Crumbleys withdrew cash, sold horses and bought burner phones after discovering son was mass-shooting suspect

By Gustaf Kilander
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office

The parents of Michigan high school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley withdrew cash, sold their horses, and bought four burner phones after finding out about their son’s actions.

Jennifer and James Crumbley were taken into custody on 4 December in a warehouse in Detroit following the Oxford High School shooting on 30 November that left four students dead.

During a bond hearing on Friday, a detailed account of the parents’ actions was shared as District Court Judge Julie Nicholson denied their lawyers’ request to lower their $500,000 bonds to $100,000 each, according to The Detroit News. They are both jailed on four charges each of involuntary manslaughter following Ethan Crumbley’s suspected killing of four students and wounding of seven others.

Ms Nicholson cited the Crumbleys’ connections to family in Florida when rejecting the request to decrease the bonds. She also mentioned the seriousness of the charges and that they fled to an artist studio in eastern Detroit, where they were apprehended by police early on 4 December.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said that when they were taken into custody, they had $6,600 in cash, “more than a dozen credit cards and gift cards” and four phones.

The four students who died during the shooting on 30 November were Hana St Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, and Justin Shilling, 17.

The charges against Ethan Crumbley include first-degree murder and terror. His probable cause hearing and preliminary exam were waived on Friday. The 15-year-old will be tried as an adult.

Ms McDonald argued that the boy’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, pose a flight risk because of their family in Florida and because of their actions between the shooting on 30 November and their arrest on 4 December.

“We need to talk about and address what Jennifer and James Crumbley did on November 30, just hours after their son murdered children in school,” Ms McDonald said. “They started making plans.”

Four hours after the shooting, at 4.42pm on 30 November, Ms McDonald said Ms Crumbley texted a contact that “she needed to sell her horses fast”.

Ms McDonald said that “they drained their son’s bank account” later that day, taking out $3,000 and leaving 99 cents. They reportedly checked into a hotel across the street from a police station the next morning. It was only “miles” away from the courthouse, Ms McDonald said. She added that at the hotel, the deliberation about selling the horses continued for a possible sum of $5,000.

They were supposed to turn themselves in on 3 December, but at 9am on 2 December, the prosecutor said $2,000 was removed from their bank account.

“Text messages and testimony will reveal that the Crumbleys expected to be criminally charged the next day,” Ms McDonald said. She added that the parents left the hotel at 9.30am on 3 December, leaving a car behind in the parking lot.

Jennifer Crumbley finished the sale of the horses via text at around 10am. They took out another $4,000 that same day. Ms McDonald said Ms Crumbley got in touch with her friend Andrzej Sikora, an artist who had the studio in Detroit, telling him that they needed “a place to sit”.

While the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office seized tablets and phones from Mr Sikora last month, he hasn’t been charged in the investigation.

“Once they arrived at this building, they never left the premises except once, to smoke, and also when James Crumbley moved their car so the license plate would not be visible,” Ms McDonald said.

The prosecutor added that at around 1.30pm, the Crumbleys told Mr Sikora that they were facing criminal charges. They asked him to go get vodka, orange juice, and some bedding for them. Their arraignment was set for 4pm on 3 December. They were arrested at the warehouse around 10 hours later on 4 December and later arraigned that morning.

Ms McDonald described the warehouse as “an undisclosed industrial state where they tried to conceal their presence”.

The defence has argued that the Crumbleys didn’t flee, but that there had been some miscommunication, claiming in a court filing in December that Ms McDonald didn’t return messages and held a press briefing on 3 December while being aware that the defence attorneys were unavailable at the time.

“Prior to being charged and arrested, they had received and been made aware of a plethora of threats to their lives and to their safety and had to leave their home,” defence lawyer Mariell Lehman said on Friday, regarding the Crumbleys. “The sale of their home has been necessary as it is no longer a safe location for them to live, but it has nothing to do with a flight risk.”

The defence said that an Oakland County investigator had said that police “could conduct a felony stop and have [them] laying face down in the street” if they didn’t surrender, according to a text with defence lawyer Shannon Smith that was included in a legal filing last month.

The defence argued that the miscommunication along with the Crumbleys’ fear prompted them to leave their home and head to Detroit.

“We will get them in,” Ms Smith told the investigator. “They wouldn’t have paid us what they paid if they plan to run.”

Ms McDonald said the parents didn’t answer calls from their lawyers and didn’t contact law enforcement, despite being across the street from a police station at their hotel.

The arrest was the first time police had got ahold of the Crumbleys.

“This case is strong,” Assistant Prosecutor Mark Keast said, according to The Detroit News. “The defendants will be convicted. Once they’re convicted, they will go to prison.”

A hearing to determine if the Crumbleys will go to trial will be held on 8 February.

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