in the counselor’s office as that class was over by the time the meeting ended.
The backpack was never searched.