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Oxford shooting suspect’s parents arrested, plead not guilty to manslaughter

James and Jennifer Crumbley pleaded not guilty on Saturday to involuntary manslaughter charges related to the mass shooting this week at Oxford High School that left four students dead. (Courtesy of Oakland County Sheriff)

The parents of the Oxford High School alleged gunman pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges and are in custody Saturday, after Detroit police arrested them following a multi-agency manhunt.

James and Jennifer Crumbley of Oxford were charged at noon Friday with four counts of the 15-year felony for each fatal victim of the school massacre. But they missed a 4 p.m. scheduled arraignment and prompted a search that involved the U.S. Marshals.

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Acting on a tip, Detroit police found them "hiding" in a commercial building on the city's east side that houses an art studio, the city's police chief, James E. White, told reporters during a briefing about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

The couple appeared "very upset" and "distressed in light of being taken into custody," White said, adding the couple did not break into the building and "there is likely to be charges" against possible accomplices.

The couple are now jailed in Oakland County on $500,000 bonds, ending a day of drama and finger-pointing over why they were not arrested in conjunction with the announcement of charges.

At a Saturday arraignment in Rochester Hills District Court, Jennifer Crumbley, 43, cried repeatedly, while James Crumbley, 45, shook his head as prosecutors read charges. They are accused of buying a handgun last Friday for their son, Ethan, 15, a sophomore at the school, failing to secure the weapon and ignoring warnings about his behavior.

District Judge Julie Nicholson said the parents are "flight risk given the circumstances that occurred yesterday, and the fact that the defendants did have to be apprehended in order to appear for purposes of arraignment.”

Shannon Smith, one of the attorneys representing the Crumbleys, said the couple was planning to turn themselves in on Saturday, about 16 hours after their scheduled court appearance. Smith claimed they had no idea about the scheduled arraignment Friday, despite multiple media reports.

“They were scared, they were terrified. They were not at home. They were figuring out what to do, getting finances in order,” Smith told the court. “Our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in. It was just a matter of logistics.”

She added that prosecutors presented an "incomplete" set of facts and the gun allegedly used by Ethan Crumbley had been "locked."

"When (the) prosecution is stating this child had free access to the gun, that is just absolutely not true," she said. "Our clients are going to fight these charges. Our clients are just as devastated as everyone else."

During the hearing, prosecutors alleged the couple withdrew $4,000 from an ATM and made several efforts to hide.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN that authorities had made an arrangement with the couple’s lawyer that they would be arrested once charges were announced.

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“When we were informed the prosecutor had issued charges, we sent detectives out and we got a call from the lawyer for the couple saying they’re not returning her calls or texts,” Bouchard told CNN.

Smith on Friday said "the Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety." The lawyer claimed she had been on contact with Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Thursday night to “advise her” that the parents would turn themselves in to be arraigned. 

“Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges,” the attorneys said.

Another hearing is set for Dec. 14.

Since Ethan Crumbley was charged on Wednesday, McDonald has repeatedly said more charges were imminent.

The parents appeared to be in their car Wednesday when they video conferenced in to join a virtual arraignment hearing for their son, who is being charged as an adult and faces charges punishable by up to life in prison.

Asked Thursday if he knew where the parents were, Bouchard declined to comment.

"That would be a question for our detectives or even the prosecutor that we probably wouldn't answer at this point in any event," he said.

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Asked if he was concerned the parents might flee, Bouchard again declined to comment.

"I'd be getting into what the detectives are or are not doing, so I probably won't mention that."

Ethan Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to killing fellow students Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17, and wounding several others, including a teacher.

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