- Jennifer Crumbley took the stand in her own defense on Thursday over her alleged role in her son’s school shooting
- She claimed she was ‘close’ to her school shooter son Ethan, who killed four people in the 2021 Oxford High School massacre
- Prosecutors argue that she and her jailed husband James missed numerous red flags and ‘laughed’ at Ethan’s pleas for mental health support
Jennifer Crumbley attempted to counter claims she was a ‘negligent’ mother in blockbuster testimony Thursday – before declaring she doesn’t believe she is a ‘failure as a parent’ to her school shooter son.
The Michigan mother took the stand in her own defense on Thursday as prosecutors wrap up the manslaughter case against her, where she is facing up to 60 years in prison in the first case of a parent being charged over a school shooting.
‘I don’t think I’m a failure as a parent’ Crumbley told the court as prosecutors alleged that Jennifer and her husband James – who is set to stand trial in March – callously brushed off Ethan’s pleas for mental health support, claiming she laughed at him, and James told him to ‘suck it up.’
‘But at the time, I guess I didn’t see, I felt bad that [Ethan] was sad at those things, and I guess, I just failed somewhere’ she told jurors.
The mother admitted that she would have done things differently if she could, adding ‘I wish he would have killed us instead.’
Crumbley stopped short of calling herself a victim when asked but said she has ‘lost a lot… we lost everything.’
In one text exchange shown to the court, Ethan texted his mother over his paranoid belief he was being haunted by a ghost. When she didn’t respond, he said: ‘Can you at least text back…’
Crumbley denied ever believing her son was dangerous, and claimed her son’s text messages were often sarcastic as he would ‘fool around.’
She insisted that Ethan – who is now serving life in prison without parole – could ‘go to her with anything’, hours after breaking down in tears as her son’s harrowing final diary entries were revealed.
The disturbing diary entries appeared to oppose her statements they were ‘close’, as Ethan wrote that ‘my parents won’t listen to me about help or therapist,’ and ‘I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the f****** school.’
Crumbley’s claims they were a ‘close’ family came just a day after her extramarital affair was exposed in court, as prosecutors argued she was focused on her tryst with a fire captain over her disturbed son.
Much of Crumbley’s opening testimony centered on her family relationship, as prosecutors allege that Ethan’s cries for help were ignored by his parents, and claimed they mocked his cries for help.
‘My mum laughed when I told her,’ Ethan texted to a friend in March 2021, around seven months before the shooting, adding that he would have called 911 about voices in his head but he didn’t want to anger his parents.
Jennifer denied ever laughing at her son’s struggles, and said he never once brought up hearing voices. However, she admitted he lived a lonely lifestyle without many friends, developed at least 13 cavities as he barely brushed his teeth, and spent most of his time in a squalid bedroom.
‘There was a couple of times where Ethan had expressed anxiety over taking tests, anxiety about what he was going to do after high school whether it was college, military — so he expressed those concerns to me, but not to a level where I felt he needed to go see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional,’ she said.
The issue of Ethan’s school life came under scrutiny because on the day of the school shooting, he was caught by a teacher drawing disturbing images of murders and shootings on his homework.
Despite writing ‘the thoughts won’t stop, help me’, both of his parents declined to take him home and left him at the school, where he had a 9mm handgun secretly stashed in his backpack.
As her testimony turned to the day of the shooting, she said she had a feeling something was wrong with her son because he texted her ‘I love you’, right after the meeting that morning, which she found to be ‘abnormal.’
After realizing the gun and bullets were gone from her home amid reports of a school shooter, Crumbley said she feared that her son was involved – but admitted her main fear was that he would commit suicide.
She texted him ‘Ethan, don’t do it’, but said she wasn’t referencing the shooting, but rather that she didn’t want him to turn the gun on himself.
‘I didn’t believe that he even shot anybody, just that there was gunfire,’ she added.
As the nation reeled at news of yet another school shooting, Crumbley said she was left frantically texting family members to tell them that Ethan was alive, but that he was the shooter – a moment that she said felt ‘numb.’
Crumbley recalled being arrested soon after her son was captured by police, which she said was a confusing, harrowing experience.
‘It all happened so fast,’ she said. ‘It was shocking.’
As scrutiny fell on Jennifer’s actions in the aftermath of the shooting, it was revealed Thursday that she and her husband had emptied their son’s bank account immediately after, withdrawing $3,000 and leaving just 99 cents inside.
In the days following the shooting, the couple appeared to try and flee as police sought them for questioning, and withdrew another $6,000 from two other accounts, according to testimony from Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Timothy Willis.
The couple stayed at several hotels and bought new phones, after theirs had been seized by investigators, before eventually hiding out in an art studio in Detroit.
Jennifer’s attorney argued she was not trying to escape custody, but was fearing for her life after threats were allegedly made following her son’s crime.
She repeatedly said she was scared for her life while on the stand, while declining to mention of her son’s victims. At the conclusion of the testimony, she declined to call herself a victim out of ‘respect’, but said her family ‘lost everything.’
Crumbley said she was ‘freaked out’ by the prospect of facing charges while on the run, and planned to turn herself in with her husband. She added that they took four Xanax to handle the anxiety the night before, knocking them out for several hours.
Footage of their dramatic arrest inside the art studio captured the frantic moments cops breached the studio and took them into custody, with both appearing confused by the law enforcement officers’ actions.
Jennifer appeared tearful on the stand and said speaking before others is her ‘biggest fear’, and began her testimony with warm recollections of her ‘normal’ family life before the tragedy.
She said that Ethan’s school life was a struggle as he couldn’t concentrate on any subject besides history, and ‘our biggest issue was (Ethan) missing assignments.’
When asked if she had ever searched through Ethan’s text messages or internet history, she said she would never do so and only ever looked through his ‘messy’ bedroom.
Jennifer faced backlash after it was found that her husband had purchased the 9mm handgun Ethan used in the shooting, however she testified that it was intended to be locked with a ‘cable lock’ and only ever used at a shooting range.
She shared a ‘happy’ social media post from the day she first took Ethan to the shooting range, saying that while she found shooting to be boring, it was a surprise to be asked by her son to spend time with him.
Due to Ethan’s newfound love of guns, Crumbley testified that she would threaten to stop taking him to the shooting range as punishment anytime he got bad grades.
Crumbley also recalled a time earlier in the year when she had been called into her son’s school because he had been looking up ammunition in class, which she brushed off as seeming like ‘not a big deal’ at the time.
Her testimony came after a detective also broke down at the emotional trial as he spoke about the four young victims in the school shooting.
The crutch of the prosecutor’s argument falls on the perceived lack of action Ethan Crumbley’s parents took in the lead up to the shooting, missing multiple red flags including seeing hallucinations.
Around nine months before the shooting, his paranoid state was evident in texts to his mother, where he believed their family home was haunted.
In one text in March 2021, Ethan texted his mom, ‘Dude my door just slammed…. maybe it’s just my paranoia.’
He bought a Ouija board and claimed to see a ghost around their home that he named ‘Boris Johnson’, although Crumbley said some of her son’s antics should be taken with a pinch of salt as he enjoyed ‘messing around.’
At the time of the shooting, Jennifer claimed she was too busy at work to take him home, however questions were raised over whether she had been carrying out an affair with a local fire captain instead – a revelation that only came to light on Wednesday.
The fire captain, Brian Meloche, testified Wednesday that Crumbley told him she could sneak off from work that morning to meet up with him.
He added that the two of them would typically carry out their secret tryst on the mornings of workdays in a parking lot across from her job – although Crumbley testified that they would only meet once a week maximum.
She added in her testimony that the fire captain had met her son a couple of times, after he previously told cops he had never encountered the school shooter.
The actions Jennifer took on the day of the shooting have taken center stage in her trial this week, as prosecutors claim she played a role in not preventing Ethan from carrying out the shooting.
When she and her husband James – who is facing the same charges and is set to stand trial in March – were called into the school, they said they were too busy with work.
Aside from claims she may have been with Meloche, Jennifer said she wouldn’t be able to watch her son that day as she had to work – a claim countered by her former boss.
Andrew Smith, who fired Crumbley in the days after her son’s school shooting, took the stand Wednesday to insist that she would have been allowed to leave work for the day if she said she needed to take care of her son.
He added that if she needed to bring Ethan to work with her, that would have also been allowed.
As she returned to work following the alarming meeting, Smith testified that later that morning saw Jennifer Crumbley racing down the hall of their workplace, screaming over an active shooter report at her son’s school.
As she then left work, Crumbley texted her boss that ‘the gun is gone and so are the bullets’ in her home, which he said he was ‘surprised’ to be told by the mother.
In another text shown in court, Crumbley told her boss: ‘I need my job. Please don’t judge me for what my son did.
Smith testified that Crumbley was fired from her job days after the shooting, as she and her husband appeared to try and evade police by hiding in Detroit. Her lawyer argued she fled due to threats from the public over her son’s actions.