Parents of James Holmes, Who Killed 12 People in Colorado Movie Theater, Plead for Son’s Life

Robert and Arlene Holmes. (RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file photo)
Robert and Arlene Holmes. (RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file photo)

In a letter to prosecutors released Friday, the parents of accused Aurora movie theater killer James Holmes are asking for his life to be spared.

Holmes faces the death penalty in connection with the 12 shooting deaths at a suburban Denver movie theater in July 2012. Jury summons last week were sent to to 9,000 potential jurors for a trial that’s expected to begin in earnest in the spring or early summer.

In their letter, Holmes’ parents say their son suffers from mental illness and begged prosecutors to agree to a plea deal that would see him locked up for life and spared execution. Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and has undergone two formal — and still confidential — mental-health evaluations.

“We realize treatment in an institution would be best for our son. We love our son, we have always loved him, and we do not want him to be executed,” Robert and Arlene Holmes wrote in a letter distributed to Denver media Friday morning. “We also decry the need for a trial. A lengthy trial requires everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma.

“We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed. But we are aware of people’s sentiments,” they wrote. “We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.”

The letter is the first substantive comments from Holmes’ parents, who attend most of the court hearings. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers are under a gag order preventing them from discussing the case publicly. His parents attended a Dec. 8 hearing, and Holmes — wearing a red jumpsuit and red tortoiseshell glasses, his reddish-brown hair and beard neatly trimmed — seemed to briefly acknowledge their presence before taking his seat.

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Trevor Hughes

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