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Crime: Ethan Crumbley: Preliminary hearing for Michigan high school shooting suspect waived

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A teen accused of killing four fellow students at a Michigan high school in November waived his right to a preliminary examination Friday, nudging the case toward trial without prosecutors needing to first persuade a judge they have probable cause to accuse him.

Ethan Crumbley © Oakland County Sheriff's Office Ethan Crumbley

Ethan Crumbley, wearing an orange jail shirt and a mask, appeared before an Oakland County judge in a video conference and said he understood his decision and his rights.

Besides giving his name, he said little beyond "yes" or "no" to Judge Nancy Carniak's questions.

Prosecutors agreed to the waiver, and Carniak said she would bind the case to court for trial, and that a hearing would be held within the next two weeks to assign a judge.

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Crumbley, 15, is accused of opening fire at Oxford High School with a 9mm handgun on November 30, killing four students and injuring six others and one teacher. The attack some 40 miles north of downtown Detroit was the deadliest shooting at a US K-12 campus since 2018.

Crumbley is charged as an adult with one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

At his arraignment last month, the judge entered a plea of not guilty per a request from Crumbley's attorney.

The slain students were Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17, authorities said.

In a preliminary examination, a judge would have had to decide -- before moving the case to trial -- whether prosecutors had probable cause to show a crime had been committed and that the defendant committed the crime.

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On Friday, Carniak said Crumbley's bond would be addressed in the next two weeks, pursuant to a newly enacted federal statute.

Neither prosecutors nor Crumbley's representatives explained during Friday's proceeding why they wanted to waive the preliminary hearing.

The hearing initially was postponed last month after prosecutors said they needed more time to examine a large amount of evidence before sharing it with defense attorneys.

Crumbley's parents were also charged in connection with the shooting. James and Jennifer Crumbley each face four counts of involuntary manslaughter and have pleaded not guilty, with prosecutors accusing them of giving him easy access to the gun and disregarding signs that he was a threat.

The charges against the parents, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said last month, are "intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable" and send a message "that gun owners have a responsibility."

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Jennifer and James Crumbley have a motions hearing set for Friday afternoon where bail terms are expected to be discussed.

A disturbing timeline of events

The parents were held on $500,000 bond each after their December 4 arrest following a manhunt that began when they failed to show up to court for their initial arraignment.

In a timeline laid out early December explaining why Crumbley's parents had been charged, McDonald said James Crumbley purchased the gun on Black Friday, November 26. A store employee confirmed that Crumbley's son, Ethan, was with him, the prosecutor said.

The parents gave the weapon to their son as an early Christmas present, the prosecutor alleged.

Ethan Crumbley "had total access to this weapon," and the parents "didn't secure (the gun) and they allowed him free access to it," McDonald said during the parents' arraignment. One of the parents' attorneys, Shannon Smith, countered during the hearing, saying, "The gun was actually locked."

"When the prosecution is stating that this child had free access to a gun, that is just absolutely not true," Smith said.

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McDonald has alleged that the day before the shooting, a teacher at Oxford High School saw Ethan Crumbley searching online for ammunition on his phone.

The teacher notified school officials, who contacted the parents via phone and email, but they did not respond.

Later, Jennifer Crumbley sent Ethan a text message saying, "LOL I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught," McDonald said.

On the day of the shooting, another teacher found a drawing on Crumbley's desk which essentially depicted a shooting, McDonald said. It "alarmed her to the point that she took a picture of it on her cell phone," the prosecutor said.

The picture led school officials to hold a meeting with the accused shooter and his parents, who were instructed to help provide counseling for their son within 48 hours, school officials have said. The parents resisted the idea of taking their son out of school, McDonald said, and he was allowed to return to the classroom.

Surveillance cameras captured the violence

Surveillance cameras at the school captured much of the violence, prosecutors have said.

Just before 12:51 p.m. on the day of the shooting, Crumbley could be seen with a backpack, then a minute or two later, he exited a bathroom without the backpack but with a gun in hand, Keast said during Crumbley's arraignment.

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Crumbley then allegedly began to "methodically and deliberately" walk the hallways and aim a gun at students and fire the weapon, Keast said.

When students began to run away, Crumbley allegedly continued to go down the hallway at a "methodical pace" and shot inside classrooms and at students who hadn't escaped, Keast said.

This continued for another four or five minutes, and Crumbley eventually went to another bathroom, Keast said.

Dozens of terrified students called 911 during the shooting. When deputies arrived, the suspect set down the gun and surrendered, officials have said.

Prosecutors: Parents disregarded signs their son was a threat

In a filing last month, prosecutors alleged that Crumbley's parents "willfully ignored the needs and well-being of their son and the threat he posed to others."

"Defendants were in a better position than anyone else in the world to prevent this tragedy, but they failed to do so," the filing states.

The filing came in response to a request from the Crumbleys for a modified bond and it details how the couple is more than $11,000 behind on their house payments, have sold their horses, and have "already shown that they will flee if they get the opportunity." The filing also details that the parents had four cell phones at the time of their arrest and "attempted to destroy one of the phones."

"Based on those facts, we strongly believe that the bond for James and Jennifer Crumbley was set appropriately," Oakland County, Michigan, Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams said in a statement.

The filing further alleged that when the Crumbleys left their son's school on November 30, before the shooting began, they knew their son was depressed and "fascinated with guns." The filing detailed Crumbley's state of mind in the months before the shooting, saying his parents were aware he was "sadder than usual."

While their son was struggling, his parents spent several hours a night, three to four nights a week, at a barn caring for their horses and that one of the parents was having extramarital affairs, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors also allege that Ethan Crumbley had been torturing animals and kept a "baby bird's head in a jar on his bedroom floor."

"Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun," the filing states.

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