The parents of the teen charged in the Oxford High School shooting pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges Saturday morning, hours after community members gathered to mourn the four students who were shot and killed at the suburban Detroit high school.
A judge set bond at $500,000 each for James Crumbley, 45, and Jennifer Crumbley, 43, substantially more than defense attorneys had asked for. Each parent was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said they bought the firearm used in the shooting for their son, Ethan Crumbley, 15, as a Christmas gift. He is accused of fatally shooting four students and injuring seven others on Tuesday.
The teen was charged Wednesday as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes in what investigators described as a methodical and deliberate massacre.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered with candles at a Friday night vigil to honor the dead. The gathering began with four minutes of silence for the four lives lost: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17.
Funeral services were scheduled for the coming days, starting Saturday.
Oakland County Executive David Coulter told the crowd the lives lost and the harm done to the survivors will always be remembered, but so would the coming together of a community.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that while the community has lived through “one of the worst weeks in Michigan history,” they have also seen some of the best in one another.
“We’ve seen the best in our kids, who are stronger than we could have ever imagined,” she said. “We’ve seen the best in our teachers, who acted quickly and saved lives. We saw the best in our Meijer employees, who helped reunite families. We saw the best in the doctors and the nurses and the faith leaders who’ve helped us get through this tough, horrific moment. We saw the best in our first responders who got there so quick. And the best in Michiganders everywhere, who have donated money to help the community.”
There were threats against the candlelight vigil Friday night as part of a “huge spike in threats” to the community in the days following the shooting, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Saturday.
At its first-ever Big Ten championship game appearance Saturday, the University of Michigan football team’s jerseys will include a patch with Oxford High School’s colors – blue and gold – and four hearts for the four slain students. The patch also will feature the letters “TM” and the number “42,” which was once worn by Tate Myre, an Oxford football player.
Sunday, the Detroit Lions will honor the victims with an Oxford-themed helmet decal and a moment of silence before their game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Here’s what we know Saturday:
Remembering the victims:Oxford shooting deaths include honor student, athletes and artist
Judge sets bond for suspect’s parents at combined $1M
Citing concerns that James and Jennifer Crumbley did not appear at an arraignment Friday, Judge Julie Nicholson of Rochester Hills District Court set bond at a combined $1 million. The two appeared for the arraignment via video from the Oakland County Jail.
Friday, the U.S. Marshals Service issued “Wanted” posters and offered a reward for information leading to the Crumbleys’ arrests. They were found and arrested early Saturday in Detroit, a little more than two hours after someone saw their vehicle and called police.
The two were found inside a commercial building and were “distressed,” Detroit Police Chief James White told reporters. They were unarmed, he said.
White said police believe someone had let the Crumbleys into the building. He said those who aided the couple could face criminal charges.
The Crumbleys’ attorneys said in Saturday’s court appearance that their clients were not fleeing and the missed court appearance was the result of miscommunication.
“Our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in,” said Shannon Smith, one of the couple’s attorneys. “It was just a matter of logistics.”
Bouchard said at a press conference Saturday that James and Jennifer Crumbley “weren’t looking for surrendering at that point.”
“Given that they were hiding in a warehouse in Detroit, it certainly raises my eyebrows,” the sheriff said.
The parents are in custody at the same facility as their son. James, Jennifer and Ethan Crumbley are all being held individually, without any interaction, Bouchard said.
Judge Julie Nicholson of Rochester Hills District Court cited concerns about flight risk before setting bond Saturday.
“These charges are very, very serious, there’s no question about that,” Nicholson said. “The court does have some concern about the flight risk along with the public safety given the circumstances that occurred yesterday and the fact that defendants did have to be apprehended in order to appear for purposes of arraignment.”
Oxford High School shooting:Prosecutor says unreleased evidence is ‘troubling, disturbing
Family’s attorneys dispute claim gun was left unlocked
Prosecutors said the gun used in the shooting was stored in an unlocked drawer in the Crumbley’s home after the couple bought their son the weapon as a Christmas present.
McDonald said at a news conference Friday that Ethan Crumbley’s parents didn’t ask where the gun was when they were called to the school the day of the shooting. They were called to the school because of a disturbing drawing their son made of a firearm.
She added that their investigation revealed Ethan Crumbley researched ammunition while at school and was allowed to return to class after the meeting with his parents.
Before Oxford shooting:Officials repeatedly told parents school was safe
Lawyers representing the parents contested claims that the Crumbleys left the gun unlocked. Smith said it was “absolutely not true” that Ethan Crumbley had “free access” to the gun.
The couple’s attorneys, Smith and Mariell Lehman, released a statement before the arraignment reading in part: “While it’s human nature to want to find someone to blame or something to point to or something that gives us answers, the charges in this case are intended to make an example and send a message. … We intend to fight this case in the courtroom and not in the court of public opinion. We know that in the end the entire story and truth will prevail.”
Fear, mental health concerns persist
The shell-shocked community has remained in fear since the shooting, Bouchard said Saturday. At the candlelight vigil to remember the lives of the slain Friday night, some panicked after an attendee may have passed out or experienced a health event, causing commotion with screaming and running, Bouchard said.
“People are absolutely terrified. Their kids are terrified,” Bouchard said. “That’s how raw they are. It’s terrifying to so many people.”
There were specific but unverified threats to the vigil, he said. “You’re hurting an already struggling community,” Bouchard added to anyone making threats.
Bouchard said deputies who responded to the shooting were “devastated.” Mental health specialists were flown in Saturday, he said.
“It’s not weakness to ask for help and to get help,” he said.
There is also grief counseling available to members of the school community, Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne said in a letter Saturday.
Investigation to continue into events at school prior to shooting
A third-party investigator will review the events leading up to the shooting, including actions taken after Ethan Crumbley was caught searching online for ammo and a teacher found disturbing drawings and statements depicting violence.
Throne said in a letter to the school community Saturday that an independent security consultant will review safety procedures in place at the school.
Ethan Crumbley was allowed to return to class on the day of the shooting after a meeting with his parents and school counselors earlier in the day.
“When the parents were asked to take their son home for the day, they flatly refused and left without their son, apparently to return to work,” Throne said.
Contributing: Dave Birkett, Darcie Moran, Liz Shepard, Bill Laitner, Susan Vela and Scott Talley, Detroit Free Press; Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY