Michigan school shooting: How Jennifer and James Crumbley spent hours on the run
On Friday afternoon, local time, Jennifer and James Crumbley reportedly withdrew $4,000 from an ATM and turned off their phones.
The Michigan couple had been asked to turn themselves in, charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter over the killings allegedly carried out by their 15-year-old son, Ethan, at Detroit’s Oxford High School.
Since the shooting on Tuesday — the deadliest to occur at a US school this year — details steadily emerged suggesting the Crumbleys’ culpability, with Oakland County prosecutor Karen D McDonald stating they had not only allowed their son access to a handgun but ignored glaring warnings that he was on the brink of violence.
According to their lawyers, the Crumbleys were forced to leave town for “their own safety”. They were not fleeing from authorities and intended to voluntarily return.
“Last night and throughout the day, we were in contact with our clients — they were scared, they were terrified, they were not at home, they were figuring out what to do, getting finances in order,” their lawyer, Shannon Smith, said during the couple’s arraignment.
“This case is absolutely the saddest, most tragic, worst case imaginable, there isno doubt. But our clients were going to turn themselves in — it was just a matter of logistics, and all the prosecution had to do was communicate with me about it, and we tried multiple times.”
Their other lawyer, Mariell Lehman, insisted neither of the Crumbleys is “a flight risk” or “danger to the community”.
“There’s no risk that they’re going to flee prosecution. They were never fleeing prosecution,” she added.
Law enforcement officials, however, were not convinced. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed authorities were searching for the parents, releasing wanted posters and offering a reward of $US10,000 ($AU14,000) for information leading to the “fugitives'” arrest.
“If they think they are going to get away, they are not,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN, who, asked if the Crumbleys were “missing now”, replied, “Correct”.
“The action of fleeing and ignoring their lawyer certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy,” he added in a statement.
“We have our Fugitive Apprehension Team, the FBI and the US Marshals Service and others actively looking for them and have every expectation we’ll have them in custody soon.”
After an hours-long manhunt, police found the couple inside a Detroit warehouse in the early hours of Saturday morning, local time, after receiving a tip-off from a member of the public who’d spotted the black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV they were believed to be driving outside.
“The owner of the building arrived and saw the car in the back parking lot, knew it didn’t belong there and went to investigate,” Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe told the local paper, The Detroit Free Press.
After checking the vehicle’s licence plate against information put out by law enforcement and discovering it was the same car, the building’s owner called the police.
The Crumbleys were arrested at about 1.45am and taken to Oakland County Jail. Detroit Police Chief James White said they “appeared to be hiding inside the building” but were unarmed and did not resist when officers found them.
There were no signs that the couple wanted to be found, he added, saying it wasn’t “indicative of turning themselves in”, despite their lawyer’s repeated insistence that was the plan.
The warehouse was about 80 kilometres from the Crumbleys’ home, near the northern US border with Canada.
Chief White said the couple were “aided” in getting access to the building, and charges may be filed as a result. One official told CNN the Detroit Police Department has identified a person of interest who was seen on surveillance footage guiding the Crumbleys as they parked their car in the back of the building.
“We believe they were assisted in that location to get there, to get in. We’re gathering that information and we’re going to have the totality of that done fairly soon,” Mr Bouchard said.
“Given that they were hiding in a warehouse in Detroit, it certainly raises my eyebrows.”
During the arraignment, Ms McDonald echoed the sentiment, doubling down on officials’ scepticism that the Crumbleys — who have pleaded not guilty to all charges — were planning on turning themselves into authorities.
“This is a very serious, horrible, terrible murder and shooting, and it has affected the entire community, and these two individuals could have stopped it … These are not people that we can be assured will return to court on their own,” she said.
“I can’t imagine why they were surprised. The whole country knew that these charges were coming.
“To suggest that anyone is somehow using this incident to create press, there’s a lot of attention here — because four children were murdered and seven others were injured. And that is on the mind of every single person in this country.”
In a press conference after the arraignment, Mr Bouchard said the entire Crumbley family are now in the same jail.
“They are segregated, each individually in isolation. We have an advanced watch on them,” he said.
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