Jennifer Crumbley trial: Mom of Oxford shooter takes stand in her defense

On Thursday, the prosecution rested its case in the trial of Jennifer Crumbley on involuntary manslaughter charges. Without any kind of a break, the defense started its case – and called its first witness: Jennifer Crumbley.

Defense attorney Shannon Smith said in her opening arguments that she would have her client testify on her own behalf. It was unknown whether it would happen or not – but with her first chance to call a witness, Smith followed through with her plan.

In the first hour of questioning by Smith, Crumbley appeared poised and mostly addressed the jury after being asked questions. 

She opened by explaining that she doesn't like speaking in front of people and that public speaking was one of her biggest fears. Smith then started taking Crumbley through her home life – including her son's hobbies, which included bowling, metal detecting, and coin collecting.

She then discussed her son's interests in school, which largely included one subject.

"He really liked history. He was a big history buff. We can play Trivial Pursuit and he would get me a history every single time, but that was probably his that was probably his only favorite subject. The rest he could do without," Crumbley said.

She then was asked bout her son's grades, which was something that caused a lot of arguments between her and her son because he wouldn't turn in his assignments.

"His grades would fluctuate based on what assignments the teachers turned down on the power school app. Our biggest struggle with him were missing assignments. That was the one thing we battled all the time," Crumbley said. "Because there's no reason why he should have missing assignments. He had a homeroom class and could get assignments done in."

Over the next few hours, Smith asked Crumbley about a wide range of topics – including how she responded to texts from her son about demons, her meeting with the counselor before the shooting, when the family bought the gun, and what her thoughts were about her son's possible mental health issues.

Jennifer Crumbley recalls meeting with counselor

Jennifer Crumbley gave her version of what happened in the 11-minute meeting she and James Crumbley had with their son and a school counselor the morning of Nov. 30, 2021, hours before the shooter opened fire.

Crumbley said it all started when she got a call about images of a school shooting that her son had drawn on a math assignment. Crumbley said the night before, she had argued with her son about bad grades in the class, so she thought the drawings were done "in defiance" of her being upset with him.

"I thought he was going to get in trouble, I thought he was going to get like suspended - I was expecting a disciplinary hearing," she testified. "I felt concerned after seeing that."

She said the counselor told her and James Crumbley about what the shooter had been discussing before they arrived, like him being sad about the death of a family dog and him losing a friend who had moved away.

"He told us that he didn't feel my son was a risk and actually gave him the option if he wanted to stay at school or go home," she said. "My son wanted to stay at school."

"He said being around peers usually helps so we all agreed to that. My son gets very stressed out when he does virtual school. So we agreed that it might stress him out more to do his school remotely the rest of the day. But there was never a time where I would refuse to take him home. I could easily, if he wanted to go, take him with me. I had no issues with that."

Jennifer Crumbley said the counselor gave them a stack of papers with the names of counselors on them. She said she gave them to her husband to start calling that afternoon after he finished his DoorDash deliveries.

She said she doesn’t recall "abruptly" ending the meeting like the counselor does, only that the meeting ended naturally and she went back to work.

Oxford shooter thought house was haunted, Jennifer says

Over the past few years, texts from the shooter about demons in the house and claims of it being haunted were discussed in court hearings. Now Jennifer has explained why her son thought that – while also saying she wasn't worried about it.

Smith questioned her about messages the shooter sent on March 17, 2021, while she was away from home riding her horse. Within a half-hour period that evening, he texted his mother telling her the house was haunted.

In those messages, he said he took a photo of a demon that was throwing bowls. Jennifer did not reply.

She referred to the belief that there was a ghost in the house as "a phase" for her son.

"It was just him messing around," Jennifer said, adding that this only happened when he was home alone. 

The texts were not the first time the shooter had texted his mother about weird occurrences in the home. Jennifer's attorney also questioned her about text messages he sent her a few days earlier, on March 9.

In these messages, he told his mother that someone was in the house slamming doors and flushing the toilet. She was again away at the barn and said she was driving when the messages were sent. 

Jennifer said multiple times that she thought their son was ‘messing with him’, something that was common in their home. She brought up instances of her husband pretending the house was haunted by flipping the circuit breaker when her son was playing with a Ouija board.

When asked if she thought these messages were indicative of a mental health issue, she said no; she thought he was just messing with her. 

Oxford shooter never told her about mental health concerns

Jennifer said despite the prosecution's claims, her son never told her anything about his mental health concerns.

Even today, Jennifer said she didn't think anything of her son's messages about the house being haunted.

"I just think he was messing with us," she said.

Jennifer testified that she never saw any of the texts that her son sent to his friend. 

"I don't have any idea," she said.

Jennifer ‘irritated’ gun purchase cut into Christmas tree tradition

Jennifer Crumbley testified on Thursday that she was not a part of the purchase of the 9mm that was ultimately used in the Oxford High School shooting.

During Jennifer's testimony about the purchase of the gun, she explained she wasn't bothered by the gun purchase. She said she was more upset about the father-son duo shopping together and cutting into their planned Christmas tree time.

Jennifer said she typically goes Black Friday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving and was at a couple of different stores. When she left, James and her son were both sleeping and they were both gone when they returned home.

According to Jennifer, she messaged to ask her husband where he was and he said the gun store in Oxford. They eventually came home with a 9mm, which she said didn't surprise her.

"They had rented a 9mm at the shooting range before so they knew it was the…size of gun they wanted to get. My son and husband sent a lot of texts back and forth and my son did a lot of research and they were comparing different ones that they wanted to buy. That went on for a couple of months and my husband kept blowing it off. ‘Not right now, not right now’. And then I guess while I was out shopping they said let's go try on Black Friday and see if there are any deals going on," she said.

Despite the gun purchase, she said she wasn't mad about it.

"I was more angry that they cut into our Christmas tree time – because usually we cut my Christmas tree down right when I get back from shopping but I had to wait for them so I was irritated at that," she said.

She said she looked at the gun on the kitchen counter and they put it away before leaving for the Christmas tree farm.

Jennifer joined caravan to Oxford High School

When Jennifer Crumbley heard reports of an active shooter at her son's high school, she left work and joined the caravan of police cruisers traveling to Oxford, she testified.

Jennifer Crumbley said, "I didn't imagine my son going to a school and shooting," after she got a call from James Crumbley that the firearm had been taken from its safe. Her next thought was that he was going to kill himself, she testified, saying that's why she texted her son "don't do it."

When she was close to her home, she got a call from James Crumbley that police had asked them to come down to the police substation.

"He did say there was injuries," she recalled. "And at that point, my mind went to, we can handle injuries.I went into kind of like, go now, like what do we have to do. My son's arrested … I did not think there would be any fatalities … I didn't think there would be injuries. I didn't think of anything, but I just went into that mode like we can handle it, we can handle injuries and we can figure this out and go from there."

Video of the interview showed her on her phone during much of the interview. She testified she was looking for an image of the math assignment on her phone and began scrolling through messages. She described her mind as "pretty numb."

Crumbley said after she went home, she was in her kitchen talking to her dad on the phone when she realized her husband had been gone for a while. That’s when she walked outside her front door of her house to officers with guns drawn on her.

"I remember just dropping my phone and putting my hands up and being handcuffed," she said. "It was shocking."

‘I wish he would have kills us instead’

After testifying about the months, days, and moments leading up to the Oxford High School shooting, Jennifer Crumbley was asked if she could change what happened, would she.

"Oh absolutely. I wish he would have killed us instead," she said.

Crumbley testified she didn't feel like a failure as a parent, but "felt like I failed somewhere" when looking back on her parenting and some of the things that had left her son feeling bad.

"As a parent, you spend your whole life trying to protect your child from other dangers. You never - you never would think you have to protect your child from harming somebody else," she said.

The hardest thing to stomach for her, she testified, was that it was her child that killed other people.

Yet, she testified that even looking back on how things played out from her perspective, she wouldn't change what she did.

"No, I don't. Of course I look back after this all happened and I've asked myself if I wrote down anything differently and I wouldn't have."

What is Jennifer Crumbley charged with?

Jennifer Crumbley is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count for each student killed by her son at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. 

Her husband, James Crumbley, is also facing the same charges and is expected to go to trial after Jennifer's trial is complete.

What did Jennifer Crumbley do?

The prosecution argues that Jennifer and James ignored their son's mental health and even bought him a gun before the Oxford High School shooting. 

Jennifer's attorney maintains that her client knew nothing about guns and was not involved in purchasing the weapon. Receipts provided in court show that James bought the gun, and the shooter admitted during his plea hearing that he gave James money to buy the firearm. Video from a gun range showed Jennifer shooting a gun with her son, but her lawyer claims she didn't know what she was doing.

Journal entries detailing the shooter's mental state have been presented in court, but Jennifer's defense argues that there is no evidence Jennifer knew about this writing.

Witnesses called by the prosecution during the trial have also described a meeting between the Crumbley parents and school officials the morning of the shooting. The parents were called after violent drawings were discovered on their son's schoolwork. 

During this meeting, a school counselor told the parents to get their son mental health help as soon as possible and recommended that they take him home from school. However, the parents chose not to take him home.

Jennifer Crumbley's trial so far

Read recaps of each day of testimony below:

Day 1: Oxford teacher, assistant principal testify

Day 2: Messages between shooter, parents shown

Day 3: Parents' first police interview shown

Day 4: Ex-Oxford High School dean questioned, Crumbley's colleagues testify 

Day 5: Extramarital affair revealed, arrest video shown