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Michigan School Shooter's Mom Testifies In Her Own Defense. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired February 01, 2024 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, DEFENDANT: And then when I'm back to the fire station, then I won't have a signal. And then I had hit the grocery store, I have a signal. Once I get back to the grocery, all the way to the barn, I had no signal.
SHANNON SMITH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Looking back on these texts now from March 9th, seeing him say there's someone in the house that day, someone locked in the bathroom, they the light on, do you think he was having mental issues that day?
SMITH: What do you think -- what was your conclusion about these messages at that time?
CRUMBLEY: He was just messing with us.
SMITH: Is this the kind of "messing" you previously talked about?
SMITH: All right, I want to go to March 20th. This is People's Exhibits 96 through 100. They established -- let me see, this is you, yes?
SMITH: OK. And another picture of you.
SMITH: And we've got data showing that you are out there, correct?
SMITH: And there's a text message exchange that was admitted as People's 96, and we'll put that up on the screen for you, OK?
SMITH: In People's 96, this is between you and your son, correct?
CRUMBLEY: Correct. SMITH: He says, "Can you at least text back." You're asking, "Where is
your dad, text me when you're done. Done yet?"
And he starts up with, "I just -- I finished picking up the room. I cleaned until clothes started flying off the shelf. This stuff only happens when I'm home alone. I picked the clothes back up though."
That's at, it looks like 2:34. And we may be off by an hour so because of UTC. This one's minus four.
Your next text is, "Jumping in the shower, text your dad if I don't respond." And your text, no matter what the time zone is, is six hours later.
Do you recall getting these text messages?
CRUMBLEY: It's two days in six hours later.
SMITH: I'm sorry, you're right. Two days and six hours.
So do you recall getting these couple on the 20th about, "I finished picking up the room. I cleaned until clothes started falling off the shelf. Do you recall that?
CRUMBLEY: Only when we got discovery.
SMITH: OK. Looking back on these dates, are you thinking, oh, my god, there were -- he thought things were happening that were crazy?
SMITH: Do you think anything of it now?
SMITH: What do you think is happening in those messages?
CRUMBLEY: I just think he was messing with us.
SMITH: OK. Those are three times where you guys are at the ranch and he's messing with you, is that a fair statement?
SMITH: At that time, that was months and months before November. It was in March, is that correct?
SMITH: OK. Beyond March, was there other times where he was saying these goofy texts and messing around?
CRUMBLEY: No, I don't think so.
SMITH: So there's two more dates I need to ask you about. I'm going to go to April 4th, which was a Sunday. And that is going to be Exhibit, that was admitted one-on-one, OK?
So Exhibit 101 are text messages, and these are between -- who are these between?
CRUMBLEY: Those were between my son and his friend.
SMITH: OK. Prior to this case, did you ever see any of these messages?
CRUMBLEY: I did not.
SMITH: Were you aware any of them existed?
CRUMBLEY: I was not.
SMITH: This is from April 4th and your son is saying -- sending messages that say, "I hear people talking to me and some in the distance. I actually asked my dad to take me to the doctor yesterday but he gave me some pills and told me to suck it up. It's at the point, I'm asking to go to the doctor."
Was there ever a time where he asked to go to the doctor around this time?
CRUMBLEY: I don't think so, no.
SMITH: Then he says, "My mom laughed when I told her."
Was there ever a time where he was asking for help and you are laughing?
SMITH: He writes to his friends -- and this is just later that night -- but, "I'm having bad insomnia and paranoia. I need help. I was thinking of calling 9-1-1 so I could go to the hospital, but then my parents would be really pissed."
OK, this is all one long conversation, is that right?
SMITH: He says, "I'm going to ask my parents to go to the doctors tomorrow or Tuesday again, but this time I'm going to tell them about the voices."
This text message or Instant Message thread, did you ever -- were you even aware of this?
SMITH: Do you remember any time where he came to talk to you and said anything about hearing voices?
CRUMBLEY: No. SMITH: Do you recall there ever been a time when he asked you for --
to go to a doctor or to get help and you said no --
SMITH: -- or laughed at him?
SMITH: So when you see these texts with his friend, do you have any idea -- and if you don't that's fine. Do you have any idea what he's doing with his friend?
CRUMBLEY: I don't have any idea.
SMITH: OK. Do you know if he and his friend messed around with each other like you and your husband do?
MARK KEAST, ASSISTANT OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Speculation, Judge.
SMITH: I'm sorry.
CHERYL MATTHEWS, OAKLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT JUDGE: Sustained.
SMITH: When you were testifying earlier today --
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We're watching potentially pivotal moments in the defense of Jennifer Crumbley as she is testifying that her son never approached her with concerns about his mental health and a desire to speak to mental health professionals about what he was experiencing.
She talked about how he would often "mess" with his parents by texting them videos from the house, apparently shutting a door, telling them that the house was haunted.
Serious questions about his mental status that she is trying to answer for. We'll see exactly how this plays out in court.
We will monitor the developments there and bring them to you after we take a quick break. We will be right back.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, we're listening to testimony from Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford High School shooter. That fatal shooting taking the lives of four students back in 2021, there in Michigan.
Let's listen in as she's talking about sort of the state of mind of her son in the months leading up to the shooting.
SMITH: Did you do anything to hurt in appearance when his friend was taken away, essentially, to the hospital, or to the other school? CRUMBLEY: I don't understand.
SMITH: Did you do anything different as a parent in terms of spending time with your son?
CRUMBLEY: I mean, we did as much as we could.
SMITH: Tell us about that. Tell us about that month.
CRUMBLEY: We did more family game nights than normal. He was working a lot. I would check in with him and make sure he was doing OK.
That's why I started asking him to have friends at school that you can hang out with, and if so, you're more than welcome to invite them over.
SMITH: OK --
CRUMBLEY: I was more pointing to the fact that he was sad.
SMITH: OK. Even though he was sad, did you feel like there is anything where he needed help or needed mental health treatment?
SMITH: Was the loss of his friend being in his life anything that made you think he needed counseling or a therapist?
CRUMBLEY: Not to that extent, no.
SMITH: And I'm going to unplug this so we can go to some questions that don't involve this. OK?
OK. So we were talking earlier about the mother-son gun range day, right? You've already told the jury how the gun was put in the car and taken out.
Now did you ever tell Brian Maloney about the mother-son day at the range?
CRUMBLEY: I'm sure I mentioned it, yes.
SMITH: Did you ever tell Brian that the gun was in your vehicle?
SMITH: When did you tell Brian that the gun was in your vehicle?
CRUMBLEY: On the day I went to the shooting range.
SMITH: Did you tell Brian you put the gun in your car the day the shooting happened?
CRUMBLEY: No. SMITH: So when he testified to that, was that accurate?
CRUMBLEY: No, I think he was confused.
SMITH: OK. Did you specifically tell him about the gun being put in your car that other time?
SMITH: Aside from that time that you drove to the range, was the gun ever in your car?
SMITH: Were you aware Brian had memory issues?
CRUMBLEY: No, I was not.
SMITH: Brian testified that he never met Ethan. Later in his testimony, he said that he did. Did he ever meet Ethan?
CRUMBLEY: Yes, a couple times at the barn.
CRUMBLEY: And we went -- he came to our house, helped deliver a big TV that we got and my son was there.
SMITH: Did you ever tell Brian anything about your son seeing things or making you upset in any way like that?
SMITH: Did you ever tell Brian anything about he had mental health issues that you are worried about?
SMITH: So when we read your messages, which the prosecution admitted 77 pages, OK, it's fair to say the jury can read what you guys talked about, and you reflect on, all -- you talk about the past with Ethan, correct?
SMITH: So the jury can read those. We don't need to go through those, you agree?
CRUMBLEY: I agree.
SMITH: OK. We've got to Monday. Monday's two days after you guys go to the mother-son day at the shooting range. Monday, responded to the voice mail. We talked about that already, talked about you talking to your son about it, right?
CRUMBLEY: Right. SMITH: OK, I want to go to Tuesday, the 30th. OK?
SMITH: Do you remember Tuesday the 30th?
CRUMBLEY: I do.
SMITH: That day, you saw an exhibit when you going into work. Did that happen?
SMITH: And you gave testimony already about you getting a call from Shawn (ph) Hopkins?
CRUMBLEY: Correct. He left me a voice mail. I called him back.
SMITH: OK. When you called back, Mr. Hopkins testified that he sent you something. What did he send you.
CRUMBLEY: He sent me a copy of a math worksheet that had scribbled-out drawings on it.
SMITH: I want to ask you, the night before that scribbled-out drawing thing came to you, did you have any interactions with your son?
CRUMBLEY: Yes, we did.
SMITH: What were those about?
CRUMBLEY: I saw on Power School that he got a D in geometry, so we got into an argument again about his grades. We took his phone away and told him that he couldn't go to the shooting range until his grades were brought back up.
SMITH: OK. So you guys had this argument the night before. And we saw lots of messages where you thought everything was fine that Tuesday morning. Is that how you felt?
SMITH: OK. When you got that math paper texted to you, do you recall saying anything to Ethan on the phone, on speaker?
CRUMBLEY: Yes, I asked him why he -- why he did that.
SMITH: OK. What were you thinking at that point?
CRUMBLEY: I was actually kind of angry because I thought he was -- he did that in like defiance of us yelling at him about missing assignments, and here he is drawing pictures on an empty assignment page in geometry.
SMITH: So you felt he was specifically he was sending you a message about the night before?
SMITH: Is it fair to say you took a personally?
CRUMBLEY: Yes, I did.
SMITH: What did you do?
CRUMBLEY: I had asked Mr. Hopkins to -- if you have the original, and then he sent it to my email, which then I opened up and looked at it and was like OK.
SMITH: What did you think when you saw that?
CRUMBLEY: I was a little concerned. I was pretty concerned. He had asked for a parent to come to the school to meet with them. And at this time, I tried calling my husband to see if he could go, because he was out in the area working and I couldn't get a hold of him.
So I decided to go to school. On the way to the school, he finally called me back and he met me at the school, so we went together.
SMITH: OK. When you went into the school, what did you think was happening?
CRUMBLEY: I thought he was going to get in trouble for what he drew on his assignment. I thought he was going to get suspended. I was expecting a disciplinary meeting.
SMITH: How did you feel about what you saw on the paper?
CRUMBLEY: I felt concerned after seeing that.
SMITH: OK. We saw that you sent pictures of the math paper to Kyra, to Andy, to Brian. It's fair to say that you sent them around to people.
CRUMBLEY: I did.
SMITH: And to all those people -- we've already seen these exhibits -- you expressed that concern?
SMITH: What happens when you get to the school? And you and James are separate, the detective testified he was wrong at first thinking you guys went together. You guys were separate. But you got there at the same time.
SMITH: Went in. What was it like walking into the meeting with Mr. Hopkins and Mr. (INAUDIBLE), who was there?
CRUMBLEY: When we first got there, Mr. Hopkins met us out in front of where the administration is and walked us back to his counseling office.
When we walked in, it was just him and then my son was sitting in a chair in front of his desk, working on something on his laptop.
When we walked in, he kind of showed us where to sit and then we shook hands, he introduced himself, and we started the meeting.
SMITH: Did you try to hug Ethan or do anything like that?
CRUMBLEY: I didn't.
SMITH: OK. How did that meeting go?
CRUMBLEY: It was pretty nonchalant. It was pretty brief. He basically told me in on what my son and him were talking about for the last hour and a half.
He said that my son told me that he was feeling sad over the death of a dog we had, the mother-in-law, a loss of his friend. We talked a little bit about that. We confirmed it. We agreed it was hard on him.
He told us that he didn't feel my son was a risk, and actually gave him the option if you wanted to stay at school or go home. My son wanted to stay at school, so we all discussed that.
SMITH: Did you feel like you were in the position of, I am leaving him in the school whether he could be here or not.
CRUMBLEY: No, absolutely not.
SMITH: OK. Were you surprised or were you not surprised? Did you have any feelings about whether or not he could have stayed in school?
CRUMBLEY: I thought the advice they were giving us was good advice. We talked about him being sad, and then he said being around peers usually helps. We all agreed to that.
My son was very stressed out in the virtual school. So we agreed that might stress him out more to do his school remotely the rest of the day.
But there was never a time where I would refuse to take him home. I could easily, if he wanted to go, take him with me. I had no issues with that.
SMITH: OK. Ultimately, did you take the paper from the school?
CRUMBLEY: The counseling papers, yes.
CRUMBLEY: There was a stack, 10 sheets, with multiple counselors listed on them.
SMITH: OK. Were you planning to do anything with that sheet?
CRUMBLEY: Yes, we were going to start -- I gave it to my husband in the parking lot and I told him -- actually, I had phone calls at work the rest of the day. I told him to start making calls once he got done doing his Door Dash.
SMITH: OK. The prosecution introduced and admitted an exhibit which was a search off of Yahoo about clinical depression treatments. Do you recall ever -- I'm saying Googling, but do you recall ever searching that topic?
CRUMBLEY: I don't. I don't usually use Yahoo as a search engine. I use Google. I don't know -- I don't recall it. No.
SMITH: OK. Do you recall how or if you ever saw anything on Yahoo about legal clinical depression?
CRUMBLEY: I don't remember specifically seeing anything. I might have looked at something when my husband was going through a hard time after his mother passed away. He was drinking a little bit more than usual and he wasn't right.
I may have looked at something at that time, seeing if he was depressed. But I don't know where Yahoo came from.
SMITH: You don't know where Yahoo came from?
SMITH: OK. When you are on Facebook and Instagram and all those things, do you ever hit the click-bait stuff?
CRUMBLEY: Sometimes on accident. Sometimes I do on purpose.
SMITH: OK. That search on Yahoo, you don't remember ever putting that in the search bar?
SMITH: OK. But you are saying it is possible you looked at it?
CRUMBLEY: It's possible.
SMITH: OK. All right. So, let's go back. You are at the meeting. How did it end?
CRUMBLEY: It was decided that Ethan was -- my son was going to go back to his class. After he left, all four of us were in the meeting and they asked if we had any questions and we did not.
I said, I'm going to go back to work. And we left and I went to work and my husband did Door Dash.
SMITH: Did you mean to be abrupt about ending the meeting?
CRUMBLEY: I didn't think I was abrupt. SMITH: Do you think you ended the meeting?
CRUMBLEY: It just automatically ended when they asked if I had any questions and I said no.
SMITH: OK. When there was testimony about that -- I'm sorry, Strike that. (INAUDIBLE)
SMITH: We can do it now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All rise for the jury.
KEILAR: All right, a critical moment there in the trial as Jennifer Crumbley was testifying there because, previously her boyfriend or the man she was having an affair with, she texted him saying she was worried that Ethan was going to do something dumb. She texted him that the morning of the shooting.
And this is her talking about this meeting where she goes to the school. Clearly, they have some concerns. She certainly is aware her son has access to a gun.
But ultimately, she does not take her son home, nor does her husband. They did not immediately search for mental health professionals. She said she was going to do that later.
SANCHEZ: Yes, the court obviously taking a quick break.
She didn't only tell people she was concerned, she also texted photos of the images he was scribbling in class, writing things like, "The thoughts won't stop, help me." Blood everywhere, drawing a bullet as well.
She says, in the meeting with school administrators, they tell her -- this is her testimony -- that her son was not a risk. She says she thought the school was giving them good advice.
And at one point, administrators asked if the parents had any questions and that's where the meeting ended.
Clearly, a lot of important testimony still left to go. We also have cross-examination after that.
We're going to take a quick break. And on the other side, we will get you the very latest from Pontiac, Michigan, in what could be a historic trial. Stay with CNN.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. SANCHEZ: Breaking news into CNN. If you're just joining us this afternoon, we have been tracking a case that is testing the limits of potential criminal liability for parents whose children are involved in school shootings.
Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford, Michigan, high school shooter, has been testifying in her own defense.