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Cross-Examination of Jennifer Crumbley, Michigan School Shooter's Mother, by Prosecutors; Ethan Crumbley Received 9mm Pistol as a Present, According to Jennifer Crumbley. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 10:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: OK. We are watching this case against mother, Jennifer Crumbley, who is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. She has just talked about -- this is really the prosecution's meat of the case, talking about the drawing that she saw that her son made of a gun and the words help me and there is blood. She said she didn't really recognize the gun in her, but she did get concerned when she saw the words help me. She is being cross- examined, and this is a really big part of the prosecution's case. Let's listen in.

MARC KEAST, OAKLAND COUNTY ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR: In October, in September, in at least August, July, June, May, all 2021.


KEAST: 2021. Thank you. Now, he left on Halloween, and you knew that your son was planning to hang out with him on Halloween.


KEAST: OK. But his friend didn't show.

CRUMBLEY: We had texted -- I had texted his friend's mom the day before trying to confirm if he was still coming over, and that's when we found out that he was driven to Wisconsin and taken to that school.

KEAST: OK. So, you're telling us you found out the day before Halloween.


KEAST: OK. But that didn't stop you and James from going to the Halloween party at the barn.

CRUMBLEY: I don't believe it was on Halloween.

KEAST: Oh, that's what Kira (ph) testified to.

CRUMBLEY: It was a Friday before Halloween.

KEAST: If there was a picture with a date stamp on it, would you deny it?


KEAST: OK. And it didn't stop you from after you left that party, without your son, you went to another Halloween party.


KEAST: And your son was home alone at that point?


KEAST: So, you talked to us a little bit about your son's hobbies in 2021. But in November 2021 -- so, we'll start with November the 1st, 2021. You know that those hobbies were non-existent. And I'll go one by one.



KEAST: So, you told us about bowling.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: Bowling wasn't -- the team wasn't in session that point in time, wasn't it?

CRUMBLEY: No, I think actually at that time he decided he didn't want to do bowling that year.

KEAST: OK. So, he stopped bowling this sophomore year.

CRUMBLEY: He did. He did.

KEAST: And it wouldn't have been bowling season anyway?

CRUMBLEY: I guess not, no.

KEAST: So, one hobby you talked about yesterday, that was an exist -- that was not in existence in November of 2021?

CRUMBLEY: Correct, but we did still go to the bowling alley with him.

KEAST: OK. And you said that he worked, but would you be surprised to learn that he only worked a few shifts post-COVID?

CRUMBLEY: No, I'm not surprised at all.

KEAST: OK. So, he wasn't at work every day?

CRUMBLEY: No, he worked Tuesdays and Thursdays and sometimes Saturday mornings.

KEAST: OK. But not very often?

CRUMBLEY: No, not very often.

KEAST: A handful of shifts post-COVID which, of course, March 2020 is when things shut down.

CRUMBLEY: He was working on a weekly basis.

KEAST: And you knew that he didn't have any friends?

CRUMBLEY: That's not the right way to put it. I knew he had friends, but no, he did not have many friends.

KEAST: You had never met another peer his age who he refers to as a friend.

CRUMBLEY: He actually had friends that used to come over prior to 2021 that he was still in contact with.

KEAST: We went through defense exhibits yesterday from 2019 to 2020. I'm talking about a 2021, at least from the time period where he sent you a message that he saw demons in the house.

CRUMBLEY: Right. In 2021, the only friend that came to our house was the one that's on --

KEAST: Right.

CRUMBLEY: -- that was on the thing.

KEAST: So, you knew to be true in November of 2021 that he had no peer support.

CRUMBLEY: I don't know what he had in school. He told me he had friends in school that he talks to.

KEAST: OK. You ever -- you never met them though?


KEAST: OK. And he didn't have any clubs at school he was a part of?

CRUMBLEY: No, not that year.

KEAST: So, you told us yesterday that your son wanted to design video games.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. He wasn't in a robotics club or a coding club at the high school?

CRUMBLEY: He did take a coding class prior 2021 and he was in the robotics after school activity in middle school.

KEAST: Talking about in 2020 --

CRUMBLEY: I'm just telling you, he's been in that before. KEAST: OK. Now, despite what you have called yourself as a vigilant parent and a helicopter mom, you never decided at least November of 2021 to look at his phone.


KEAST: No. OK. That's despite what happened in the spring of 2021, right?

CRUMBLEY: What happened in the spring of 2021 did not concern me.

KEAST: OK. Now, the one thing that seemed consistent with your son, to you at least, is his desire to obtain a weapon, is that right?

CRUMBLEY: I don't -- I wouldn't say that. No.

KEAST: He had a consistent desire to obtain a weapon.

CRUMBLEY: Not to me, he did not.

KEAST: OK. You didn't know about the 9mm?

CRUMBLEY: Oh, I knew about it.

KEAST: OK. You didn't know about the 22's?

CRUMBLEY: I knew about them.

KEAST: And in fact, you posted on Instagram that he got himself a 22 --

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: -- in June of 2021.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And from that time up until the November 26, '21 purchase, he was wanting to get a 9mm.

CRUMBLEY: I know him and my husband had discussed getting a 9mm. I'm not part of those conversations.

KEAST: But you knew them.

CRUMBLEY: I knew but not -- that it was -- he was so, however you described it. He --

KEAST: I said, he consistently had a desire to obtain a weapon.

CRUMBLEY: I know that -- I know they consistently talked about it, correct.

KEAST: OK. They just talked about this is a gun. He talked about how he wanted the gun. You don't deny that?


KEAST: In November 26, you said you weren't there for the gun purchase?

CRUMBLEY: No, I was not.

KEAST: OK. But are you telling us you didn't know it was going to happen?

CRUMBLEY: I did not know they were going to the gun store that day, no.

KEAST: OK. But you knew that you were going to, eventually, get him a 9mm?

CRUMBLEY: No, I did not know that.

KEAST: OK. So, you're telling us that it was a surprise purchase to you?

CRUMBLEY: It was a surprise to me that they went to the gun store that day.


CRUMBLEY: It was not surprising to me that they purchased a gun that day.

KEAST: And it didn't upset you that they bought a gun?

CRUMBLEY: Not -- no, it did not.

KEAST: It upset you that they cut into your Christmas tree shopping time, but it didn't upset you that they bought a gun?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. And you told us that it was, in your words, James' responsibility to take care of that gun?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. Now, you don't deny that, at least according to the cell phone evidence, the photographic and video evidence, that you're the last adult to have possession of that gun.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. You were with him at the range on November the 27th.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You saw your son shoot the weapon.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You saw him shoot the last practice round before the shooting on November 30th?

CRUMBLEY: At the range?


CRUMBLEY: Yes, correct.

KEAST: You saw how he stood?

CRUMBLEY: Honestly, that didn't mean anything to me at that time until this whole case came about and I've learned what a shooter's stance is, so.

KEAST: He knew how to use the gun?

CRUMBLEY: Yes, he did.


CRUMBLEY: He's used one before.

KEAST: In fact, he showed you how to use the gun.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.


KEAST: OK. And the stance he took, you saw from the Oxford High School video, was the same. You saw that, right?

CRUMBLEY: I don't -- I don't know. I can't compare it. I don't know.

KEAST: OK. But you entrusted this responsibility -- would you agree with me that owning a firearm involves a great deal of responsibility and trust?


KEAST: OK. And you entrusted this responsibility to your husband, James?


KEAST: If you look at Exhibit 423, that's the Facebook chat thread between you and your husband. It's pretty clear you didn't trust James with much. Would you agree or disagree?

CRUMBLEY: It depends on what you're talking about.

KEAST: OK. Well, you didn't trust him to get out of bed on time.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You didn't trust him to cut the grass when it was time to cut the grass?

CRUMBLEY: He would cut the grass when it got to a length I didn't like. I didn't trust him.

KEAST: You didn't trust him to update you on his whereabouts.

CRUMBLEY: There's a reason behind that.

KEAST: You didn't trust him to not turn off or turn on the ring camera in your home?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You didn't trust him to keep track of your son?

CRUMBLEY: Oh, I trusted him to keep track of my son.

KEAST: In those messages that we'll see in Exhibit 423, asking him where is your son over and over and over again, does that signify trust or distrust to you?

CRUMBLEY: That was when my son was walking home from school. Not that I did not trust my husband with my son.

KEAST: OK. And you didn't really trust your husband to hold down a job.

CRUMBLEY: It's not that I didn't trust him to hold down a job. He had a hard time holding down one after COVID.

KEAST: OK. And in those messages, you are constantly asking him about work, how much money he's making, and what he's doing to obtain employment.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: You have been listening to the cross-examination of Jennifer Crumbley. The prosecution is pressing her hard on what she knew about the gun that was given to her son as a gift. She did acknowledge it was a gift. Also, a lot of questions about exactly how she spent her time and how much time she was focused on her son. This is important testimony and we'll continue right after the break.



KEAST: I can pull the data, Counselor --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: We're going to take you back to Michigan, where Jennifer Crumbley is on the stand. She is being cross-examined, and right now being pressed about her family dynamics, specifically at this moment, how many times or not she and her son expressed I love you to each other. This is the mother charged with gross negligence over the horrific crimes her son committed. Let's get back into this testimony. KEAST: You told us that --

JUDGE CHERYL MATTHEWS, OAKLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: He asked if the test one was a year earlier and the other two were close in time of the shooting.

KEAST: The day of the shooting.

CRUMBLEY: Yes, I know --


KEAST: Those have been admitted to evidence --

SMITH: -- do we know --

MATTHEWS: Wait. What's the question?

SMITH: OK. But he's asking about the text overall which have not been admitted into evidence. And I don't know that the text chain has all the texts. There is no foundation that what Mr. Keast is looking for --

KEAST: Ms. Judge, in the cross-examination --

SMITH: -- is all the texts --

KEAST: -- if the --

MATTHEWS: He's asked of it --

KEAST: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- is that long. Would you argue with that? That's what he's saying -- he's asking. I mean, there are people --

SMITH: I know, she's just -- she just doesn't know what --

KEAST: Hold on, Counsel can't testify.


MATTHEWS: It's OK. Well, I -- you know, there are people that end every conversation with love you. OK.

SMITH: Yes, I heard that.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, and there are people who don't, right? So, he is asking what's normal for them and would she be surprised about how many times that appeared?

SMITH: Yes, I'm just asking -- I get that. And I get that it's not common. I'm just asking what period --

KEAST: So, if this is an argument --

SMITH: I'm just asking --

KEAST: -- Counsel can argue whatever she wants to.

SMITH: -- what period of text --


SMITH: -- this is from.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you have to redirect, right?

SMITH: OK. Well, she doesn't know what he's even basing these questions on at this point?

KEAST: How -- OK. Well, it is inappropriate for Counsel to suggest --

SMITH: OK. She said, I don't know.

KEAST: -- that she does or does not know.

MATTHEWS: She can say, I don't know.


MATTHEWS: But she can also say, I don't understand the question.


MATTHEWS: She can say that, too. If you don't -- Mr. Crumbley, if you don't understand the question, ask Mr. Keast to clarify it.


MATTHEWS: All right?


MATTHEWS: All right.

KEAST: All right. Thank you, Judge.

Now, yesterday, Mrs. Crumbley, you talked about going into planning mode.


KEAST: OK. And that was in reference to counsel only asking you about emotions and how you express emotions.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: All right. So, I want to talk to you about your planning mode and your priorities from the time that you were arrested.


KEAST: Now, your phone calls were recorded from the time that you were arrested until now.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: Do you know that? You know that.

CRUMBLEY: Yes, I knew that.

KEAST: You know that. OK. And your priority on your first phone call, December the 4th of 2021, was on your animals and the cash recovered from the art studio. Do you deny that?

CRUMBLEY: I don't deny it.

KEAST: OK. Do you deny that it wasn't until 10 days later and 14 calls later that you even mentioned your son?

CRUMBLEY: I was --

KEAST: Do you deny it or not?

CRUMBLEY: I don't, but I was under the impression that I couldn't mention him because I could get flagged at the jail.

KEAST: Well, you mentioned him in later conversations.


KEAST: OK. And in fact, in one, a year later, March 25th of 2023, you said he just needs to man up. Do you recall that?

CRUMBLEY: I do not.


KEAST: OK. Do you not deny that you said it?

CRUMBLEY: It sounds like something I would say.

KEAST: In December of 2021, your concern was about a GoFundMe. Do you remember that?

CRUMBLEY: No, I do not.

KEAST: I'm going to play this for you. Ms. Williams, can you have the volume up, please?

MATTHEWS: This is submitted into exhibit?

KEAST: This is an impeachment, Judge.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there's no -- you know, Jennifer, that's -- you know --

CRUMBLEY: I said (INAUDIBLE), kind of a speaker face (ph), but I have people that call a lawyer welfare of my horses. So, I mean -- I'm just, I'm sorry. I shit (ph) against the wall to see what sticks.


CRUMBLEY: I just brought shit (ph) against the wall to see what sticks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I know. I know. I know.


KEAST: OK. That was between you and your dad?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. And you asked him to set up a GoFundMe to pay for the board (ph) of your horses?

CRUMBLEY: I did, yes.

KEAST: OK. You were concerned about other things related to yourself around that time, weren't you?


KEAST: Is this still planning mode?

CRUMBLEY: I believe so.

KEAST: OK. And you were arrested December the 4th. This is going to be December the 22nd.



CRUMBLEY: Oh, oh. I have a project for Matt.


CRUMBLEY: Can you have her Google how many calories are in a bologna sandwich with white bread?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many calories in a bologna sandwich with white bread?

CRUMBLEY: Yes, American cheese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American cheese? OK. With American cheese?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any mayonnaise on it? CRUMBLEY: No, just mustard.


CRUMBLEY: No, there's only mustard. And then peanut butter and jelly on white bread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And peanut butter and jelly on white butter, OK. So, you're looking up bologna right now. That knows your lunch and dinner is?

CRUMBLEY: For an all-star, yes. And then for other stuff I -- my cereal is not something that I actually eat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With American cheese you have there?

CRUMBLEY: Yes. And an apple and a banana because I know you don't work --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No error (ph).

CRUMBLEY: They're carb loading to me and I want to make sure I stay at least a thousand to a hundred calories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I don't know if they have a hundred -- I know they have a hundred calories.

CRUMBLEY: Is it OK I was on apple --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So, the sandwich is 140 calories -- no, 240.

CRUMBLEY: OK. That's pretty much (INAUDIBLE).


CRUMBLEY: 50 calories but that's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and peanut butter and jelly on white bread?



KEAST: Still planning mode?

CRUMBLEY: Well, I wasn't planning there, no.

KEAST: OK. Now, we're talking about how you describe planning mode. You describe that in context to statements you made to the police on November the 30th, 2021, right? That's the context -- you used the words, planning mode, in relation to it?

CRUMBLEY: correct. KEAST: OK. So, you told us that your -- the last phone call on December 31st, that was still you on planning. I want to make sure you're being accurate depiction of what that is. Now, here's one from January 15th, 2022.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no. It's not an issue you're having. It's the issue of, you know, that bank -- he's going to be all this -- he's got issues with your (ph) mind stuff and have issues with -- you know, all kinds of stuff. (INAUDIBLE) bank you see posted on, it's like -- you know, it's over.

CRUMBLEY: But I still don't have that child deposit thing.


CRUMBLEY: Am I still going to need to deposit $300 for that child thing the government does?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes -- I don't know. I have a -- I just got -- I just got -- today, I lost access. For some reason, I'm not supposed to have that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I can't access it.

CRUMBLEY: That's what I'm looking --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I can access, basically, to view only. And it was hard to see every time there. But then also I lost access. And then, it took me -- I lost access like a couple days before Christmas.




KEAST: OK. Is that still planning mode?

CRUMBLEY: We were talking about filing my taxes, if you played the whole thing.

KEAST: You were asking about your child tax credit --

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: -- if you're still going to get that $300.

CRUMBLEY: My dad was doing my income taxes for me.

KEAST: Now, when we started, we confirmed that you understood the oath that you just took.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And that same oath you took yesterday.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.


KEAST: OK. And, you don't deny that you had $6,000 in cash in your purse the night you were arrested?


KEAST: You don't deny that your purse with the cash and four cell phones were in a plastic tote?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You don't deny that that plastic tote was contained in a different plastic tote?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You don't deny that your backpack with clothing items was found in a different plastic tote in a different area of that studio?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. And you don't deny that you knew you had been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: In fact, as early as December the 1st, 2021, at 6:10 p.m., you were talking about how you were being charged with involuntary manslaughter. Do you --

CRUMBLEY: That was what I was being told by a family that was texting me. That's what the charges might be announced as, correct.

KEAST: OK. And one is to Mr. Monash (ph). There is a text to your cousin about you are being charged with an involuntary manslaughter. You don't deny receiving that?

CRUMBLEY: No, I don't.

KEAST: That's Wednesday, December the 1st, right?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And you sent your neighbor a message on Wednesday the 1st of 2021, 6:55 p.m., that you were reading, they may charge us.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. December the 2nd, 2021, you wrote, they're saying involuntary manslaughter? CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You don't deny that?


KEAST: And, of course, you looked at different news articles about that the next day --


KEAST: -- and later on that day? And then, you tested --

BERMAN: Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Michigan mass shooter on the stand right now. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter. She's answering questions about her reaction to the news that she was being charged with this. The prosecution seems to be leaning in to the notion that she was, maybe, unfazed or unconcerned by this. Again, also trying to make it seem that she did not pay adequate attention to her son. This cross-examination will continue right after this.