A Michigan judge began a preliminary hearing on Tuesday to decide whether prosecutors had enough evidence to try on involuntary manslaughter charges the parents of a teenager accused of killing four students at his high school.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, who have pleaded not guilty, are accused of buying their 15-year-old son Ethan the weapon he used to carry out the Nov. 30 attack as a Christmas gift, and of ignoring warning signs as late as the day of the shooting.
Prosecutors called their first of 16 witnesses, a horse farm worker who did business with the couple, at about 9:30 a.m. EST during the preliminary hearing in front of Rochester District Court Judge Julie Nicholson.
Nicholson will determine if there is enough evidence against the couple for a trial.
The case appears to be the first against the parents of a teenage school shooter. While other parents have been charged for deaths resulting from unsecured guns, those cases have involved much younger children, experts said.
Ethan Crumbley was charged with first-degree murder in the deadliest U.S. school shooting of 2021, in which four students were killed and six other students and a teacher were wounded at Oxford High School, 40 miles (65 km) north of Detroit. He has pleaded not guilty.
It was the latest in a decades-long string of deadly American school shootings.
Four days before the shooting, Ethan accompanied his father to a gun shop, where James Crumbley bought a 9mm handgun, prosecutors said.
The next day his mother posted that the two of them were at a gun range “testing out his new Christmas present”, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
Prosecutors have detailed a number of other warning signs that they said the parents failed to address including Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his phone.
Prosecutors said that on the morning of the shooting, a teacher discovered drawings by Ethan Crumbley that depicted a handgun, a bullet, and a bleeding figure.
School officials then summoned the Crumbleys. The parents resisted the idea of taking their son home and did not search his backpack nor ask him about the gun, according to McDonald.