Parents of Colorado theater shooter pray for victims daily

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Posted: Mar 30, 2015 9:36 PM
Parents of Colorado theater shooter pray for victims daily

DENVER (AP) — The mother of Colorado theater shooting defendant James Holmes writes in a new book that she prays for the victims daily, naming each of the 12 people who were killed and the 70 others who were injured.

Arlene Holmes announced the book to the Del Mar Times (http://bit.ly/1IKADqV) in her first interview since the 2012 shooting in suburban Denver. She and her husband told the newspaper they are bracing themselves for their son's trial and still hope their son's life can be spared through a plea deal. Opening statements in the death penalty case are scheduled for April 27.

"The pretrial process has been lengthy, stressful for everyone, and expensive; the trial will be torturous and lengthy, and the appeal process in death penalty cases could last decades," she wrote in the forward of "When The Focus Shifts: The Prayer Book of Arlene Holmes 2013 -2014."

Much of the book is a collection of prayers taken from her handwritten journals since the shooting. It contains prayers for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike, her feelings of guilt for not recognizing her son's mental illness and getting him help, her experiences in the courtroom and reflections on her own struggles with depression after the shooting. She laments what she sees as a lack of compassion for the mentally ill.

Holmes' parents and attorneys have said he was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he slipped into the Aurora movie theater and opened fire, but the book offers no new insight into his diagnosis.

In an entry from Jan. 12, 2013 called "Preliminary Hearing Memories," she recalled the violence and wrote, "What were you thinking, Jim? And what are you thinking now? Praying for Jim in jail; please don't commit suicide. You lived so that we could understand you and others could study you and learn to prevent future tragedy."

In another from March 22, 2013, titled "Memories," she wrote that her recollections of her son as empathetic and responsible don't explain the shooting.

"My son never harmed anyone," she wrote. "People think he is a monster, but he has a disease that changed his brain. ... Praying for good men and women engulfed in psychosis and alone with their disease."

Holmes writes in the book that proceeds will be donated to mental health services, not to her son or his case. But some victims' families questioned the timing, as defense attorneys have asked a judge to move the proceedings, saying pretrial publicity has made many prospective jurors biased against Holmes.

"I can only think this is some kind of ploy. This is some type of strategy cooked up by the defense to try to save someone's life," said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the shooting. Holmes' mother's thoughts and apologies mean little to him, he said. "As far as people I think about on a daily basis, they are so far down the list it's not worth mentioning."

Neither Holmes' parents nor an attorney representing them immediately responded to requests for comment. Arlene Holmes said her son's defense team had no knowledge of the book.

"This book is being published to raise awareness of the immorality of the death penalty and the futility of seeking justice through execution," she writes.

A spokeswoman for District Attorney George Brauchler declined to comment on the book, citing a gag order that prevents those involved in the case from talking about it. But in court filings released Monday, prosecutors, arguing against a change in venue, wrote that the one piece of pretrial publicity that may have been most memorable to prospective jurors was a letter Holmes' parents wrote to The Denver Post, presumably to garner sympathy for their son.

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Associated Press writers Donna Bryson and P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report.