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Gunman who massacred 12 at movie premiere used same drugs that killed Batman star Heath Ledger

Gunman who massacred 12 at movie premiere used same drugs that killed Batman star Heath Ledger and messaged web lovers to ask… Will you visit me in prison?

  • Police believe he had grown fixated by Batman films and may have been hooked on prescription painkiller  found in the system of Heath Ledger
  • Specialists had to disarm booby-traps ‘set to kill’ inside his apartment
  • Shooter James Holmes, 24, dropped out from neuroscience PhD at University of Colorado in June
  • 58 injured and 12 dead, including Jessica Ghawi, AJ Boik, Alex Sullivan, Micayla Medek, John Thomas Larimer and Matt McQuinn
  • Killer had arsenal of 6,000 rounds which he bought at local shops and online

By Caroline Graham and Ian Gallagher

PUBLISHED: 08:39 GMT, 20 July 2012 | UPDATED: 22:46 GMT, 21 July 2012

Until a year ago James Eagan Holmes was regarded as an almost model citizen, a clean-cut all-American boy.

Sporty, family-minded, a brilliant scholar, the boy from the beach city of San Diego, California, appeared destined for a life of fulfilment.

‘He washed the car for his parents, he cut the grass, he played soccer,’ said Tom Mai, who has lived next to the Holmes family for 15 years.

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Profile: James Holmes, left, who allegedly launched an attack on a cinema during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and claimed to be ‘The Joker’, played by Heath Ledger (right)

Source: Holmes is believed to have bought guns from this hunting and fishing store in Denver

‘Killer’: James Holmes burst into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and fired indiscriminately at audience members at the new Batman film

‘We all had drinks together at Christmas and he served cookies to my children. He was a typical American boy. We drank hot apple cider together. There was nothing bad about him.’

Or so he thought.

Yesterday Holmes, 24, was maintaining his right to silence, declining to explain to detectives why, over several months, he assembled a terrifying arsenal – including a Remington shotgun, an AR-15 assault rifle and 6,000 rounds of ammunition – then indiscriminately fired on film-goers at a midnight screening of the Batman premiere in Denver, Colorado.

Unwilling to spare anyone, he killed 12, among them a six-year-old girl, Veronica Moser. He wounded 59 others, including a three-month-old baby.

After his arrest he told police that he was the Joker, Batman’s nemesis. Beyond that, nothing.

Last night, however, it was revealed that in a profile created by Holmes on an adult website earlier this month, he asks of prospective lovers: ‘Will you visit me in prison?’

Trail of blood: A line of blood leads from the emergency exit of the cinema, from where James Holmes launched his killing spree, and past the suspect’s car

Gruesome: An ATF agent examines the grisly scene left outside the movie theater where Holmes allegedly opened fire on dozens of unarmed spectators

Arsenal: The gas mask and assault rifle left at the cinema by James Holmes after the shootings

Family home: A woman identified by neighbors as James Holmes’ grandmother arrives at his family home in San Diego

There have been reports that his mother Arlene and father Robert, a software company manager, who live in a four-bedroom Spanish-style villa, instinctively knew their son was to blame when they heard news of Friday’s shootings.

Certainly they were aware that his life had begun to unravel over the past year, that for reasons still unclear he was living as a near recluse. He was behaving erratically too, trawling adult sex sites, taking drugs and leaving neighbours in the Denver suburb of Aurora with the impression he was deeply troubled.

Police believe he had grown fixated by the Batman films and there are unconfirmed reports he became hooked on the narcotic prescription painkiller Vicodin, which was found in the system of Heath Ledger, the actor who played the Joker. Ledger died of an overdose in 2008.

Publicly, at least, Holmes’s parents are not saying whether they know or can guess what made him snap, yet it appears that unlike others in America’s roll call of mass killers, he was no sociopath. Nor is there anything to suggest he had endured childhood trauma.

Weapons of choice: He had a Colt AR-15 Tactical Carbine and .40 caliber glock handgun (file pictures)

Power: He also had a Remington 870 Marine Magnum (pictured) with him, and another glock in his car

Recluse: Holmes went to high school in San Diego, where his parents still live; he is pictured right in his 2005 high school yearbook

Sumit Shah, a friend at Westview High School in San Diego, said: ‘Jimmy was pretty shy but once he got comfortable with you he was the funniest, smartest guy. The guy I knew was harmless.’

Experts believe it is more likely that Holmes was suffering from a genetic psychotic illness which could have acted like a ‘time bomb’ set to go off any time between the ages of 15 and 25.

Holmes began studying for a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver last year but dropped out a month ago. The last course he took was in mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders, according to the college.

Previously he had studied at the University of California where he obtained a first-class honours degree in neuroscience. Chancellor Timothy White said he had been a ‘brilliant student’.

Profile: Holmes says he is single and looking for ‘a fling or casual sex’

Discarded: Investigators look over evidence on ground outside the back door of the movie theatre. The gunman had been wearing head-to-toe ballistic gear

Television news crews set up for their live reports in front of the home of Robert and Arlene Homes, parents of James

Yet despite his degree Holmes was forced to take a job at the local McDonald’s after graduating in 2010. Mr Mai said: ‘He couldn’t get a job so he went back to school to get his doctorate. The family go to a local Presbyterian Church and Jimmy was active in the church. When he was here he was clean-cut, well-spoken and a good kid.’

Last night, Holmes’s mother was joined by his grandmother at the San Diego family home, which was besieged by television crews. His father arrived in Colorado and was taken to the Arapaho County Jail to see his son, who was in an isolation cell for his own safety.

On July 5 Holmes had set up an account on the AdultFriendFinder website, with the name ‘ClassicJimbo’. He said he was looking for ‘casual sex or a fling’, adding the cryptic message: ‘Will you visit me in prison?’

His profile, which shows him with dyed orange hair, describes himself as a ‘light/social drinker’, but in answer to a question about whether he takes drugs he answers: ‘Prefer not to say.’ He adds: ‘Am a nice guy. Well, as nice enough of a guy who does these sort of shenanigans.’

Marietta Perkins of Denver prays for victims and their families at a memorial near the Aurora Theatre, Colorado

A makeshift memorial is shown behind the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunman attacked movie goers during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises

Someone who has grown up in Aurora leaves a note expressing their sorrow for the victims of the massacre

Marietta Perkins falls to her knees in sorrow and prayer at a vigil across the street form the movie theater, Friday, in Aurora

Vigil: Mourners weep at a prayer meeting outside the massacre site on Friday evening

Police are investigating whether he may have ‘scrubbed’ other online profiles, as no trace of him could be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or Twitter. When he enrolled to do his doctorate, Holmes’s demeanour appeared to change.

Distraught: A woman uses a cell phone as she sits on the steps at Gateway High School near the scene in Aurora, Colorado

One neighbour at the university-run apartment block where Holmes lived, who gave his name only as Ben, said: ‘He was a recluse. He had no friends. He lost weight. His eyes didn’t look right. No one knew him, no one knew him at all.’

Last night the block remained sealed off as police dealt with a sophisticated booby trap.

Kaitlyn Fonzi – a 20-year-old biology student who lives directly below Holmes with boyfriend Chris Rodriguez, 30 – said she feared the gunman may have tried to lure them into his rigged apartment. She said she heard techno music blaring between 11.30pm and 1am on Thursday night into Friday morning: ‘I went upstairs and knocked on the door. When no one answered I put my hand on the door knob and realised it was unlocked. It felt weird so I didn’t go inside.’

Yesterday makeshift memorials sprung up by the cinema, where the horror of the tragedy was starkly portrayed by a line of bloody footprints leading from an exit door.

And last night Christian Bale, who stars as Batman in the film, said his heart went out to the victims.

‘Words cannot express the horror that I feel,’ he said in a statement. ‘I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones.’

Holmes is due to appear in court tomorrow morning.

Bomb squad sent in robot to clear flat of 30 booby-trap bombs

Sophisticated booby traps designed to blow up anyone entering James Holmes’s flat were defused last night.

In a delicate operation, police were trying to make the apartment safe and to preserve any evidence that may explain the rampage.

Sergeant Cassidee Carlson said: ‘We have been successful in defeating the first threat. The trip wire was set up to clearly detonate an incendiary device when a person entered the apartment.’

Rigged: Officers prepare to disarm the booby-trapped apartment of suspect James Holmes, which is feared to be armed with trip wires

Later, Sgt Carlson said: ‘We have been successful in disabling a second triggering device’, adding that the device was ‘set up to kill’.

The bomb squad used a robot to place a tube – known as a water shot – near a device in the flat. The water shot was then detonated to disable the explosive.

At least 30 explosive devices – some in clear one-litre cola bottles filled with an unidentified liquid – were spotted by teams using cameras attached to robots searching inside the flat.

Wires: Specialists line a window with wires for an explosion at the apartment where suspect James Holmes lived in Aurora, Colorado

Precautions: A video camera on a pole is used to inspect the results of a controlled blast in one of the rooms of the apartment

Police believe the flat, a few miles from the cinema, may have been booby-trapped to create a diversion.

A source said: ‘Perhaps he wanted to lure someone into his apartment to set off the trip wire and cause an explosion. The emergency services would then have attended that incident, which would have diverted resources away from the movie theatre.’

The tactic was used by mass murderer Anders Breivik, who bombed government buildings in Oslo in July 2011 before killing 69 people, mostly teenagers, on the island of Utoya.

When police secured the area around Holmes’s apartment early yesterday they found a maze of wires and bottles of liquid inside.

Six-year-old died and her mother has bullet in stomach

Six-year-old Veronica Moser was last night named as the youngest of the 12 victims.

Veronica’s mother Ashley, 25, remains in a critical condition with bullets lodged in her throat and stomach.

Tales of bravery and heartache began to emerge as the faces  and experiences of those killed were revealed.

Victim: Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring TV presenter, was one of the 12 people shot dead in the massacre. She was tweeting about her excitement at seeing the film until moments before her death

Casualties: Micayla Medek, left, and Alex Sullivan, right, were both declared dead after having been missing

Death: AJ Boik was reported to be another victim of the murderous rampage inflicted on a Colorado cinema

Matt McQuinn, 26, was hailed a hero for diving in front of his girlfriend Samantha Yowler, 27, amid a hail of bullets.

Ms Yowler underwent surgery for a bullet wound to the knee and is said to be in a ‘good’ condition.

Family lawyer Rob Scott said: ‘When the shooting began, Matt dived on top of Samantha to protect her. Matt died a hero.’

Couple: Matt McQuinn, right, attended the movie with his girlfriend Samantha Yowler, left, and ended up being one of the casualties. His girlfriend was injured also

A picture of John Thomas Larimer, who was in the Century 16 cinema theatre in Aurora when James Holmes burst in firing. His family have confirmed that he was among the dead

Heartbreak: Mr Sullivan embraces family members outside Gateway High School after searching for his son

Victims: Mother of two Rebecca Wingo (left) and aspiring sports writer Jessica Ghawi were among the victims

In another tale of bravery,  ex-serviceman Jon Blunk pushed his girlfriend Jansen Young to the floor as the shooting started.

Ms Young said: ‘Jon gave me a good push against the concrete and then I didn’t feel his arms against my back any more. But I didn’t know he had died until I started shaking him. He took a bullet for me. I would not be here today if he’d not been next to me.’

Subway worker Micayla Medek, 23, was described by her family as the ‘girl with a golden smile’.

Evidence: The car was impounded by officials after being abandoned in the parking lot of the theatre

Despair: A young man grieves during a memorial service for the victims on Friday night

Resilience: Three mourners respond to the tragedy with a show of strength and national pride

Sad: Two girls attending the vigil outside the theatre which was the site of the tragic murders

Speechless: More people grieving at the theatre vigil which drew hundreds on Friday evening

Her aunt, Jenny Zakovich, said: ‘My brother called me and was absolutely hysterical, sobbing, “I want to get my baby and bring her home.” Cayla was the most wonderful girl with a golden smile that lit up a room.’

Alex Sullivan, 27, died in the cinema where he worked as a concession manager as he celebrated his birthday.

Just before the film started, he posted his last tweet, which read: ‘Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever.’

Embrace: Eyewitness Jacob Stevens, 18, hugs his mother Tammi Stevens after being interviewed by police

Pain: Witnesses gather outside Gateway High School where they were brought for questioning

Emotion: Aurora police chief Daniel Oates was visibly moved when asked how the attack affected him

Towed: Holmes’s car being removed from the scene of the shooting on Friday evening

Loss: Four-year-old Myia Young lights a candle for the victims of the senseless attack on innocent cinemagoers

Crowds: In total, thousands of people attended vigils at churches and other sites around Aurora on Friday

A woman holds a candle at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie

Horror: People gather outside the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado at the scene of a mass shooting – a masked gunman shot dead 12 people and wounded 50 others


The Dark Knight cinema massacre may have been inspired by a Batman comic book strip, it emerged on Friday.

The bloodbath is a chilling copycat of a 25-year-old Batman comic strip which features a deranged gunman opening fire in a cinema.

In the second issue of The Dark Knight Returns, written by Frank Miller – the creative mind behind Sin City and 300 – gunman Arnold Crimp opens fire in a pornographic theatre, killing three people, after listening to Led Zepplin’s classic track ‘Stairway to Heaven.’


Crimp then walks into a cinema, which is screening a pornographic film called My Sweet Satan, and opens fire.


Holmes motives behind the massacre are unknown, but if he was a fan of the Batman comics, then he may well have read the issue featuring Crimp’s killing-spree.


The comic itself is still in print, and on Friday it was available in several Waterstones’ book shops, priced £12.99.

He is survived by his wife Cassie, 25. The couple had been due to celebrate their first wedding anniversary today.

Friend Ryan Frost said he met Alex while waiting in line for a comic book auction. ‘We bonded over a love of comic books. He loved life.’ Mr Sullivan’s uncle, Joe Loewenguth, added: ‘He always made you laugh. He had a little bit of comic in him. Witty, smart. He had a big heart.’

Skateboard enthusiast AJ Boik, 19, was mourned by his tearful best friend Ahmaf Kalam, 17, who said: ‘I’ve known him since I was seven. He loved skateboarding. He was a fanatic.’

Ahmaf’s sister Cynthia Kalam added: ‘When the shooting started, we all hit the floor. I was crawling through sludge. It was a mixture of popcorn, soda and blood. I can’t believe we will never see AJ again.’

Jessica Ghawi, 24, was an aspiring sports journalist who survived a mall shooting in Toronto last month. She wrote afterwards: ‘I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end.’

Mental health therapist Alex Teves, 24, was remembered as being ‘the friendliest kid on Earth’ and Navy Petty Officer John Larimer, 27, was called ‘an outstanding shipmate’ by his commanding officer.

Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress and mother-of-two Rebecca Wingo, 32, also died.

Survivor: Marcus Weaver shows the wounds he received in his arm during the shooting

Moment: The Colorado Rockies fell silent before their game against the San Diego Padres

Mourning: President Obama led a moment of silence for the victims from Florida on Friday morning

Christian Bale, left,  as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises and Tom Hardy as Bane. There were suggestions that the gunman was influenced by Bane, a character in the film which wears a dark mask covering his face

Scene: A map shows the movie theatre and the location of the gunman’s home in North Aurora–Will-visit-prison.html?printingPage=true


2 responses to “Gunman who massacred 12 at movie premiere used same drugs that killed Batman star Heath Ledger

  1. V.E.G. August 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    There is a much bigger hero than John Thomas Larimer: Indian-born Sikh Satwant Singh Kaleka. Kaleka gave his life stopping the gunman and saved dozens of lives that day. Kaleka is a hero and a legend. The gunman blew his brains out. Kaleka is a hero and a legend (His work is complete.)
    God bless.

  2. V.E.G. July 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    There is another hero: Dawn Hochsprung. Hochsprung gave her life saving others and the gunman blew his brains out. The Sandy Hook School is going to be torn down pretty soon.

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