Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan teenager who murdered at least four students at his high school during a horrific school shooting, was evidently a walking field of red flags. Before the shooting, a teacher had spotted the 15-year-old searching for ammunition on his phone, prompting school officials to warn Crumbley's mother, Jennifer. After a teacher found a violent drawing by Ethan, his father James and Jennifer were summoned to address their son's behavior and were instructed to get him counseling.
Now both parents, missing in action since their son's arrest, have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, as prosecutors discovered that James purchased the gun in question with Ethan just four days prior and Jennifer had texted him just minutes after the shooting, "Ethan, don't do it."
Presumably, the Crumbley parents thought they were helping their son in the way so many parents now interpret the notion of "helping" as enabling. It's a saga we've seen play out in true crime and on cable news and one that obviously costs lives.
Like Crumbley, Brian Laundrie also should have and could have been disciplined before both he and his fiance Gabby Petito turned up dead. Police pulled the couple over shortly before her murder during a domestic dispute. Rather than charge him on the grounds of intimate partner violence, they let the two go. Shortly after, Petito was murdered and Laundrie went missing after stopping by his parents' place for help.
What would good parents have done to help and not enable their sons in this case? Both evidently needed serious therapy and, in the case of Laundrie, the best lawyer money could buy. Instead, both parents enabled the obvious demons of their sons, and now four Michigan students, Gabby Petito, and Laundrie himself (after committing suicide while hiding in a Florida forest) are dead and a child faces potential life in prison.
The notion of letting your homicidal son remain in a house with an unlocked gun and go to school or helping your homicidal son escape to the dangerous swampland of Florida for hiding sounds like an obvious perversion of familial obligation. But it's not hard to see the sentiment that guides it.
Just this week, members of the media came to the defense of Chris Cuomo for his role in helping his brother Andrew try to get away with sex crimes. Perhaps because the result was just a few traumatized women instead of a dead one, top journalists considered Cuomo's enabling to be noble rather than egregious.
But the logic is all the same.
Accountability is not always a punishment. In all of these cases, accountability would have cost the perpetrators far less than family helping them get away with the crime. Let the other would-be Laundrie or Crumbley parents take note.