TIME Crime

Psychiatrist Called Mother of Colorado Theater Shooter With Concerns

James Holmes, Lynne Fenton
Colorado Judicial Department—AP In this image taken from video, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes' former psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton, center, exits the courtroom after testifying in the Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colo., June 16, 2015.

But she was told that James Holmes had been shy and socially awkward for many years

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — The psychiatrist who treated James Holmes before he attacked a Colorado movie theater said she did not have enough evidence to have him detained, but was so concerned after he confessed his homicidal thoughts that she violated his health care privacy to call his mother.

Dr. Lynne Fenton testified Tuesday that Holmes told he was having homicidal thoughts as often as three or four times a day, but never let on that he was building a weapons arsenal and planning a mass killing. If he revealed his intent, “I likely would have put him on a mental health hold and contacted the police,” Fenton said.

But her concerns remained, even after he abruptly walked out of her office in June 11, 2012, about a month before he sprayed bullets into the audience at a Batman movie, killing 12 people and wounding 70 more.

Fenton called Holmes’ mother, but was told that her patient had been shy and socially awkward for many years, diminishing the apparent risk that he would be a danger to himself or others.

“I thought it was much less likely this was a sudden, new psychotic break,” Fenton said. Freed from patient-client privilege by Holmes’ insanity plea, Fenton testimony in Holmes’ death penalty trial marked her first public statements about him. Among other things, she described his behavior as anxious, hostile, bizarre and so worrisome that she took it upon herself to alert campus police but didn’t find the evidence needed to hold someone against his will.

Defense attorneys say Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, is schizophrenic and was in the grips of a psychotic episode as he carried out the attack on July 20, 2012. If the jury agrees, he’ll be committed indefinitely to a mental hospital.

The state must prove he was legally sane at the time, which is the conclusion of two court-appointed psychiatrists who examined Holmes months and years after the attack. A guilty verdict could bring the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Fenton’s testimony helped explain how she handled Holmes and his thoughts of killing people. But it’s unclear how it will play with jurors trying to assess his mental state at the time of the shooting.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Tamara Brady, Fenton acknowledged she had written in her notes that Holmes “may be shifting insidiously into a frank psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.”

Fenton’s session notes said his demand to know her “philosophy” might indicate “psychotic level thinking.” When Brady pressed her on that, she confirmed Holmes was at the age when schizophrenics sometimes experience their first psychotic break.

Fenton and Holmes had five therapy sessions between mid-March and June 11, 2012, when he dropped out of the graduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado. He had come in with what a social worker described as the worst obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms she had ever seen.

Holmes got medicine but deflected efforts to probe his thinking, Fenton said.

At times, he showed flashes of anger, she said.

When Holmes couldn’t get a prescription filled because Fenton miswrote his name on the prescription, he sent her an email with an emoticon that he said signified him punching her. When she asked him about it, he responded: “Violence, is that what you wanted to hear?”

Fenton said Holmes may have been worried that she was trying to lock him up. Brady asked whether Fenton pressed him on that point, and she said she did, but “he wouldn’t answer.”

Two years after the attack, Holmes told a court-ordered examiner that he kept secret his elaborate schemes and to-do lists. He waited until just before the assault to mail his journal to Fenton.

“I kind of regret that she didn’t lock me up so that everything could have been avoided,” Holmes told the examiner.

Fenton, who also faces a civil suit accusing her of not doing enough to stop the attack, faced a few more questions from the jury before leaving the witness stand. A prosecutor asked if she could be released from her subpoena, but the judge agreed with a defense objection, saying she may be summoned again.


Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

TIME Crime

Texting-In-Theater Shooting Suspect Expresses Remorse

"As soon as I pulled the trigger, I said, 'Oh, shoot,'" suspect Curtis Reeves told police

Updated at 6:25 p.m. EST on Friday, February 7

A Florida judge listened to audio recordings Friday of police interviews of a suspect who allegedly fatally shot another man for texting in a Wesley Chapel movie theater, just north of Tampa. In the interview, retired police captain Curtis Reeves said, “As soon as I pulled the trigger, I said, ‘Oh, shoot.'”

Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Navy veteran Chad Oulson, 43, and was denied bail in a ruling late Friday afternoon. The confrontation began during the previews for Lone Survivor on Jan. 13 when Reeves asked Oulson to put away his cell phone. The ensuing confrontation ended with Oulson shot through the chest. Reeves has pled not guilty, and the judge will decide at the end of the bail hearing whether Oulson will be released pending trial, NBC News reports.

“If I had to do it over again, that would never happen,” Reeves said in police interviews that played in court Friday. “We would have moved. But you don’t get do-overs.” He added that his wife became upset at him after the incident. “She said, ‘We should have just moved.’ [To her] there’s no justification for what happened in there.”

Reeves told investigators that Oulson hit him with either his cellphone or his fist during the confrontation, and the defense offered two versions of a security video to prove that Oulson had been physically threatening Reeves. “It scared the hell out of me,” Reeves said. “He kept hollering. He led me to believe he was going to kick my ass.”

But both Reeves’ and Oulson’s wives said in their police interviews that they never saw Oulson hit Reeves. In Nicole Oulson’s interview she describes how she was wounded by the shot that killed her husband. According to her interview, Reeves told Oulson to turn off his phone, and her husband replied that he would “in a minute.” Reeves yelled at Oulson to “shut it off now” before leaving to get a manager.

When Reeves returned, Oulson had turned off his phone, but Reeves continued to hassle Oulson. “Now you put it away?” Reeves asked, according to Oulson’s widow. She says her husband then stood up and asked Reeves, “What’s your problem.” She added that she did not see her husband hit or physically threaten Reeves. She put her hand on her husband’s chest to ask him to sit down, at which point the shot rang out, injuring her and killing her husband.

According to Nicole Oulson, Reeves sat back down without trying to help Oulson. “He leaned back… didn’t try to help,” she said. “He just sat there as all the chaos was going on.”

This story has been updated with news that the suspect, Curtis Reeves, was denied bail.


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