Ex-girlfriend recounts how James Holmes sent message about taking lives

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CENTENNIAL, Colorado (CNN) — She was the girlfriend of James Holmes just months before he allegedly committed one of the worst mass killings in U.S. history, opening fire on a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Gargi Datta recounted how Holmes sent a haunting chat message: “You take away life, and your human capital is limitless.”

As his capital murder trial completes its seventh week, here are five things we have learned about Holmes and the mass shooting in which he is accused of killing eight men, three women, and a 6-year-old girl. He’s also accused of injuring 70 people in the 2012 attack. Holmes, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 counts.

Girlfriend from the college grad program

Datta and Holmes met in the graduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2011, Datta testified this week.

She met him at the program’s orientation session, and he later asked her out. She was attracted to him, and she just wanted a casual dating relationship.

In this story

  • James Holmes wrote his then-girlfriend, "You take away life, and your human capital is limitless"
  • They broke up a month before July 2012 mass killing in a crowded movie theater
  • Court-appointed psychiatrist says Holmes was legally sane at time of shooting

They went to a horror film festival in Denver, with dinner, in October 2011. They started dating. They were also in biology class and then neuroscience class together.

“He seemed shy and quiet,” Datta said.

She described what seemed a typical college romance.

They saw each other once or twice a week, catching a movie or staying in to watch Netflix or play board games, she said. They sometimes went for a hike. He kept his living room and kitchen extremely clean, but his bedroom was messy, with clothes all around.

He spoke of a prior intimate relationship while an undergraduate at the University of California, Riverside, where he graduated with the highest honors in 2010. It was when he was a camp counselor, but the relationship went bad, Datta testified.

The breakup

She wanted the relationship to be casual and thought he wanted more than that.

When Christmas break arrived, they stayed in touch, though she thought about breaking up with Holmes, Datta said.

When they returned to school, they resumed their relationship.

At one point, Holmes told Datta he loved her.

“I told him I was not in love with him,” Datta said.

In early 2012 about six months before the shooting, she grew distant from him.

Holmes made an effort to have a nice Valentine’s Day with her, which made her feel guilty.

Later in February, she told him she didn’t see a future together and broke off the relationship.

“He wasn’t expecting it when I went over and told him,” Datta said.

Holmes didn’t get angry, she said.

But in March, they were friends with benefits, she admitted, suggesting continuing sexual contact.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, she was told that Holmes was referring to her as his girlfriend.

“Later I confronted him and told him I wasn’t his girlfriend,” Datta testified.

Prosecutors try to prove sanity

District Attorney George Brauchler pressed his effort to prove Holmes’ sanity at the time of the mass shootings by calling to the stand court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, who did an extensive psychiatric exam on Holmes in August 2013, interviewing four four times for a total of 25 hours.

Brauchler: “Did you form an opinion of the defendant’s capacity to know right from wrong based on societal standards of morality for his conduct on July 19 and 20, 2012?”

Psychiatrist: “It’s my opinion that despite having mental disease or defect, that Mr. Holmes had the capacity to tell the difference between right from wrong from a societal standpoint at the time of the commission of the alleged crimes.”

Later, the district attorney asked: “Did you formulate an opinion as to whether or not James Eagan Holmes was sane when he murdered 12 people and attempted to murder 70 other people — whether he was legally sane on July 19 and 20 2012?”

Psychiatrist: “I did. And it is my opinion that Mr Holmes at the time of the commission of the alleged acts, met the criteria for legal sanity.”

Defense team focuses on mental illness

Though it’s not their turn to call witnesses, the defense questioned Metzner in an effort to prove Holmes was insane.

Defense attorney Daniel King addressed the depths of Holmes’ psychosis and delusions, and he implied the psychiatrist’s findings leaned in the defense’s favor, though the doctor says Holmes was legally sane.

The defense says Holmes has schizophrenia.

King asked the doctor, based upon everything he’s seen, was the shooting a direct result of Holmes’ mental illness?

Correct, the psychiatrist said.

King then asked, so without that mental illness, the shooting wouldn’t have taken place?

Correct again, the doctor stated.

Video of crime scene

The jury saw a 45-minute police video of the crime scene.

The images were graphic and disturbing: Bodies sprawled across the floor, aisle after aisle.

Some bodies were in contorted positions while others appeared to be in positions of trying to hide and also some in fetal positions.

Soda cups still sat in cup holders, and popcorn littered the floor.

Lots of ammunition and bullets of various kinds littered the floor. There was an unattended rifle.

Family members in the gallery held back tears. Nearly all held a hand to the face at some point during the video, restraining tears or covering their mouths.

The mothers of two slain victims — Alexander Teves and Jessica Ghawi, both 24 — comforted each other with hugs and hand-holding. Teves’ mother, Caren, covered her face throughout much of the video and seemed to look toward Holmes now and then.

The video was not fed to the courtroom pool camera used by the media covering the trial, preventing outlets from broadcasting it.


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