Portrait Emerges of Massacre Suspect James Holmes

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America got its first look at suspected Colorado movie theatre shooter, James Holmes, on Monday.

If convicted, the 24-year-old could face the death penalty. Prosecutors say they'll consult with the victims' families before making that decision.

Meanwhile, the question of why he did it continues to go unanswered.

On paper, Holmes had it all together. He was an intelligent young man studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado. Even as far back as elementary school, he showed promise in his studies.

Dare 2 Share in Arvada, Colo., is one of many ministries in the area reaching out to victims of Friday's massacre. Ministry president and founder Greg Stier shares his spiritual "battle plan" on how to cope with the tragedy, on CBN News Channel Morning News, July 24.

"He was a top student," Holmes' fifth grade teacher Paul Karrer said. "Everything he did he excelled in academically."

"I remember him as a very smart, humorous individual," a high school friend said.

Holmes grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood. His mother is a nurse and his father is a mathematician.

Jerry Borgie, senior pastor of Pensasquitos Lutheran, the Holmes family's church, described the suspect as "a little bit on the quiet side."

"In one-to-one conversations, it was obvious he was an intelligent young man and he had goals, professional," Borgie said.

"He had a field he was going to follow and, as you got to know, he did that," the pastor continued. "He graduated with honors and he went on to graduate school."

Police say Holmes walked into the Aurora, Colo., mall theater around midnight Friday and opened fire. He wore body armor, dyed his hair red, and even wore a mask and goggles.

Holmes is suspected of shooting 70 people. Twelve died from their injuries.

A spokesman for his family said they will stand by their son, while extending condolences to the victims and promising to work with police.

"Our hearts go out to all of the victims and their families," Holmes family spokesperson Lisa Damiani said. "They really want everyone to respect their privacy. It's a very, very sad day. They're working with and communicating with authorities and really that's all we can say for right now."

Damiani stressed the importance of letting this case play out in the courtroom and not in the media. That courtroom process began Monday, and that first glimpse of Holmes left a disturbing image.

Holmes sat silent during his court appearance, looking dazed, and at one point seemed to be dozing off.

"Well, in looking at him today at the hearing, I found it very interesting the way his eyes were rolling, how he tried to open them up, how he looked like he might have been nodding off a little bit," Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, said.

"And it struck me that this is a person who has been through an emotional maelstrom and, therefore, might be totally wiped out emotionally," he added. "There could be some sort of psychotic process going on and we see that being acted out there."

"Or there might be some malingering going on, in other words trying to make himself look worse than he actually is," Gardere speculated. "Or maybe a combination of all of those things."

Some of the victims and their families were in court. Many chose not to attend.

Shooting-spree survivor Justin Davis, 16, decided to go back and finish the movie that was cut short for him and so many others. With regard to Holmes, Davis said his faith leaves him only one option.

"We should just forgive," Davis said. "We don't know what he's going through; we don't know why he did it."

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CBN News
Caitlin Burke and Efrem Graham

Caitlin Burke and Efrem Graham

CBN News

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