(Reuters) -A Michigan judge on Thursday ordered the parents of an accused teenage school shooter to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, saying evidence showed they purchased their son a gun despite signs that he was a “troubled young man.”
Rochester District Court Judge Julie Nicholson said prosecutors during a two-day preliminary hearing had presented sufficient cause for James and Jennifer Crumbley to stand trial.
The case appears to mark the first U.S. case in which the parents of a teenage school shooter have been charged in connection with crimes allegedly committed by their child.Ethan Crumbley, 15, is charged with using the weapon his parents bought him as a Christmas gift to open fire at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Michigan, on Nov. 30, 2021. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges.
Four students were killed in the rampage and six other students and a teacher were wounded in the attack, the deadliest U.S. school shooting of 2021.
James Crumbley, 45, and Jennifer Crumbley, 43, have pleaded not guilty in the case. Their attorneys argued during the preliminary hearing that prosecutors had not submitted sufficient evidence to bound them over for trial.
The Crumbleys both dabbed tears from their eyes during testimony in the case as they sat at the defense table wearing prison garb. Jennifer Crumbley appeared emotional as the judge issued her ruling.
At one point during Thursday’s proceedings a defense attorney read excerpts from Ethan Crumbley’s journal, in which the teen wrote: “I hope my parents can forgive me for what I do.”
The defense asserted that the journal entry proved the boy had not told his parents of his plans.
Prosecutor Marc Keast read for the court a text message that the teenager had sent to a friend, saying: “I actually asked my dad to take me to the doctor yesterday, but he just gave me some pills and told me to suck it up.”
Four days before the shooting, Ethan Crumbley accompanied his father to a gun shop, where James Crumbley bought a 9mm handgun, prosecutors said.
The next day his mother posted on social media that the father and son were at a gun range “testing out his new Christmas present,” according to prosecutors.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los AngelesEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)