Prosecutor uses texts to try to show mom of school shooter cared more about horses than son

Jan 26, 2024, 10:23 AM

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday sought to portray the mother of a Michigan school shooter as an aloof parent more interested in horses than the mental health of her teenage son who was apparently having hallucinations months before killing four students.

Jennifer Crumbley, 45, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter, the first time parents have been charged in a U.S. mass school shooting. She and her husband are accused of contributing to the deaths at Oxford High School by neglecting their son’s needs and making a gun accessible at home.

Evidence shows Jennifer Crumbley and her husband James were riding horses and didn’t respond when Ethan Crumbley sent her text messages on March 17, 2021, saying their house was haunted.

She had told her husband earlier that day that she wanted to “get drunk and ride my horse,” according to a message displayed to the jury.

Ethan Crumbley said he was scared because “demons” were “throwing bowls.”

“Can you text back?” he asked his mother.

Three days later, when his parents again were riding horses, Ethan Crumbley messaged: “Clothes started flying off the shelf. This stuff only happens when I’m home alone.”

The prosecutor’s computer crimes expert, Ed Wagrowski, testified that the hallucinations “could have been warnings” to the parents.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Shannon Smith said there could be reasons why Jennifer Crumbley didn’t reply or even see the messages in a timely manner. She mentioned weak wireless service in the area or a belief that Ethan Crumbley was joking.

Wagrowski acknowledged some of those points.

“I don’t know what she’s thinking, no,” he said.

In April 2021, seven months before the school attack, Ethan Crumbley told a friend that he was “mentally and physically dying.” He said he asked his father to take him to a doctor but was told to “suck it up.”

Prosecutors sought to contrast the alleged neglect of her son with more detailed messages by Jennifer Crumbley about the treatment her horse, Billy, needed for a bad leg.

“Make sure you get in between the heel bulbs,” she directed.

That was a day before the school shooting. At the same time, the school was leaving a voicemail to tell her that Ethan Crumbley had been searching for ammunition on his phone, but he wasn’t in trouble. The message was played in court.

The 17-year-old was sentenced to life in prison in December after he pleaded guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes. Ethan Crumbley was 15 at the time of the shooting.

James Crumbley faces trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in March.

Smith told jurors Thursday that the mother was “hypervigilant” about her son and shouldn’t be blamed for the deaths. Jennifer Crumbley is expected to testify in the days ahead.

Smith wants to challenge some evidence by having Ethan Crumbley or his doctors speak to the jury. But his lawyers have said he would invoke his right to remain silent and also would not waive a right to privacy with psychiatrists.


Follow Ed White at

National News

Associated Press

US investigating some Jeep and Ram vehicles after getting complaints of abrupt engine stalling

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. auto safety regulators are investigating complaints that some Ram pickup trucks and Jeep Wagoneer SUVs can lose power, shift into park and apply the emergency brake. The probe announced Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers about 150,000 vehicles made by Stellantis from the 2022 model year. All have […]

33 minutes ago

Associated Press

US-Russian journalist convicted in a rapid, secret trial, court records show

A Russian court has convicted Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday. The conviction in the city of Kazan came on Friday, the […]

57 minutes ago

FILE - A Delta Air Lines jet leaves the gate, Friday, July 19, 2024, at Logan International Airport...

Associated Press

Air travel delays continue, though most airlines have recovered from global tech outage

Delays at some airports continue after a faulty software update caused havoc worldwide and led to the grounding by almost all airlines of a number of flights, but the impact is receding. Total cancellations within, into or out of the U.S. earlyl Monday totaled 758, according to the latest data from FlightAware, which is greater […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Harris vows to ‘earn and win’ party nomination after Biden drops out

President Joe Biden dropped out of the 2024 race for the White House on Sunday, ending his bid for reelection following a disastrous debate with Donald Trump that raised doubts about his fitness for office just four months before the election. Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris is being thrust into the most scrutinizing of spotlights, […]

2 hours ago

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks to employees in Washington, Thur...

Associated Press

EPA awards $4.3 billion to fund projects in 30 states to reduce climate pollution

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding $4.3 billion in grants to fund projects in 30 states to reduce climate pollution. The money will go to 25 projects targeting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electric power, commercial and residential buildings, industry, agriculture and waste and materials management. The grants are paid for by […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asian shares fall after Wall St ends worst week; Biden withdraw from 2024 race

Asian stocks were mostly lower Monday after President Joe Biden exited the 2024 race. The downbeat start to the week followed losses Friday on Wall Street as businesses around the world scrambled to contain disruptions from a massive technology outage. U.S. futures were little changed and oil prices rose. Biden announced his withdrawal from the […]

9 hours ago

Prosecutor uses texts to try to show mom of school shooter cared more about horses than son