Aurora Theater Shooter Timeline: Prelude to Mass Murder

This timeline reflects notable dates, events and evidence presented in the trial of James Holmes (JH). JH gunned down a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012, leaving 12 people dead and 70 more injured. He is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, and the prosecution is seeking the death penalty should he be found sane by the jury.

1997-06-01 00:00:00

Family counseling

The Holmes family goes to family counseling because, testimony reveals, JH hit his sister, Chris and then barricaded himself in a room. JH later says he didn't want to appear weak in front of his parents and his sister, and didn't talk about his darker feelings or thoughts.

1999-05-01 00:00:00

Perported suicide attempt

JH says he attempted suicide at age 10, but Dr. Raquel Gur testifies that this happened in 6th grade around age 12 in the back of his family's car during the move from Castroville, California to San Diego. There was a box next to him in the back seat, and he tore a piece of cardboard from it which he then rubbed across his wrist. When his mother asks about the marks, he says they're paper cuts. Gur testifies "He was stressed and distressed to the point that he didn't want to live." She calls this move "very unusual."

2000-06-01 00:00:00

Homicidal thoughts

JH says, as a high school sophomore, he has thoughts telling him to kill people. In the notebook he sent to psychiatrist Lynne Fenton, he explains, "The obsession to kill since I was a kid, with age became more and more realistic."

2010-08-01 00:00:00

College grad

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Riverside as "one of the top of the top," JH gets a job working full-time at a pill-coating factory for $11/hour while living with his parents. Co-workers testify that he was quiet. One of them noticed he would sometimes stare at the wall.

2011-01-30 00:00:00

University of Iowa email warning

Inner office email sent out from University of Iowa grad program about JH warns, "Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances."

2011-02-28 00:00:00

Accepted to CU

JH gets official acceptance letter from CU-Denver neuroscience program after multiple rejections from other universities. In his University of Iowa application he wrote, “We all share one brain, the human brain.”

2011-03-21 00:00:00

Accepted to U of Illinois Grad School

JH receives acceptance letter from the University of Illinois. It reads, "Those who met you ... during your interview visit felt that your personal and professional qualities are truly outstanding and that you will be an excellent match for our program."

2011-05-01 00:00:00

Moves to Denver

JH signs a one-year lease for his Paris Street apartment, which is located just blocks from graduate school. He starts class early at CU-Denver.

2011-08-01 00:00:00

First meeting, first girlfriend

During orientation, JH’s ex-girlfriend Gargi Datta sees him for the first time. During her testimony in 2015, she recalls him wearing bright blue sunglasses.

2011-09-23 00:00:00

“Hey girl, I lost my number can I have yours?”

JH sends Datta an email with the heading, “Hey girl, I lost my number can I have yours?” This was after a failed attempt to exchange phone numbers so that JH could join a study group.

2011-10-01 00:00:00

JH makes friends

JH and Datta go out for the first time, to a horror film festival in Denver. The couple begin spending more time together and also socialize in a group with grad students Tim Tapscott and Ben Garcia. The group plays "Dominion," watches movies and hikes together.

2011-10-20 00:00:00

Phantom limbs?

JH Google chats with girlfriend Gargi Datta (whom he calls Gargs and Gargizzle) about phantom limbs. JH: "What would you do if you woke up with a random leg next to you in your bed?" Datta: "prolly try to find the body it is attached to? :P"

2011-10-28 00:00:00

First law violation

JH receives the first spot on his record he's ever had: a speeding ticket for driving 46 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. A family discussion about the ticket ensues over email.

2011-11-01 00:00:00

First Ph.D. presentation

First-year graduate neuroscience students give their first oral presentation; Datta later testifies that JH’s report "went well." But supervisor Sukumar Vijayaraghavan testifies his presentation was "just average."

2011-12-01 00:00:00

Killing dreams

JH says he starts having serial killer dreams, experiences an intense fear of failure.

2011-12-01 00:00:00

Home for holidays

JH goes home to San Diego for the holidays. Spends Christmas in Arizona at his uncle's house. He and Datta don’t speak much over the break. He gets a case of mono, which lasts for the next few months. He doesn't tell girlfriend Gargi that he has been infected.

2012-02-14 00:00:00

Valentine's date

JH prepares a candlelit dinner for Datta for Valentine’s Day. He tells Dr. William Reid he made her "chicken and onions." Datta later testifies feeling guilty because she’s getting ready to break things off.

2012-02-16 00:00:00

The breakup

Datta tells JH she doesn’t see a future together, she only wanted something casual. JH takes this news calmly and doesn’t get angry or upset with her.

2012-02-20 00:00:00

Rejected from labs

Second lab rotation ends. JH’s advisor, Dr. Sukumar Vijayaraghaven testifies that professors, including Mark Del’Acqua, were starting to indicate JH is not fitting in. Further, he adds, "they didn't want to take him on as a student in their labs."

2012-02-23 00:00:00

Lab rotation

JH chats with Datta on Google at around 9 p.m. JH says he got a B and will start up soon with Professor Curt Freed for his third lab rotation. JH: It looks like I won’t be joining this past lab I rotated in. Datta: Oh? JH: The professor got pissed off I didn't complete the main project.

2012-02-29 00:00:00

Email home with bad news

Writes his folks "It hasn't exactly been the best of times lately." Holmes has done poorly in his lab rotation and on top of that, Gargi has broken up with him. Dad Bob Holmes testifies that his son does not to communicate by phone and email is preferable.

2012-03-01 00:00:00

Friends with benefits

JH and Gargi are friends with benefits.

2012-03-16 00:00:00

JH seeks psych help

JH sees social worker Margaret Roth and says he has anxiety problems and thoughts of killing people but no specific targets or plans. She says he’s not dangerous, but that he’s the most anxious person she’s ever seen. JH later tells psychiatrist Dr. Jeff Metzner that if he had revealed his plans to the mental health professionals, they would have locked him up and he wouldn't have been able to kill.

2012-03-17 00:00:00

"I'm NOT your girlfriend."

At a bar with Datta, Holmes confronts guy who speaks to her, telling him that Datta is his girlfriend. Datta takes him outside, she later testifies, and tells him, “I'm not your girlfriend.”

2012-03-21 00:00:00

JH starts meds

JH sees CU-Denver psychiatrist Lynne Fenton for the first of what would be seven meetings. After a session lasting around 50 minutes, she suspects he’s psychotic. He tells her he is having thoughts of killing people 3-4 times a day. Fenton prescribes 50 mg of Zoloft and 50 mg of Clonazepam.

2012-03-24 00:00:00

Picks up meds

King Soopers pharmacist verifies on stand the first Zoloft (Sertraline) prescription. 100 mg. 45 tablets. Same for Clonazepam. Prescribed for OCD and depression by Fenton

2012-03-25 00:00:00

Human capital

JH Google chats with Datta about doing something “evil." Datta to JH: What do you want to do? JH to Datta: Kill people of course. That is why I live in the future. Datta to JH: Killing people is too much effort… Most people are not worth what might happen to you coz of the act. JH: That’s why you kill many people. This is the first indication that Holmes had come up with the idea of “human capital”: murder increases his self-worth, because the more people he kills, the more human value points he accrues. “I thought he was just messing with me,” Datta later testifies. Under cross-examination by Tamara Brady, Datta says the message sounded delusional but in a colloquial way, not in a clinical sense.

2012-03-27 00:00:00

Number 2 visit with Fenton

JH second appt with Lynne Fenton. This one is only 15 minutes. Though testimony indicates he had only been taking Clonazepam for three days, he says it makes him sleepy. Fenton ups his dose of Zoloft to 100 mg per day and prescribes 100 mg of Propranolol per day to replace Clonazepam.

2012-03-28 00:00:00

Emails folks about retirement fund

Tell his parents he's contributed $4500 to his Roth IRA.

2012-04-01 00:00:00

1st of 4 voice mails from dad ignored

Bob Holmes testifies he was concerned because his son did not return 4 voice mails. 4/1, 4/29, 5/1, and Memorial Day.

2012-04-02 00:00:00

Detached from Datta

Datta wants to be friends, but JH says he can’t “just be friends.” JH looks for other girls.

2012-04-03 00:00:00

3rd psychiatrist visit and med talk

JH is on time to see his CU psychiatrist, Fenton, for 15-20-minutes to talk more about whether his meds are working. He tells her propranolol is working and he’s less anxious, but meds are causing memory problems. She moves his dosage to night time to take care of drowsiness side effect.

2012-04-09 00:00:00

A new crush

JH sends a text message to Hillary Allen, a classmate he has a crush on. She says he got her number from her roommate.

2012-04-17 00:00:00

JH 3rd visit disturbs psychiatrist

JH is again on time for this 40 minute visit with Fenton. He tells her he and Datta broke up 2 weeks before and that he has an increase in obsessive thoughts. She decides that he might get along better with a male and decides she will bring in psychiatric violence specialist Dr. Robert Feinstein for the next session. Fenton thinks JH has a social phobia but is not an imminent threat.

2012-04-19 00:00:00

"Will you visit me in prison?"

JH joins and pays for the membership with Mastercard ending in #2217. He calls himself "classic Jimbo" on his dating profile. Some time between April and July, he writes In the headline, “Will you visit me in prison?” Last log-in is July 18, 2012 — 2 days before the shootings.

2012-04-23 00:00:00

Psychiatric backup brought in

Psychiatrist Dr. Feinstein first hears about JH through a routine monthly consult with colleague Lynne Fenton. He speaks with social worker Margaret Roth to learn more. Also on this day, JH texts Allen during class: Why you gotta distract me with them shorts? She later testifies in court and describes his emails as “flirtatious.”

2012-04-25 00:00:00

A hike with the new flame

JH texts Allen: We should go for a hike some time. They meet the following Saturday at Golden Gate State Park and JH brings the snacks. Allen later testifies in 2015, “I didn’t want it to be perceived as a date.”

2012-04-30 00:00:00

JH had $11,000 in bank account

JH texts Allen: “pfffft if you could get any hotter than u r now.” Deborah Foley, from the Point Loma Credit Union where JH has saving, testifies that at the end of April, JH has $11,000 in his account.

2012-05-01 00:00:00

First weapons purchasaed

In early May, someone tries to break into Hillary Allen's home by shattering the back window. JH buys a taser which looks like a cellphone and a folding knife. He later tells a court-appointed psychiatrist, " I rationalized it as self-defense."

2012-05-01 00:00:00

Renews apartment lease, still plans to kill

JH renews his apartment lease for another six months and pays his rent on time for May with a signed and dated personal check.

2012-05-01 00:00:00

Diagnosing the shooter's mind

4th appointment with Dr Fenton. He has sent her a disturbing email about her mistaking his name on his last prescription. The header is "An inconvenience, Fenton." There's emoticon in the body of the email which has a succession of "q's" which JH tells her symbolizes him punching her in the eye. (more in extra info) He also tells her he's "with another girl." Fenton testifies, "He said he’d had multiple others. Usually would last 4 months and he would just stop talking to them."

2012-05-05 00:00:00

JH distances himself

Allen texts JH: "Maybe next weekend, hike?" JH responds the next day with: "No."

2012-05-08 00:00:00

Struggles in school

JH texts Allen about a class presentation: “I have no idea what I’m gonna present.” Allen later testifies “He had no data… It just didn’t seem like he had put much effort into it.”

2012-05-12 00:00:00

Purchases for the shooting begin

JH buys two canisters of Clear Out (police grade tear gas) online with his Mastercard credit card at a total of $43.79. He also buys an SG150 Gas Mask kit, which included a nuclear biological chemical filter, at $133.74.

2012-05-13 00:00:00

More isolation, distance

JH writes his mom for Mother’s Day. Around this time in May he disassociates from friends, notably Hillary Allen, Ben Garcia and Gargi Datta. Garcia testifies JH was “acting like he didn't care,” which irritated her.

2012-05-16 00:00:00

Receives Colorado Residency

JH is granted Colorado residency by CU-Denver (paperwork found in his backpack left in his apartment by police). He applied a year ago that month to become a resident so that his tuition fees would be lessened to an in-state price.

2012-05-18 00:00:00

Email about not moving home

Emails parents on Memorial Day that he wants to avoid moving home except as a last resort to homelessness.

2012-05-22 00:00:00

Buys Glock handgun

At 3:51 PM, JH buys a 40-caliber glock handgun (the one they found on top of his car at the theater) at Aurora Gander Mountain store using his Mastercard credit card. The purchase was $647.99.

2012-05-25 00:00:00

Professor is concerned

JH corresponds with CU-Denver professor Achim Klug. Klug is concerned.

2012-05-27 00:00:00

Last meds prescribed

Fenton prescribes the last medication JH will have until his psychotic break in November. 45 tablets of 100 of miligrams of Zoloft. There's no way to determine whether or not he takes it; thus no way to know whether he is medicated the night of the shooting, July 20, 2012.

Aurora Theater Shooter Timeline: Prelude to Mass Murder

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