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Police searching for parents of 15-year-old suspect in Michigan school shooting; attorney says they relocated for safety

James and Jennifer Crumbley were charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. They both reportedly lived in Jacksonville for several years.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The FBI and the U.S. Marshals are helping police search for the parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school.

Law enforcement said James and Jennifer Crumbley went missing after prosecutors charged them each with four counts of involuntary manslaughter Friday. 

Authorities have said their son, Ethan Crumbley, opened fire shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday at Oxford High School, roughly 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit. Seven students and a teacher were shot before Crumbley surrendered to sheriff’s deputies.

Three of the students died Tuesday. The fourth died Wednesday at a hospital.

The couple's attorney said in a statement that the Crumbleys are not running from law enforcement. The attorney said they left town the day of the shooting for their own safety.

The attorney said they’re returning to the area to be arraigned. You can read the full statement below.

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. 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.

Meanwhile, authorities have issued a BOLO alert and said the couple may be driving a black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV with the Michigan license plate number DQG 5203. Anyone with information about the couple’s whereabouts should call the Sheriff's Office at 248-858-4911.

A Be On the Lookout (BOLO) alert has been issued for James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the...

Posted by Oakland County Sheriff's Office on Friday, December 3, 2021

According to public records, Jennifer and James Crumbley lived in Jacksonville from the 1990s to 2008. Addresses include residences on San Pablo Road and Jacksonville Beach. They both have nonviolent criminal histories in Jacksonville, including DUI, driving with a suspended license and check fraud. 

Now, they're both charged for their role in their son's alleged mass shooting.

RELATED: EXPLAINER: Why was alleged Oxford school shooter charged with terrorism?

"The facts of this case are so egregious," prosecutor Karen McDonald said announcing the charges. "This doesn't just affect me as a prosecutor and as a lawyer. It impacts me as a mother," she said.

McDonald said the suspect's father, James Crumbley, bought the gun used in the shooting legally. His mother called it a Christmas gift for their son on social media. 

A week before the shooting, McDonald said, a teacher saw the suspect, Ethan Crumbley, researching ammunition on his phone and reported it to school officials. School officials contacted his parents, but never heard back.

"Jennifer Crumbley exchanged text messages about the incident with her son on that day stating quote 'lol I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,'" McDonald said.

Then, on the day of the shooting, a teacher found a drawing on Ethan Crumbley's desk so concerning she took a picture of it, McDonald said.

“A drawing of a semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words quote 'the thoughts won’t stop. Help me,'" McDonald said. "In another section of the drawing was a bullet with the words blood everywhere. Between the drawing of the gun and the bullet is a drawing of a person who appears to be shot twice and bleeding. Below that figure is a drawing of a laughing emoji," she said.

Ethan Crumbley's parents were called to the school, shown the drawing, but didn't want to take him home with them, so he returned to class. 

"There's no charges for being a bad parent, but in this case, is they definitely are bad parents," First Coast News Crime and Safety Expert Mark Baughman said.

"Telling him that he's allowed to stay at school, I mean, they're complicit in those actions that he took. And sadly, you know, four people paid for it," he said.

McDonald said the parents’ actions went “far beyond negligence.”

When the sheriff's office was notified the Oakland County prosecutor had issued warrants, detectives "immediately moved to arrest the couple," Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a news release. The attorney contacted detectives again to say she had made repeated attempts to reach them by phone and text but had not received a response.

“We have our Fugitive Apprehension Team, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service and others actively looking for them and have every expectation we’ll have them in custody soon,” Bouchard said. “The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”

RELATED: Suspect’s parents charged in Michigan school shooting

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