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Pontiac xe2x80x94 The U.S. Marshals andxc2xa0the Oakland County Fugitive Apprehension Team searchedxc2xa0Friday night for the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old Oxford High sophomore charged with first-degree murder in the slayings ofxc2xa0four students in Tuesday’s mass shooting.
The search camexc2xa0hours afterxc2xa0James and Jennifer Crumbley of Oxfordxc2xa0were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of thosexc2xa0fourxc2xa0students byxc2xa0 Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, who announced the chargesxc2xa0at a noon press conference.
At one point Friday, authorities sayxc2xa0each parent had stopped respondingxc2xa0to their attorneys.
“The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the
charges,” Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said in a statement. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.xe2x80x9d
By late Friday night,xc2xa0U.S. Marshals announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to their arrests.
Several hours after the search began, the couple’s lawyers,xc2xa0Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, said the husband and wife were returning to the area to be arraigned.
“On Thursday night, we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned,”xc2xa0Smith and Lehman told The Detroit News atxc2xa0mid-afternoon Friday. “Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges.
“The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.”
But by Friday evening, federal marshals said they had “adopted the case of the search for James and Jennifer Crumbley” and would be working in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriffxe2x80x99s Office.
The Crumbleys’ case is charged in 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills, and an arraignment wasxc2xa0tentatively set for 4 p.m. Friday. But the court closed late Friday afternoon without any sightings of the Crumbleys.
xe2x80x9cTheir attorney had assured us that if a decision was made to charge them, she would produce them for arrest,xe2x80x9d Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said earlier Friday.xc2xa0
That agreement with attorney Smithxc2xa0was sometime in the morning, McCabe said around 2 p.m. Friday. xe2x80x9cOur last conversation with the attorney was that she had been trying to reach them by phone and text, and they were not responding,xe2x80x9d he said.xc2xa0
McCabe said Fugitive Apprehension Team officers were out searching for the couple as of mid-afternoonxc2xa0Friday. The Crumbleysxc2xa0ownxc2xa0a 2021 blackxc2xa0Kia Seltos with the licensexc2xa0plate DQG5203 and a 2019 white Kia Soul with the license plate DZH8994, according to the sheriff’s office and Secretary of State records.
McCabe said a conversation with law enforcement was initiated by the parents’xc2xa0attorney Friday morning when it was announced the prosecutor was holding axc2xa0press conference to announce whether a decision had been made to charge anyone else in the deaths.
xe2x80x9cWe didnxe2x80x99t even know they had been charged with anything until we were informed this morning by the media,xe2x80x9d McCabe said.
McDonald’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. But the prosecutor defended how the charges were pursued during a CNN Friday night interview.
xe2x80x9cThe prosecutorxe2x80x99s office doesnxe2x80x99t arrest people,xe2x80x9d McDonald told CNN host Anderson Cooper.xc2xa0
A day and a half before the press conference, McDonald said she asked an assistant prosecutor if police had xe2x80x9ceyesxe2x80x9d on the parental suspects. She said she was told police knew where the Crumbleys were.
xe2x80x9cThey will be apprehended, one way or another,xe2x80x9d McDonald said.xc2xa0
Late Friday night, McCabe pushed back against the prosecutor’s claims. McCabe said his office was not contacted by an assistant prosecutor about, and at no time did the department indicate to prosecutors that “eyes” on the Crumbleys.
The prosecutor earlier laid out numerous reasons for her decision, including the fatherxe2x80x99s purchase of the handgun, which was a Christmas gift for their son, and a meeting at the school in which they were shown a graphic drawing made by their son depicting a shooting victim.xc2xa0Each count is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
xe2x80x9cI have spoken to (victimsxe2x80x99 parents) and indicated what charges were coming,xe2x80x9d McDonald said at her Friday noon press conference. xe2x80x9cThese parents are deep in grief.
xe2x80x9cI have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents with children who are struggling, for whatever reason,xe2x80x9d she added. xe2x80x9cBut the factsxc2xa0in this casexc2xa0are so egregious. The notion that a parent could read those words, and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon.xe2x80x9d
The Crumbleys’ son, Ethan,xc2xa0has been 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 in the commission of a felony. He faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted.xc2xa0
Scott Weinberg, a former Macomb County assistant prosecutor and a longtime Oakland County defense attorney, said Friday that xe2x80x9cattorneys have just so much powerxe2x80x9d and cannot compel the presence of a client.
xe2x80x9cAs an attorney, youxe2x80x99re their adviser,xe2x80x9d Weinberg said, “not their keeper.xe2x80x9d
xe2x80x9cSometimes, people get scared,xe2x80x9d he added. xe2x80x9cThey begin to wrap up personal affairs, they pay the mortgage, just so they donxe2x80x99t have to do it from jail.xe2x80x9d
Arrangements for clients to turn themselves in make sense both for police, who can avoid a manhunt, and for the suspect, Weinberg said. Clientsxc2xa0who turnxc2xa0themselves in willingly might get a favorable bond at their arraignment, he said.
xe2x80x9cWhen and if they are picked up now, itxe2x80x99ll be hard to make that argument with a judge,xe2x80x9d Weinberg said. xe2x80x9cThey might not get the reasonable bond they couldxe2x80x99ve gotten.xe2x80x9d
Weinberg has had clients who did not show up to surrender themselves.xc2xa0
xe2x80x9cThat happens all the time,xe2x80x9d Weinberg said.
William Winters, a 38-year veteran defense attorney in Detroit, said such arrangements are xe2x80x9cnot generallyxe2x80x9d made in homicide cases.
xe2x80x9cPolice usually want a time and location,xc2xa0either at the police station or the courthouse,xe2x80x9d when suspects surrender, Winters said.xc2xa0
A defense attorney xe2x80x9ccanxe2x80x99txe2x80x9d know if their client will honor the arrangement, hexc2xa0said.xc2xa0
xe2x80x9cIxe2x80x99d want to be with the defendant in that case,xe2x80x9d Winters said, to ensure a safe arrest.
Staff Writer Robert Snellxc2xa0contributed.