CENTENNIAL – The suspect in the Colorado shooting rampage tried unsuccessfully to call his university psychiatrist nine minutes before he opened fire during a Batman movie premiere, defense attorneys revealed in court Thursday.
James Holmes placed the call to an after-hours number at a hospital at the University of Colorado, Anschutz campus, where psychiatrist Lynne Fenton could be reached, defense attorney Tamara Brady said.
It wasn’t clear why he called Fenton, and she wasn’t immediately available to talk to him. Holmes, 24, is accused of opening fire during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.
The detail about the call came out during a hearing about his relationship with Fenton, to whom he mailed a package containing a notebook that reportedly contained violent descriptions of an attack.
Prosecutors asked the judge to let them review the notebook as part of their investigation, while defense attorneys argued it was inadmissible because it was protected by doctor-patient privacy laws.
Judge William B. Sylvester ruled that an ongoing doctor-patient relationship did exist between Fenton and Holmes, but he scheduled a Sept. 20 hearing to revisit the notebook issue.
Thursday’s 3½-hour hearing was the longest yet that Holmes has attended. He appeared to pay close attention to the proceedings and smiled at least once as he leaned toward his attorney. Holmes had a light moustache but was otherwise clean-shaven, and his hair was blond and orange.
Brady brought up the call placed by Holmes to show Fenton’s doctor-patient relationship with him was ongoing. During questioning, Brady asked the psychiatrist if she could be reached at that after-hours number, to which Fenton replied she could.
Brady then asked, “Do you know that Mr. Holmes called that number 9 minutes before the shooting started?”
Fenton responded, “I did not.”
Prosecutors noted Holmes also had Fenton’s office phone number. He apparently did not try to reach her there.
Fenton testified that she last met with Holmes on June 11 and that she believed they had no doctor-patient relationship by July 19, the day prosecutors say Holmes mailed the notebook. She also said she contacted a campus police officer after meeting with Holmes on June 11.
“I communicated with (the officer) to gather more information on this case and also communicate my concerns,” Fenton said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson asked Fenton what information she wanted from police, but Brady objected, and the judge barred the question.
University spokeswoman Erika Matich said the school would have no comment about Fenton’s testimony, including any details about her contact with campus police.
“Dr. Fenton’s testimony stands for itself,” Matich said.
Meanwhile, the University of Iowa released records showing it rejected Holmes from a graduate neuroscience program last year after he visited campus for an interview and left the program director bluntly warning colleagues: “Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances.”
It was unclear why Holmes’ application was denied, and university officials wouldn’t elaborate. But the application response was yet another window into a complex young man who was viewed as both brilliant and deeply troubled before the July shooting.
Holmes applied to the Iowa program in late 2010 and was given an interview Jan. 28, 2011, according to records released by the university. In his application, he painted himself as a bright student interested in improving himself and helping the world with a career in scientific research.
But two days after Holmes’ interview, neuroscience program director Daniel Tranel wrote a strongly worded email urging the admissions committee not to accept him to the school.
“James Holmes: Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances,” wrote Tranel, a professor of neurology.