Prosecutors’ claims that the parents of the Oxford High School shooter refused to get their son immediate help after learning about a violent drawing he’d made in class have been contradicted in depositions from officials at the school, according to a report.
According to the sworn statements seen by Detroit Free Press, the staff members say James and Jennifer Crumbley never refused to take their son Ethan Crumbley home after finding out about the picture, nor did a counselor demand that they remove him or threaten to contact Child Protective Services if they did not do so.
The revelations come as James and Jennifer Crumbley face charges of involuntary manslaughter over allegations that they gave Ethan Crumbley a gun and failed to get him help with his mental health before the shooting in Michigan in November 2021. They have denied the charges. In October, Ethan Crumbley, now 16, pleaded guilty to 24 counts related to the massacre in which four students were killed and six others and a teacher were injured.
A narrative promulgated by prosecutors about James and Jennifer Crumbley’s actions suggests that they insisted that their son be returned to class after he made a disturbing drawing that included blood, a gun, and the phrase: “The thought won’t stop, help me.”
Prosecutors argued in an October filing that evidence in the case against the parents would show that “they refused to take their son home even after being informed that he was suicidal,” while former Oxford Superintendent Tim Throne made a similar accusation in a letter to the school community last year. “When the parents were asked to take their son home for the day, they flatly refused and left without their son,” he wrote. He added that Ethan Crumbley’s parents “were notified that they had 48 hours to seek counseling for their child or the school would call Child Protective Services.”
According to a September deposition from Shawn Hopkins, the school counselor with Ethan Crumbley’s parents on the day of the shooting, that’s not what happened. “I did not state that they refused,” Hawkins said, according to the Free Press. Instead, Hawkins explained that Jennifer and James Crumbley told him “They were not able to do it that day.” Other statements from Hawkins appear to show him contradicting himself, the Free Press reported, including when a lawyer asked him if that day was the first time he’d recommended to parents that they remove their child from school to get help “where the parents apparently refused to take the student home.” “That is correct,” Hawkins allegedly replied.
Hawkins also said he told the parents he would contact them again in 48 hours after the meeting. “I did not tell them I was going to call CPS if they didn’t follow through,” he reportedly said in the deposition, though Hawkins said he was planning to make the call.
In a deposition, dean of students Nicholas Ejak also reportedly said that while school officials did recommend that the Crumbleys seek mental health support for their son, they agreed that there was no need to do so without delay.
“We didn’t insist that they do it immediately, especially after they said they had to return to work,” Ejak reportedly said in his September deposition. “But Ethan wasn’t in need of immediate care by any means. It was just important that he talked with somebody… get started in some type of outside counseling.”
He added later: “There would have been no reason for him to go home.”
The depositions differ from court testimony in that they are not subject to cross-examination. They were taken by Ven Johnson Law, a firm representing the families of the four students killed in the shooting along with others injured. Lawsuits allege that the school missed warning signs that, had they been acted on, could have avoided the massacre.
“It’s important for the public to understand that the standards for civil and criminal liability are different,” Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams told the Free Press in a statement. “Our first priority is complete transparency with the Oxford community. As we have previously stated, our office has reviewed all of the evidence that we have been presented so far, and we will continue to do so.”