PONTIAC, Mich. (NEXSTAR) – Two Michigan parents facing manslaughter charges after their son, Ethan Crumbley, allegedly killed four students at Oxford High School earlier this week, went missing on Friday.
Sheriff Mike Bouchard said an attorney for James and Jennifer Crumbley, Shannon Smith, had agreed to arrange their arrest if charges were filed but hadn’t been able to reach them.
“The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy,” Bouchard said in a written statement.
Smith, however, said the Crumbleys weren’t on the run and had left town earlier in the week “for their own safety.”
“They are returning to the area to be arraigned,” Smith told The Associated Press.
Several hours later the Crumbleys had yet to turn themselves in, and the U.S. Marshals announced that they had adopted the case. The Marshals added in a statement that their Detroit Fugitive Apprehension team was working in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to find the couple.
A prosecutor filed involuntary manslaughter charges Friday against the Crumbleys, saying they failed to intervene on the day of the tragedy despite being confronted with a drawing and chilling message — “blood everywhere” — that was found at the boy’s desk.
The Crumbleys committed “egregious” acts, from buying a gun on Black Friday and making it available to Ethan Crumbley to resisting his removal from school when they were summoned a few hours before the shooting, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
“I expect parents and everyone to have humanity and to step in and stop a potential tragedy,” she said. “The conclusion I draw is that there was absolute reason to believe this individual was dangerous and disturbed.”
Earlier, the prosecutor offered the most precise account so far of the events that led to the shooting, three days after four students were killed and others were wounded at the high school, roughly 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.
Ethan Crumbley, 15, emerged from a bathroom with a gun, shooting students in the hallway, investigators said. He’s charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes.
Under Michigan law, the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents 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.
The couple’s court appearance was pending. It wasn’t immediately known if they had attorneys who could comment.
School officials 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.
Jennifer Crumbley was contacted and subsequently told her son in a text message: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” according to the prosecutor.
On Tuesday, a teacher found a note on Ethan’s desk and took a photo. It was a drawing of a gun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” McDonald said.
There also was a drawing of a bullet, she said, with words above it: “Blood everywhere.”
Between the gun and the bullet was a person who appeared to have been shot twice and is bleeding. He also wrote, “My life is useless” and “The world is dead,” according to the prosecutor.
The school quickly had a meeting with Ethan and his parents, who were told to get him into counseling within 48 hours, McDonald said.
The Crumbleys failed to ask their son about the gun or check his backpack, McDonald said. The teen returned to class and the shooting subsequently occurred.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable — it’s criminal,” the prosecutor said.
“I fully support Prosecutor McDonald’s issuance of charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley. Demanding accountability of a child’s parents under the circumstances presented is not just appropriate, it’s crucial. Justice demands no less.
“My heart continues to go out to the families who lost their child in this unfathomable tragedy. We must not let this pass without properly addressing gun violence and responsible gun ownership.”Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
Jennifer Crumbley texted her son after the shooting, saying, “Ethan, don’t do it,” McDonald said.
James Crumbley called 911 to say that a gun was missing from their home and that Ethan might be the shooter. The gun had been kept in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom, McDonald said.
Ethan accompanied his father for the gun purchase on Nov. 26 and posted photos of the firearm on social media, saying, “Just got my new beauty today,” McDonald said.
In a video message to the community Thursday, the head of Oxford Community Schools said the high school looks like a “war zone” and won’t be ready for weeks. Superintendent Tim Throne repeatedly complimented students and staff for how they responded to the violence.
He also acknowledged the meeting of Crumbley, the parents, and school officials. Throne offered no details but summed it up by saying, “No discipline was warranted.”
McDonald was asked about the decision to keep Crumbley in school.
“Of course, he shouldn’t have gone back to that classroom. … I believe that is a universal position. I’m not going to chastise or attack, but yeah,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.