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See also Prescription for Murder
The Denver Post
By John Ingold
Posted: 04/04/2013 04:29:12 PM MDT
CENTENNIAL — Thirty-eight days before the attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, the psychiatrist treating suspect James Holmes told a police officer that her patient had confessed homicidal thoughts and was a danger to the public, according to newly unsealed court documents in the murder case against Holmes.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, also told the officer that Holmes had stopped seeing her and had been threatening her in text messages and e-mails, the documents state. The officer, Lynn Whitten, responded by deactivating Holmes’ key-card access to secure areas of University of Colorado medical campus buildings, according to search-warrant affidavits.
But the documents don’t reveal what — if anything — campus authorities did to investigate Holmes until 38 days later, when 12 people were dead in the July 20 movie-theater shootings, 58 more were injured by gunfire and Aurora police came to campus to ask questions.
“Dr. Fenton advised (Whitten) that through her contact with James Holmes she was reporting, per her requirement, his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made,” one search-warrant affidavit states.
The documents — 12 search-warrant affidavits and an affidavit in support of warrantless arrest — were created in the earliest days of the case but were originally sealed. They were unsealed Thursday by Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., who took over the case Monday. Holmes’ murder trial is scheduled to begin next year.
Several media outlets, including The Denver Post, moved to have the documents released, arguing that the contents of the warrants and affidavits had likely been made public over the past eight months and were presented in court hearings, including the three-day preliminary hearing in January.
Indeed, most of the information in the documents has been disclosed, either during the preliminary hearing or in other court filings or testimony. But the affidavits add new details and context to the case’s timeline, while also contradicting other information.
For instance, prosecutors have previously revealed that Holmes made threats and had his key-card access cut off. But CU officials have denied that Holmes was banned from campus for making threats, saying instead that his key card was deactivated as part of a normal process when a student withdraws from school — which Holmes was doing at the time of the alleged threats.
Likewise, the affidavits contradict a statement Fenton made when testifying during an earlier hearing in the case. Fenton said she went to police in June with concerns about a patient. But, when asked whether she had ever reported a dangerous patient to police because she was required to by law, Fenton said she hadn’t.
A source has told The Denver Post that Holmes told Fenton on June 11 that he fantasized about killing “a lot of people.” The affidavits unsealed Thursday say Fenton told Whitten about her concerns June 12, and Whitten deactivated Holmes’ key card on the same day.
But the source told The Post that Fenton declined to order Holmes detained on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. On June 13, Holmes allegedly bought a 100-round magazine for his AR-15-style rifle, adding to a considerable arsenal of weapons and ammunition, according to court records and testimony.
The affidavits each contain a narrative of the case that matches with police testimony during the preliminary hearing about the early investigation into the case. The narratives, for instance, describe how police initially mistook a heavily armored Holmes for a fellow cop in the darkness behind the movie theater, before realizing he was the suspect.
They describe how Holmes told officers after his arrest that his apartment was loaded with explosives. When one officer asked Holmes if he had any accomplices, Holmes replied, “It is just me,” according to the affidavits.
The documents also provide minute insights into Holmes’ life.
Mixed among the explosives, ignition systems, bottles of motor oil and school textbooks at Holmes’ apartment, investigators found a receipt for an online movie ticket purchase, a Batman mask, index cards with chemical formulas written on them and a supply list, according to an inventory of items attached to one of the search warrants. Police also found medications in his apartment, including ibuprofen, sedatives and the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam. They also found the antidepressant sertraline, the generic version of the antidepressant Zoloft.
The inventory includes a number of video games, including Skyrim, StarCraft and Oblivion. On Holmes’ walls, officers pulled down posters from the film “Pulp Fiction” and for the paintball video series “Soldiers of Misfortune.”
And the affidavits reveal new information about the fiercely fought-over notebook that Holmes mailed to Fenton. The brown spiral notebook, with a place to write a name and course subject on the cover, was labeled with Holmes’ name and the words “Of Life” on the course line, according to one affidavit. Inside the notebook were a number of burnt $20 bills, the document states. The bomb technician who first found it said the notebook appeared to be a journal because it contained “unknown writings.”
But, for all the new details, the documents unsealed Thursday fail to answer the question hanging over the entire case: Why?
Early the morning of the shooting, police took Holmes to an interview room in the Aurora police headquarters, according to the affidavits. Holmes would later ask for an attorney upon being advised of his rights at 2:44 a.m. But for an unspecified amount of time before then, he talked with detectives while a video camera rolled, according to the documents.
Not one word of what he said is contained in the affidavits.
John Ingold: jingold@ denverpost.com
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