Ethan Robert Crumbley was in a very bad place. The signs were there, but somehow a failing system and otherwise occupied parents allowed them to be ignored. In November 2021 things finally reached a deadly peak when a then 15 year-old Crumbley brought a semi-automatic gun to Oxford High School in his backpack. He then strolled casually into a restroom where he pulled out the gun, leaving his discarded backpack in a state of disarray. Ethan Crumbley shot 12 students, killing four of them.
Later, authorities would find his journal which was still in Crumbley's backpack. It contained 22 pages of handwritten notes and drawings describing how he felt and what he wanted to do to his fellow classmates. Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is the fact that teachers were aware of these drawings before the shooting. They did everything right, but it wasn't enough.
Ethan Crumbley's drawings told the story of a deeply disturbed child.
One of Crumbley's drawings was spotted by an Oxford High School teacher the day of the shooting. She quickly took a photo of it using her cell phone camera, with the intention of showing higher-ups at the school. The illustrations were essentially a road map to what would happen hours later. Crumbley drew a picture of a bullet over which he wrote, "the thoughts won't stop, help me," followed by "blood everywhere," per The Detroit News.
A drawing of a female student bleeding from two gunshot wounds was made even more chilling by a laughing emoji Crumbley included. "My life is useless," he wrote. "The world is dead." The school made the decision to remove Crumbley from the classroom while they called his parents in for a meeting. By the time they arrived, Crumbley had crossed out much of his ghastly work but the school still requested he get into counseling within the next 48 hours and wanted to send him home. Crumbley did not go home that day.
Why didn't Ethan Crumbley's parents bring him home?
According to ABC 7 Chicago, Crumbley's mother Jennifer Crumbley might have been worried about her job. Had she pulled Crumbley from school, she probably would need to take off or might have brought him into the office. She worked in the marketing department for a real estate company but her boss testified that they are "very family friendly, family first." That sent a message to the jury that Jennifer's job would have been very understanding of her familial issues.
Andrew Smith, Crumbley's boss, also revealed a very odd message he received from Jennifer the day of the shooting. Once she got word about what happened at the school, Jennifer rushed out of the office but texted Smith later. She told Smith that Crumbley "must be the shooter ... I need my job. Please don't judge me for what my son did." What did Smith think of this? "I was a little taken aback," he testified. "I was surprised she was worried about work."
Jennifer and her husband, James Crumbley, have both been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the deaths of the students from Oxford High School. Jennifer's trial began in January 2024 while James's is scheduled for March.