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Jennifer Crumbley is found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in son's mass shooting


In a Michigan courtroom today, a jury foreman announced a verdict in a trial of a mother charged with involuntary manslaughter as a result of the murderous action of her son.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: On count one of involuntary manslaughter, as to Madisyn Baldwin, we find the defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

PFEIFFER: The jury found that Jennifer Crumbley was criminally responsible for her son killing four students and wounding seven other people at Oxford High School in November 2021. Crumbley and her husband, James, were each charged with involuntary manslaughter and are being tried separately. Quinn Klinefelter with member station WDET is following the case and is with us. Hi, Quinn.


PFEIFFER: Quinn, as you know, there are experts saying this case sets a precedent that holds a parent legally responsible for the criminal actions of their child. Given that, what was it like in the courtroom? And what was the reaction of Jennifer Crumbley when the verdict was announced?

KLINEFELTER: It was a pretty packed courtroom. Family members of the victims were there. There didn't seem to be anybody on hand for Jennifer Crumbley, just as there has not been throughout the trial. When she came in, she didn't show much emotion, although she and her attorney did seem a bit tense. They kept putting on ChapStick. She kept her head down. It was different for the family members. They shook hands and hugged the prosecutors when the verdict came.

PFEIFFER: This was a shooting that occurred when Crumbley's son Ethan was 15. He's since been sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors had argued that Jennifer Crumbley ignored her son's mental health. What evidence did they present for that?

KLINEFELTER: Well, prosecutors used texts, Facebook messages and journal entries that said Crumbley's son was hallucinating, seeing things flying in their home, and that his parents were ignoring any pleas to see a doctor. The defense claimed that Jennifer Crumbley never saw those messages. But throughout the trial, the prosecution painted Crumbley as somebody who was more interested in her horses or her own affairs then how her son was doing. And prosecutor Karen McDonald said Crumbley's own testimony underlined her point when she said her son's actions had ruined so many lives, including her own.


KAREN MCDONALD: And she was asked the question, you lost everything. And she said, yes. She hasn't lost everything, ladies and gentlemen. Her son is still alive.

PFEIFFER: Quinn, prosecutors presented several witnesses, but the defense presented just one, Jennifer Crumbley, who testified on her own behalf. Was that a surprise that she was the only defense witness? And what did she have to say?

KLINEFELTER: It was a little bit of a surprise. She said she had no idea that her son was as troubled as he was, that she did not take him home from school the day of the shooting because counselors there assured her that he was not an immediate threat to anyone. And her attorney, Shannon Smith, argued the prosecution was wrong when it claimed Crumbley did not keep a gun securely locked away from her son, a gun the parents had bought him just days before the shooting as an early Christmas present.


SHANNON SMITH: No parent would purchase a weapon if they believed their child had mental illnesses.

PFEIFFER: Why are the parents being tried separately?

KLINEFELTER: Because they requested it. Their attorneys said some new evidence had come up that could pit the parents against each other, evidence that apparently involves who was responsible for keeping the gun secure and away from their son. In fact, this verdict could have big implications for the husband, James Crumbley's, trial. His trial is set for next month. He faces identical charges.

PFEIFFER: Jennifer Crumbley's sentencing is set for April 9. What kind of sentence could she get?

KLINEFELTER: Involuntary manslaughter carries a penalty of as much as 15 years in prison.

PFEIFFER: That is WDET'S Quinn Klinefelter. Thank you.

KLINEFELTER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Quinn Klinefelter
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