Prosecutors want to present evidence that the parents of Ethan Crumbley’s Michigan school shooter set the stage for the violence


Mass shooters “have a slow progression of violence over time and leave many warning signs,” a forensic psychologist testified Friday at a hearing for the parents of Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley.

Jennifer, 44, and James Crumbley, 46, have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors accused their son of easily inserting a gun and ignoring signs that he was a threat before last year’s shooting at Oxford High School. in four dead and seven wounded.

Prosecutors want to present future trial testimony from expert witnesses to show that the mass shooting could have been prevented with the right intervention. Prosecutors said the parents had put their son through years of “chaotic and toxic conflict” and left him in an unstable home with often little supervision, setting the stage for violence.

“We found that there is a consistent pattern to a mass shooting,” forensic psychologist Jillian Peterson testified in an Oakland County courtroom Friday. “Mass shootings have a slow progression of violence over time. They don’t just burn and leave a lot of warning signs along the way.”

Before the first witness took the stand, the defense admitted that the witnesses are experts, but disputed the reliability of their examinations and the relevance of their findings in this particular case.

Peterson testified that his research has shown a “consistent pathway” to violence that “often began with childhood trauma,” including “physical or sexual abuse, a chaotic family, neglect.”

“There was this slow build-up over time until what we called the tipping point,” said Peterson, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University. “That crisis point is usually a suicidal crisis, where the perpetrator is hopeless and isolated and no longer cares whether he lives or dies. At that point of crisis, their behavior is changing, they are behaving differently and they notice that those around them are behaving in a different way”.

That slow build often leads to “studying other perpetrators” of shootings — known as “social proof,” he testified, adding that shooters “look for patterns of behavior, often identify with previous shootings and see themselves in those previous shootings.”

Peterson said shooters often divulge their plans and violent intentions, acquire weapons and pinpoint a location that represents their “grievances with the world.”

Under questioning by the defense, Peterson said he had no evidence that the Crumbleys had seen any writings or text messages that suggested violence to their son.

Oakland County Assistant District Attorney David Williams told the judge that the jury should hear from experts that mass shootings are not inevitable.

“We are not disabled and we don’t have to live alone with them. They can be avoided,” he said.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that evidence of the teenager’s parents’ personal problems, including extramarital affairs and substance abuse, should be presented at trial.

The parents have pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers have argued in court documents that the charges have no legal merit and the couple should not be held responsible for their son’s murders. The teenager may be called as a witness in his parents’ case, according to his lawyer.

At the start of the hearing, the couple told Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews that they had agreed to waive their dispute over joint representation. The Crumbleys, in black-and-white and orange jumpsuits, sat at the defense table, separated by lawyers. It is not clear whether the court will make a decision on Friday.

Their 16-year-old son Ethan pleaded guilty Monday to a felony count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder and 19 other charges stemming from the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High that killed Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana San Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17.

James Crumbley bought the gun used in the shooting four days before the fatal attack, prosecutors said.

Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, previously pleaded not guilty but changed his plea at Monday’s hearing. His defense team had previously entered a plea of ​​juvenile insanity, but ultimately decided a guilty plea was in his best interest, attorney Paulette Michel Loftin said.