James Crumbley’s threatening jailhouse calls revealed ahead of Michigan school shooter’s parents’ sentencing

Threatening jailhouse phone calls made by James Crumbley — the father of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley — towards the prosecutor leading his criminal case have now been released ahead of his sentencing next week.

Crumbley was convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter last month. His wife, Jennifer Crumbley, was also convicted of the same charges at a trial weeks earlier.

The Crumbleys made history as the first parents to ever be held criminally held accountable for a mass shooting committed by their child, after he murdered four of his classmates at Oxford High School in November 2021.

The shooter, who was 15 at the time, is now serving a life sentence over the school shooting.

While both parents now face up to 60 years in prison — 15 years per count — James Crumbley is asking for the judge to take into account his time served, the Detroit Free Press reported.

James Crumbley in mug shot (via REUTERS)
James Crumbley in mug shot (via REUTERS)

Prosecutors meanwhile are seeking lengthy sentences for both, saying that they have both shown a lack of remorse for their crimes.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald’s office is arguing that James Crumbley’s various phone calls attacking Ms McDonald call for him to be sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison.

“Defendant’s jail calls showed that he blamed everyone but himself for what happened and that he repeatedly referred to himself as being persecuted and considered himself a ‘martyr,’” they argued.

The phone calls were detailed in a Wednesday memo, showing how Crumbley referred to Ms McDonald as “a f***ing stupid b****. I hope you’re listening to this, you f***ing b****”.

James Crumbley also reportedly told the prosecutor on 9 October 2023: “Yeah, Karen McDonald, you’re going down. … Go ahead, record this call. Send it to Karen McDonald. Tell her how James Crumbley is going to f***ing take her down.”

In January, just months before his trial began in March, he allegedly said: “I am f***ing on a rampage, Karen. Yes, Karen McDonald. Your a** is going down and you better be f***ing scared.”

In the memo, proseuctors wrote he “showed a complete lack of remorse and disrespect for the court proceedings”.

Why were both parents put on trial?

School Shooting Michigan (Oakland County Sheriff's Office)
School Shooting Michigan (Oakland County Sheriff's Office)

James and Jennifer Crumbley were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, after prosecutors accused them of ignoring their son’s mental health condition and making the gun he used in the 30 November 2021 shooting accessible at home.

Four days before the shooting at Oxford High School, James Crumbley bought his son a gun, which Ethan described on Instagram as his “new beauty”.

Jennifer then took her son to a shooting range for practice.

A few days later, a teacher noticed the high school sophomore searching online for ammunition, sparking concerns and prompting school administrators to contact his parents.

Instead of responding to the school, his mother allegedly texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

The following day, the Crumbleys were called into the school for a meeting after school officials then found disturbing drawings done by Ethan in the classroom. The parents declined to take him home – and, just hours later, Ethan opened fire in his murderous rampage, killing four classmates: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.

“James Crumbley was presented with the easiest, most glaring opportunities to prevent the deaths of four students and he did nothing,” Ms McDonald told the court last month. “He did nothing — over and over and over again.”

Prosecutors argued repeatedly that both parents had the power to stop the shooting from happening, pointing out that James Crumbley knew the shooter must be his son when he heard of the shooting at his school.

A memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 03 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. (Getty Images)
A memorial outside of Oxford High School on December 03 2021 in Oxford, Michigan. (Getty Images)

They also said the parents ignored signs of their son’s poor mental state in the months leading up to the tragedy.

In a taped police interview, Jennifer Crumbley said she wished she had taken her son home that day.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the pair came under scrutiny for their strange behaviour. Reports showed the couple drained their son’s bank account. They withdrew cash, sold their horses, and bought four burner phones in the hours after finding out what their son had done.

When they were arrested four days after the shooting, the couple reportedly had $6,600 in cash, credit cards, gift cards and four phones.

A landmark case

Before Jennifer Crumbley’s case, never before had a parent been tried for their alleged involvement in a mass school shooting.

A judge for Michigan’s appellate court acknowledged the historic nature of the case in his opinion ruling that the Crumbleys should stand trial, saying: “Our legal system does not, nor should it, criminally punish people for subpar, odd, or eccentric parenting…However, before us is the unusual case.”

Jennifer Crumbley was convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter on 6 February, after two weeks of testimony and 10 hours of jury deliberation, while her husband was convicted of the same charges on 14 March.

The pair’s convictions on manslaughter charges could set new precedents for future school shooting cases.

Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in the Parkland mass school shooting, previously told The Independent that the Crumbleys’ case “will become a small step in our fight to end gun violence in the United States”.

The Crumbleys are both due to be sentenced on 9 April.