The parents of a Michigan teen charged with killing four students this week at Oxford High School pleaded not guilty on Saturday to involuntary manslaughter charges, hours after police said they were caught hiding in a commercial building.
James and Jennifer Crumbley entered pleas to each of the four counts during a court appearance held on Zoom.
Judge Julie Nicholson imposed a combined $1 million US bond on the couple and added other requirements, such as GPS monitoring, agreeing with prosecutors that they posed a flight risk.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said the pair took $4,000 out of an ATM located not far from law enforcement or court locations that they could have reported to, suggesting they could not be trusted to appear for future court hearings.
“These are not people we can be sure will return to court on their own,” she said.
The Crumbleys were taken into custody in Detroit early Saturday — about 55 kilometres south of Oxford — several hours after a prosecutor filed involuntary manslaughter charges against them, officials said.
Couple ‘appeared to be hiding’
Defence lawyers for the Crumbleys said they never intended to flee and planned to turn themselves in on Saturday morning.
They accused prosecutors of “cherry picking” facts to publicly release and said their clients were afraid “for their own safety” and only wanted time to make arrangements.
“Our clients are just as devastated as everyone else,” lawyer Shannon Smith said.
However, Detroit police Chief James E. White said the Crumbleys “appeared to be hiding” in the building where they were found. He added that the parents appeared to be “distressed” when they were taken into custody.
The pair were captured in a building that housed artwork, White told a news conference. He said the couple “were aided in getting into the building” and that a person who helped them may also face charges.
A Detroit business owner spotted a car tied to the Crumbleys in his parking lot late Friday, Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said in a statement. A woman seen near the vehicle ran away when the business owner called 911, McCabe said. The couple was later located and arrested by Detroit police.
A prosecutor filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the Crumbleys on Friday, accusing them of failing to intervene on Tuesday, the day of the tragedy, despite being confronted with a drawing and chilling message — “blood everywhere” — that was found at the desk of their 15-year-old son, Ethan Crumbley.
The Crumbleys committed “egregious” acts, from buying a gun on Black Friday and making it available to their son to resisting his removal from school when they were summoned a few hours before the shooting, McDonald said.
School officials said they became concerned about the younger Crumbley on Monday, a day before the shooting, when a teacher saw him searching for ammunition on his phone, McDonald said.
Investigators said Ethan Crumbley emerged from a bathroom at the school on Tuesday carrying a gun and started shooting students in the hallway.
The prosecutor said the gun used had been kept in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom.
The teen is charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes.
Under Michigan law, the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents in such cases can be pursued if authorities believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high chance of harm or death.
Parents in the U.S. are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even as most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.