Preparing for Slaughter, Aurora Suspect Paused for Self-Portraits, Prosecutors Say

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. − The ghostly self portraits, taken with a cellphone just hours before he allegedly opened fire at an Aurora movie theater, show James E. Holmes in the final sprint of his deadly plan.

In one photo, his pupils lifeless from black contact lenses, Mr. Holmes sticks his tongue out, dyed orange curls tumbling out of a knit cap. In another, his lips curl into a contorted grin, the muzzle end of a Glock pistol visible next to him. In a third, a large cache of weaponry and body armor is splayed neatly across a red sheet.

The photos were shown by prosecutors on Wednesday at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing for Mr. Holmes, held to determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

A former graduate neuroscience student at the University of Colorado, Denver, Mr. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding more than 50 during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" last July.

Judge William B. Sylvester of Arapahoe County District Court set a new hearing date for Friday and is expected to issue a ruling on the case by then. If he determines there is enough evidence to proceed, largely considered a formality, Mr. Holmes could be arraigned the same day.

Laying out their final pieces of evidence, prosecutors on Wednesday showed smartphone photos Mr. Holmes also took of the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora weeks before the shooting. Prosecutors said he took the pictures while on an apparent reconnaissance mission.

Other photographs, taken by the police, showed the parking lot behind the theater just hours after the shooting. Mr. Holmes' assault rifle lies on the ground near an emergency exit, a trail of blood snaking toward the door. A makeshift doorstop is jammed into the exit, propping it open. An array of tactical gear − a gas mask, handguns, gun magazines and caltrops − are scattered in and around Mr. Holmes' car.

"He picked the perfect venue for this crime," the prosecutor, Karen Pearson, told the court. "There were never going to be enough ambulances, enough police officers to get everyone out of there fast enough."

She added: "He didn't care who he killed and how many he killed, because he wanted to kill all of them. And he knew what he was doing."

Daniel King, a public defender for Mr. Holmes, did not call any witnesses during the two-and-a-half day hearing, opting to wait before presenting his defense. Mr. King has repeatedly signaled that he plans to argue Mr. Holmes is not guilty due to insanity.

"This is neither the proper venue nor the time for us to put on a show or present some truncated defense," he said.

After the cellphone photos of Mr. Holmes were put on two large television screens at the front of the courtroom, transfixing the packed gallery, Caren Teves, whose son Alex was killed that night, scribbled a note on a pad she held in her lap.

"No Insanity," it read.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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