Families of Colorado theater shooting victims plan goodbyes

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
From left, Ashley Deuell, 18, Samantha Winslow, 18, and Michael Espinosa, 20, cry Tuesday as they view crosses dedicated to Gordon Cowden, on the left, and Alex “AJ” Boik at a growing memorial to the victims of Friday’s mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. (Ted S. Warren ~ Associated Press)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Their first look at a dazed-looking James Holmes with wildly dyed red hair stunned and angered some of the people he is accused of shooting and the kin of those killed that night in a Colorado movie theater.

"A coward," said Tom Teves, whose son, Alex, was one of 12 people Holmes is accused of killing. Tom Teves stared at Holmes throughout the former graduate student's first court appearance Monday.

"Somebody had to be in the courtroom to say, ‘You know what? You went in with ballistic protection and guns, and you shot a 6-year-old,'" he said.

Another 58 people were wounded when authorities say Holmes opened fire at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora. Seven remained in critical condition Tuesday.

"He doesn't look surprised at any of it, but he seemed amazed at what was happening," said Robert Blache. Blache and his injured daughter Christina, who was shot in both legs, watched video of Holmes. "I'm pretty sure he's not sane."

Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations. He will be formally charged Monday, and prosecutors say they may seek the death penalty.

David Sanchez said that would be appropriate if Holmes is convicted. His 21-year-old daughter, Katie Medley, escaped without injury and delivered a son Tuesday at the same hospital where her husband, Caleb, 23, was in critical condition with a head wound.

"When it's your own daughter and she escaped death by mere seconds, I want to say it makes you angry," Sanchez said.

Now the families of the dead are left to plan funerals.

A service for A.J. Boik, an 18-year-old high school graduate, was set for Friday in Aurora. The family has asked that news media stay away from the service.

A full military funeral and burial was planned Aug. 3 in Reno, Nev., for Jonathan Blunk, 26, who served three tours in the Middle East and planned to re-enlist with the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL.

Holmes' prosecution is likely to be a long road. Police expect months of working with behavioral analysts and scrutinizing Holmes' relationships to establish a motive. A trial might begin in a year or more, prosecutor Carol Chambers said.

Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, said Holmes' appearance suggested "a psychotic process going on, and we see that being acted out there.

"Or, there might be some sort of malingering going on. In other words, trying to make himself look worse than he actually is. Or maybe a combination of all of those things," Gardere said.

In San Diego, where Holmes' family lives, family attorney Lisa Damiani said that "everyone's concerned" about the possibility of the death penalty. When asked if they stood by Holmes, Damiani said, "Yes, they do. He's their son."

In June, Holmes quit a 35-student Ph.D. program in neuroscience for reasons that aren't clear. He had earlier taken an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year, but University of Colorado Denver officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

University officials have refused to answer questions about Holmes.

The judge has issued an order barring lawyers in the case from publicly commenting on matters including evidence, whether a plea deal is in the works or results of any examination or test.

Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt and Thomas Peipert in Aurora; Dan Elliott and Colleen Slevin in Denver and Alex Katz in New York contributed to this report.

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