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Both sides rest in manslaughter trial of Michigan school shooter's dad

James Crumbley arrives to court March 7, 2024
Mandi Wright
James Crumbley arrives to court March 7, 2024

James Crumbley told a judge Wednesday that he would not testify in his own defense

Lawyers prepared for closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of the father of a Michigan school shooter after an out-of-state relative said she didn't see anything troubling about the teen during two visits in 2021, long before the attack.

Karen Crumbley, the sister of James Crumbley, said she saw her nephew Ethan in Florida and Michigan that spring and summer.

“Do you recall seeing anything concerning about your nephew? Do you recall him saying anything concerning to you?” defense attorney Mariell Lehman asked.

“No,” Karen Crumbley replied.

Lehman appeared to be trying to show jurors that family members saw no signs that would ultimately lead him to commit a mass shooting at Oxford High School. Prosecutors have argued that James Crumbley, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter, could have done more to prevent the killings of four students.

After his sister's brief appearance, he stood and said he would not testify in his own defense. There were no other defense witnesses.

“We talked about the benefits of you testifying. We talked about the risks of you testifying,” Lehman said.

“That is correct,” James Crumbley said.

Closing arguments on the fifth day of trial were set for early afternoon. Judge Cheryl Matthews implored the jury to avoid overhearing any courthouse chatter about the high-profile trial.

“Starting over would be devastating to everyone,” she said.

James Crumbley, 47, is accused of gross negligence by failing to safely secure the gun used by 15-year-old Ethan.

The boy took the gun from their home to school, killing four students and wounding seven more people on Nov. 30, 2021.

His mental state was declining: Ethan made a macabre drawing of a gun and a wounded man on a math assignment and added disturbing phrases, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

Yet James and Jennifer Crumbley declined to take Ethan home following a brief meeting at the school. He later pulled the Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun from his backpack and began shooting that same day. No one had checked the bag.

The gun was purchased by James Crumbley four days earlier.

The Crumbleys are the first U.S. parents to be charged with having criminal responsibility for a mass school shooting committed by a child. Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last month.

Testifying at her own trial, she told the jury that she wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Ethan Crumbley, now 17, is serving a life prison sentence for murder and terrorism.

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