PONTIAC, Mich. — Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of teenage school shooter Ethan Crumbley, said her husband was responsible for storing the gun he had bought him as an early Christmas gift in 2021 and that she hid the bullets after taking him to a gun range.
In testimony Thursday at her involuntary manslaughter trial, the Michigan mother also said his school failed to tell her about his difficulty staying awake and paying attention in his classes at Oxford High School.
“If you heard your son was having a rough time, what would you do to follow up?” Crumbley’s defense lawyer, Shannon Smith, asked.
“I would talk to my son and find out what’s going on,” Crumbley said.
She acknowledged her son was generally worried about his future after high school and would get stressed out, but his mental health never alarmed her enough that she felt he needed to see a professional.
“There was a couple of times when Ethan had expressed anxiety over taking tests, anxiety about what he was going to do after high school, whether it was college, military,” Crumbley said. “So he expressed those concerns to me. Not to a level where I felt he needed to see a psychiatrist or mental health professional right away.”
Her relationship with her son was the crux of her highly anticipated testimony in which her lawyer has said would show why the Michigan mother “could have never anticipated” that he would go on a shooting spree in 2021.
Crumbley, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter after Ethan killed four students at Oxford High School, is an unusual case of the parent of a school shooter facing criminal responsibility.
During her testimony, the jury was shown dozens of images from Crumbley’s Facebook page of her family spending time together spanning several years.
“I trusted him and I felt we had an open door and he can talk to me about anything,” Crumbley said. “I thought as a family we were really close.”
Prosecutors argued she knew of her son’s deteriorating mental health and social isolation and that he had access to a gun, but she cared more about her horses than his concerns.
“Jennifer Crumbley didn’t pull the trigger that day, but she’s responsible for their deaths,” assistant Oakland County prosecutor Marc Keast said during his opening statement.
But her defense told the jury that while she was a caring mother, she did not know her son was capable of such violence — suggesting it was his school that failed to fully inform her and her husband who was responsible for storing the weapon.
“She is going to take the stand and tell you about her life with her son, about the day he became the shooter and about the day he did something she could have never anticipated or fathomed or predicted,” Smith said in her opening statement to the jury, adding, “You will hear that the school never advised Mrs. Crumbley of problematic issues.”
Jennifer Crumbley’s husband, James, will face his own trial set for March on the same charges of involuntary manslaughter.
If found guilty, the Crumbleys each face up to 15 years in prison and a $7,500 fine per charge.
The trial has mostly centered around the day of the shooting on Nov. 30, 2021.
During a week of presenting its case, prosecutors called more than 20 witnesses, including law enforcement and school staff, and showed text message and video evidence, including school surveillance of the shooting itself.
The video of the shooting led Crumbley to put her head down and sob.
A day after Thanksgiving, prosecutors say James and Jennifer Crumbley bought their son a 9mm Sig Sauer.
Jennifer Crumbley testified that Ethan asked her that weekend to take him to a gun range, which was the only place where he was allowed to shoot, she said.
“It was a fun day,” Crumbley said. “I felt good about it.”
She added that she “didn’t feel comfortable” being responsible for storing the gun, which also had a cable lock.
That Monday, a teacher at Oxford High School said she saw Ethan searching online for ammunition, according to prosecutors, and the school left a voicemail for his mother. The following day, a teacher said she found a note on Ethan’s desk with a drawing of a gun and a person who was shot, and messages including, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
That discovery prompted the school to summon the parents for a meeting, but school officials testified that they declined to bring him home because they had to go back to work.
The officials also said that if the parents had informed them that their son had access to a gun, they would have been more authoritative to ensure immediate safety.
Ethan would go on to commit the school shooting later that afternoon.
He pleaded guilty as an adult to murder, terrorism and other crimes, and was sentenced in December to life in prison without parole.
Selina Guevara reported from Pontiac, and Erik Ortiz from New York.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
First appeared on www.nbcnews.com