The parents of a 15-year-old boy shot dead by an eighth-grade classmate at a western Michigan high school in 2012 will face involuntary manslaughter charges this fall, attorneys said Wednesday.
The Lapeer County prosecutor’s office is charging Nicholas D. Dombroski, 16, with second-degree murder in the 2012 death of Ethan Crumbley at Byrum High School in Lapeer, Mich. Dombroski is suspected of taking a gun he’d received for his birthday from a friend into Crumbley’s locker room and shooting him in the back with it. The shooting happened as Crumbley was wrapping up his basketball practice and attempting to get ready for class.
Essex County assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsey confirmed Tuesday that prosecutors were seeking second-degree murder charges against Dombroski, describing him as someone “who had access to the weapon, used the weapon to take the life of another person.” She declined to elaborate beyond that.
Earlier this month, Lindsey met with Dombroski and his parents for three hours and became a member of the defense team, Mlive.com reported.
Dombroski’s lawyer, Gregory Bertram, said he and his client plan to plead not guilty.
Bertram questioned whether his client should be charged as an adult and said it’s the district attorney’s decision whether to seek an involuntary manslaughter charge. He also said the death occurred during an “attempted robbery.” But he acknowledged he does not know details of the case because he has not seen the investigation.
“It would be illogical to think that someone is taking a gun into the locker room and shooting an unarmed person,” Bertram said.
According to a report by the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Dombroski’s parents voluntarily relinquished the guns they kept in their son’s bedroom in 2012 and 2012. After the shooting, an attorney for the Crumbley family, Jeffrey Uphoff, said in a court filing that Dombroski and the other boys knew the gun belonged to the victim and belonged to his family.
Lindsey said she saw the 2012 report and didn’t know if Dombroski’s parents relinquished their guns.
Former Kent County prosecutor William McCracken initially prosecuted Dombroski as an adult, but the prosecutor dropped those charges in December 2013 and dismissed the case three months later.
The case was returned to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, where Dombroski was detained until late May, when he was released to the custody of his mother, Lindsey said. The girl was taken into custody in August. She is still in the custody of the state.
The state’s attorney for Lapeer County, William Lee Davis, said the case will be “determined on its merits,” even though he can’t discuss specifics because of a gag order. Dombroski will be arraigned Oct. 3.
Some relatives and friends of the victim who attended Wednesday’s hearing reacted with emotion to the judge’s decision.
Court record show Crumbley died at 10:34 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2012. The fourth-grader from Oxford loved sports and enjoyed dancing and playing guitar. He held a camera in his hands as he collected census questions at a nearby library the day he was killed. His mother held his hand as she gave a eulogy at his funeral.
“Ethan was smart and funny,” family member Karen Crumbley told The Associated Press in 2012. “He had a wide smile that lit up any room. He was a talented musician. If anything happened, he went out to make it right.”
Crumbley’s brother told the AP that Ethan had been scheduled to leave for college this fall but dropped out because of a scholarship that his family couldn’t afford.
Other students described him as “sweet and helpful.”
“He was always trying to make people smile and happy,” Elisa Truelove, a sophomore at Byrum High School, told The Times. “It’s a big loss.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.