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Movie Rampage Suspect Makes First Court Appearance

His hair dyed orange-red and a dazed look on his face, the man accused of going on a deadly shooting rampage at the opening of the new Batman movie appeared Monday in court for the first time.

James Holmes, makes first appearance in court.
CNBC
James Holmes, makes first appearance in court.

An unshaven, handcuffed James Holmes sat in maroon jailhouse jumpsuit Monday as the judge advised him of the case. Holmes sat motionless, his eyes appearing tired and drooping.

He didn't say a word. His attorneys did all the talking when the judge asked if he understood his rights. Prosecutors said later they didn't know if Holmes was on medication.

Authorities have said he is being held in isolation at the jail. Holmes' demeanor appeared to anger the relatives of some of the victims who attended the hearing. One woman's eyes welled up with tears.

Holmes, 24, is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.

The hearing was the first confirmation that Holmes' hair was colored. Soon after the shooting, there were reports of his hair being red and that he called himself "The Joker" when he was arrested. "The Joker" is one of Batman's enemies in the fictional Gotham and has brightly colored hair.

Investigators found a Batman mask inside Holmes' apartment after they finished clearing the home of booby traps, a law enforcement official close to the investigation said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Authorities have disclosed that Holmes is refusing to cooperate and that it could take months to learn what prompted the horrific attack on midnight moviegoers at a Batman film premiere.

District Attorney Carol Chambers said her office is considering the death penalty against Holmes. She said a decision will be made in consultation with victims' families. After the hearing, she said "everyone is interested in a fair trial with a just outcome for everybody involved."

Holmes is accused of setting off gas canisters and then opening fire inside an Aurora, Colo., multiplex theater early Friday during the midnight debut of the Warner Bros. movie "Dark Knight Rises."

Holmes has been assigned a public defender, and Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the former doctoral student has "lawyered up" since his arrest early Friday, following the shooting at an Aurora theater that left 12 dead and 58 wounded, some critically.

"He's not talking to us," the chief said.

Holmes has been held without bond at the lockup in Centennial, Colo., south of Denver and about 13 miles from the Aurora theater.

His hearing was at the same complex amid tight security. Uniformed sheriff's deputies were stationed outside, and deputies were positioned on the roofs of both court buildings at the Arapahoe County Justice Center.

Police have said Holmes began buying guns at Denver-area stores nearly two months before Friday's shooting and that he received at least 50 packages in four months at his home and at school.

Holmes' apartment was filled with trip wires, explosive devices and unknown liquids, requiring police, FBI officials and bomb squad technicians to evacuate surrounding buildings while spending most of Saturday disabling the booby traps.

Officials at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus were looking into whether Holmes used his position in a neuroscience graduate program to collect hazardous materials, but that disclosure was one of the few it has made three days after the massacre. It remained unclear whether Holmes' professors and other students at his 35-student Ph.D. program noticed anything unusual about his behavior.

His reasons for quitting the program in June also remained a mystery. Holmes recently took an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year. University officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

Amid the continuing investigation of Holmes and his background, Sunday was a day for healing and remembrance in Aurora, with the community holding a prayer vigil and President Barack Obama arriving to visit with families of the victims.

Obama said he told the families that "all of America and much of the world is thinking about them." He met with them at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, which treated 23 of the people injured in the mass shooting; 10 remain there, seven hurt critically.

Meanwhile, the owner of a gun range told the AP that Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behavior and a "bizarre" message on his voicemail.

Holmes emailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 in which he said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, said owner Glenn Rotkovich. When Rotkovich called to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week, Rotkovich said he heard a message on Holmes' voicemail that was "bizarre — guttural, freakish at best."

Rotkovich left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said.

During the attack early Friday, Holmes allegedly set off gas canisters and used a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to open fire on theater-goers, Oates said. Holmes had bought the weapons at local gun stores in the past two months. He recently bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, the chief said.

The gunman's semiautomatic assault rifle jammed during the attack, forcing him to switch to another gun with less firepower, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. That malfunction and weapons switch might have saved some lives.

Oates said a 100-round ammunition drum was found in the theater, but he said he didn't know whether it jammed or emptied.

Outside the courthouse Monday, David Sanchez, said his pregnant daughter escaped uninjured but her husband was shot in the head and was in critical condition.

"When it's your own daughter and she escaped death by mere seconds, I want to say it makes you angry," Sanchez said. He said his daughter, 21-year-old Katie Medely, and her husband, Caleb, 23, had been waiting for a year to watch the movie. Sanchez said his daughter was scheduled to deliver her baby on Monday.

Asked what punishment Holmes should get if convicted, Sanchez said, "I think death is."

The shooting was the worst in the U.S. since the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood, Texas. An Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others.

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