Parents of Michigan high school shooting suspect appear in court on manslaughter charges
By Amir Vera, CNN
(CNN) -- The parents of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old charged in the deadly Michigan high school shooting last month, appeared at a probable cause hearing Tuesday afternoon, their first in-person appearance in court.
James and Jennifer Crumbley each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors accused the pair of giving their son unfettered access to the gun he's accused of using.
The gunfire at Oxford High School on November 30 left four students dead. The slain students were identified as Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17, authorities said.
The shooting also left seven others -- six students and a teacher -- injured.
Ethan Crumbley is charged as an adult with one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The judge entered a plea of not guilty per a request from Crumbley's attorney during an arraignment December 1.
Tuesday's probable cause hearing for his parents was adjourned until February 8 after both prosecutors and defense attorneys said they need more time to go through discovery.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said her office is still going through an "unprecedented" amount of discovery and only has about one third of the material.
"The volume of discovery in this case is staggering," McDonald said in court.
Prosecutors gave defense attorneys some 500 pages of discovery on Monday in what McDonald called the "first wave." Her office has another 40 gigabytes of data to process including reports, surveillance video, recorded witness statements and other documents, she said.
On the heels of funerals for the victims, prosecutors have decided not to do witness interviews over the holidays.
"We do not think it's in their best interest or in the interest of justice to do that during the holiday season," McDonald said.
Both James and Jennifer were shackled at the wrist and sat at the same table, with their defense attorneys between them.
McDonald said she expects the preliminary hearing in February to take three to five days, with approximately 15 to 20 witnesses.
Defense attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman requested a bond hearing, which the judge scheduled for January 7.
Judge Julie Nicholson signed a protective order which prohibits the public release of any materials regarding the actual shooting and subsequent injuries to protect the victims.
A previously scheduled hearing for next week was canceled.
Ethan Crumbley appeared via video from the Oakland County Jail on Monday, where he is currently being held. He wore a face mask and only spoke when asked to identify himself or when he acknowledged he understood his rights. The probable cause hearing in his case was postponed until January 7.
Father bought a gun prior to the shooting, prosecutor says
McDonald alleges James Crumbley bought the gun used in the shooting at a store in Oxford on November 26, and the parents gave the weapon to their son as an early Christmas present.
Ethan Crumbley shortly posted a picture of a gun on an Instagram account and captioned it, "Just got my new beauty today. SIG SAUER 9mm" with a heart-eyes emoji, McDonald said earlier this month.
Jennifer Crumbley also posted about the gun on social media, calling it "his new Christmas present," McDonald continued. And his mother also took him to a shooting range the weekend before the shooting, according to a law enforcement.
When students returned from Thanksgiving break the day before the shooting -- a Monday -- a teacher saw Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his phone and reported it to school officials, the prosecutor said.
The teacher notified school officials, who contacted the parents via phone and email, but they reportedly did not respond.
Later on Monday, Jennifer Crumbley sent Ethan a text message saying, "LOL I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught," McDonald said.
The next day -- the day of the shooting -- another teacher found a drawing on Ethan Crumbley's desk which essentially depicted a shooting, McDonald said. It "alarmed her to the point that she took a picture of it on her cell phone," the prosecutor said.
The illustration showed a "semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words, 'The thoughts won't stop, help me,'" and it included a drawing of a bullet with the words "blood everywhere" written above it, McDonald said. The words "my life is useless" and "the world is dead" were also written on the drawing.
The distressing picture led school officials to hold a meeting with Ethan Crumbley and his parents, who were instructed to help provide counseling for their son within 48 hours, school officials have said.
The parents declined to take their son out of school that day, McDonald said, and he was allowed to return to the classroom.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne said because the suspect had no prior disciplinary actions on his record, school counselors decided to allow him to return to class, rather than send him to what they thought would be an empty home.
Shooting at Oxford High spanned about 5 minutes, prosecutor says
Surveillance cameras at the school captured much of the violence, prosecutors have said.
Just before 12:51 p.m. the day of the shooting, Ethan Crumbley could be seen with a backpack, then a minute or two later, exiting a bathroom without the backpack but with a gun in hand, Prosecutor Marc Keast said during Crumbley's arraignment.
Crumbley then allegedly began to "methodically and deliberately" walk the hallways, aiming a gun at students and firing the weapon, Keast said.
When students began to run away, Crumbley allegedly continued to go down the hallway at a "methodical pace" and shot inside classrooms and at students who hadn't escaped, Keast said.
This continued for another four or five minutes, and Crumbley eventually went to another bathroom, Keast said.
Dozens of terrified students called 911. The call center received more than 100 calls as police raced to the school at 12:52 p.m. local time, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.
When deputies arrived, the suspect set down the gun and surrendered, officials have said.
Ethan Crumbley was initially being held at Oakland County Children's Village, a juvenile detention facility. Because he was charged as an adult, he was transferred to the Oakland County Jail.
On Monday, attorneys for Crumbley asked that he be transferred from the jail back to the Children's Village.
Deborah McKelvy, who was appointed the teen's guardian ad litem, said Crumbley should be moved because he can hear adults, which violates the statute for minors being held in adult facilities.
The judge denied the request, and Keast said he will contact the facility personally to ensure Crumbley is not in sight or sound of adults at the jail.
James and Jennifer Crumbley arrested after manhunt
James and Jennifer Crumbley initially had an arraignment scheduled for December 3, but they failed to show up to court.
An hours-long manhunt followed. The couple was found early the next morning on the first floor of a commercial building in Detroit -- some 40 miles south of the Oxford area where they live -- after someone tipped off police Friday night that their vehicle was nearby.
"They appeared to be hiding in the building," Detroit Police Chief James White said during a news conference.
The man accused of helping the parents hide identified himself as Andrzej Sikora, 65. Sikora and his attorney, Clarence Dass, have cooperated with authorities, Dass said. Last week, a search warrant was executed at Sikora's home after he and his attorney voluntarily went to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, where he was interviewed for more than two hours.
"Mr. Sikora fully cooperated and answered all of law enforcement's questions. Mr. Sikora did not assist the Crumbleys in evading law enforcement, did not know there was a warrant for their arrest, and did not know they were at his art studio at the time of their arrest," Dass said in a statement. "He has not been charged with any crime, and will continue to assist members of law enforcement in their pursuit of justice."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a Monday court appearance by Ethan Crumbley was postponed. He appeared in court via video, but the hearing was postponed after prosecutors asked for more time to review evidence.
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