Parents of Michigan Shooting Suspect Are on Suicide Watch

They were arrested after a brief manhunt and are being held in the same jail as their son.
​Jennifer and James Crumbley (Oakland County Sheriff's Department)
Jennifer and James Crumbley (Oakland County Sheriff's Department)

The 15-year-old accused of killing four of his classmates and injuring several others is on suicide watch—as are his parents, who were arrested this weekend after a brief manhunt. 

James and Jennifer Crumbley pleaded not guilty Saturday to four counts of involuntary manslaughter, which they were charged with in connection with their son’s alleged mass shooting at Oxford High School in a Detroit suburb. The couple failed to appear at their initial arraignment on Friday and allegedly withdrew $4,000 from an ATM in nearby Rochester Hills; they were arrested early Saturday in Detroit after their car was spotted and reported by a tipster. 

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Detroit Police Chief James White told reporters Saturday that the Crumbleys were “very distressed” after being arrested. 

The Crumbleys are being charged for allegedly providing their son unrestricted access to a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun that James Crumbley bought on Black Friday, four days prior to the shooting. The gun was a Christmas present for the teen. He and his parents met with school officials on the morning of the shooting, after multiple teachers reported seeing disturbing drawings and images in class, according to a letter from Oxford Community Schools superintendent Tim Throne

The teen suspect was immediately pulled out of class after a teacher saw a piece of paper in front of the student with the words scribbled “the thoughts won’t stop, help me” along with a drawing of a bullet, according to the Detroit News

During the meeting, according to Throne, guidance counselors told the alleged shooter and his parents “that they had 48 hours to seek counseling for their child or the school would contact Child Protective Services. 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.” 

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“Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house,” Throne said. 

The Crumbleys’ lawyers maintained Saturday that their clients were innocent and accused the prosecution of presenting “incomplete facts.” 

“We need an opportunity to fight this case in court and not in the court of public opinion,” attorney Shannon Smith said during Saturday’s arraignment. 

Andrzej Sikora, a 65-year-old Detroit artist whose workspace provided the Crumbleys with a hiding spot for less than 24 hours, is cooperating with authorities. His lawyer told the AP Sunday that Sikora had a “friendly relationship” with the couple and met them at his building on Friday, but wasn’t aware that they’d stayed the night. 

“There was a lot of confusion and the Crumbleys went to him for safety. He didn’t know about the charges,” attorney Clarence Dass said. “They were there in the daytime. He left in the early evening. He didn’t even know they were still there.”

Sikora later contacted police voluntarily, his lawyer said. 

The Crumbleys and their son are all being held at the same prison facility, in nearby Pontiac, and are on constant suicide watch, authorities said Saturday. 

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More charges may be forthcoming. School officials had a legal right to search the alleged shooter’s bag and locker but did not, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald told CNN Monday.

“We don't know exactly if that weapon was in his bag, where it was, we just know it was in the school and he had access to it,” McDonald said.

McDonald declined to say if she would charge school staff in connection with the murders. “We haven't ruled out charging anyone,” she told CNN. 

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If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.