By Keith Coffman
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A university psychiatrist who treated Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes before the rampage said at his murder trial on Tuesday that Holmes had homicidal thoughts but gave no indication he was planning the attack.
In much-anticipated testimony in a courtroom on the outskirts of Denver, Dr. Lynne Fenton described meeting with the defendant several times when she was medical director for student mental health services at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Holmes dropped out of a neuroscience graduate program there just weeks before he opened fire in July 2012 with a handgun, shotgun and automatic rifle inside a packed midnight premiere of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises."
The 27-year-old has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and wounding 70. He could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Fenton told a pre-trial hearing in 2013 her professional relationship with Holmes ended in mid-June the year before when he lost access to the campus after threatening a professor.
On Tuesday, she testified that Holmes had been referred to her in March 2012 after he called student mental health services for help with anxiety, and a social worker who met him described him as one of the most anxious people she had ever met.
Over the course of several sessions, Fenton said Holmes talked about having homicidal thoughts, but she said repeatedly that he admitted nothing about having plans or targets, nor did he mention suffering from mania or depression.
She said their therapeutic relationship was "tentative," and that she felt pushing Holmes too hard on his homicidal thoughts would be counterproductive. She said she had treated other patients who thought about killing, but never did it.
"I was worried he might drop out of treatment at any time," said Fenton, who has been sued by a widow of a victim who says she had a duty to protect the public.
Prosecutors say Holmes launched the attack because he lost his career, girlfriend and purpose in life. His public defenders say he suffers from schizophrenia.
At a June 11 meeting with Fenton and another psychiatrist, Holmes said he was quitting the neuroscience program after failing exams, but that he would get a job and probably see through the lease on his apartment until November.
"He seemed very relaxed ... (his plan) seemed logical and following society's rules, I guess," Fenton said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)