Sheriff's Office blasts prosecutor for parents of Oxford shooting suspect being on the lam

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[ Update, 2 a.m. Saturday: James and Jennifer Crumbley have been found and arrested in Detroit. ]

Oakland County sheriff officials blamed the county prosecutor Friday for the parents of the suspect in the Oxford High School mass shooting being on the lam.

"In my entire 44-year career, I have never, ever seen a prosecutor announce charges in a major case without the suspect being in custody first," Oakland Undersheriff Mike McCabe told the Free Press.

Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speak to the media about the Oxford High School shooting.
Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speak to the media about the Oxford High School shooting.

"We don't let people turn themselves in," he said. "When a warrant is authorized by a judge, we go and get them."

The tragic and deadly shooting spree at Oxford High School is highlighting divisions between county offices headed by Sheriff Michael Bouchard, a Republican, and Prosecuting Attorney Karen McDonald, a Democrat.

McDonald said on CNN Friday that she was in constant communication with sheriff's officials, but as far as the couple fleeing, "it wasn't on anyone's radar that this was even a concern."

McDonald said it was unfortunate that there was a discussion on national TV "about who is to blame" for the couple's disappearance. "I don't care who is to blame," she said. "What I really care about is the victims."

McDonald on Friday announced four involuntary manslaughter charges each for James and Jennifer Crumbley. They are the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is charged in Tuesday's mass shooting at the high school. The Crumbleys are accused of buying a semiautomatic handgun for their son and letting him have access to it even after they had been warned he was showing signs that he could act out violently at school.

More: US Marshals search for James, Jennifer Crumbley; attorney says they'll turn themselves in

More: Oxford High School student escaped likely death by running from bathroom, source says

The Crumbleys did not show for their Friday afternoon arraignment, despite assurances from their lawyers that they would. The U.S. Marshals Service was leading a search for them Friday night, assisted by several police agencies. The federal agency issued "Wanted" posters and offered a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of either suspect.

David Williams, the chief assistant prosecutor, said nobody is to blame but the Crumbleys, when told of the criticism from McCabe.

"The Crumbleys are at large because they are continuously irresponsible," Williams said. "They promised to turn themselves in and did not. We have been in constant communication with sheriff's office investigators, and we are confident that the Crumbleys will be apprehended."

McCabe said McDonald should have given the sheriff advance notice of the coming charges. He said there has been a history of poor communication from her office, though he did not cite any specific prior examples.

The shooting killed four students and injured seven others.

Bouchard said on CNN his office learned about the actual charges Friday from the news media. The only prior statement from the prosecutor's office was that McDonald was going to make a swift decision, he said.

Challenged by host Don Lemon about whether it was not fairly obvious that the couple would face charges, and why the sheriff's office did not have the couple under surveillance, Bouchard said his office could not act on possibilities and there was no certainty that the Crumbleys would face felony charges. Creating a surveillance team would mean pulling several officers off an active homicide investigation that involves interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses, and that could not be done based on speculation, he said.

McDonald said on CNN the fact charges were coming was no secret.

"We all knew this was inevitable," she said. "It was the world's worst-kept secret."

She said her office has asked sheriff's officials if they "had eyes on" the couple and the indications were that they had a pretty good idea where they were.

She said she has confidence in the sheriff's detectives and law enforcement more broadly and believes the couple will be apprehended.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Sheriff's exec blasts prosecutor for no-show parents of Oxford suspect