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School shooter's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are sentenced to 10-15 years

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The parents of the teen who carried out the deadliest school shooting in the history of Michigan are going to prison. A judge sentenced each to at least 10 years. They're the first parents to be convicted in connection with a mass shooting by their child. Here's Quinn Klinefelter of WDET.

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Jennifer and James Crumbley were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and the sentencing hearing marked the first time families of the victims at Oxford High directly addressed them. Parents like Nicole Beausoleil, whose daughter was shot at point-blank range, told the couple they deserve to be found guilty after buying their son a powerful handgun when he was already spiraling into despair.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NICOLE BEAUSOLEIL: (Crying) Not only did your son kill my daughter, but you both did, as well. The words involuntary should not be a part of your offense. Everything you did that day, months prior, and days after were voluntary acts.

KLINEFELTER: The prosecution claimed the parents had shown a, quote, "chilling lack of remorse," that James Crumbley even made profanity-laced threats against the prosecutor on jailhouse phone calls he knew were being recorded. Crumbley countered that he was only venting his frustration after being jailed for more than two years. And in the courtroom, Crumbley told the victims' families he grieved with them over what his son had become and what had been taken away from them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMES CRUMBLEY: (Crying) I am sorry for your loss as a result of what my son did. I cannot express how much I wish that I had known what was going on with him or what was going to happen.

KLINEFELTER: Both Crumbleys wanted the judge to sentence them to time served or to be released under house arrest. Jennifer Crumbley even requested to serve her time at the home of her defense attorney. She said the prosecution cast her as a parent who did not care about her son Ethan, when in fact, she was simply a normal mother who never knew the heinous crime the teen had planned.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JENNIFER CRUMBLEY: This could be any parent up here in my shoes. Ethan could be your child, could be your grandchild, your niece, your nephew, your brother, your sister. Your child can make a fatal decision, not just with a gun, but a knife, a vehicle, intentionally or unintentionally.

KLINEFELTER: But from the bench, Judge Cheryl Matthews said handing down the toughest sentence possible, 10-15 years, was not a message to other parents. Matthews said it was targeted specifically at a couple who never took the time to address their son's mental health and, even after being shown violent drawings he made in class, failed to tell the school they had just bought the teen a gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHERYL MATTHEWS: These convictions are not about poor parenting. These convictions confirm repeated acts, or lack of acts, that could have halted an oncoming runaway train, about repeatedly ignoring things that would make a reasonable person feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up.

KLINEFELTER: The Crumbleys remained in the courtroom briefly after the sentence was pronounced so they could fill out paperwork to begin the process of filing an appeal.

For NPR News, I'm Quinn Klinefelter in Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Quinn Klinefelter