Aurora theater shooter James Holmes’ University of Colorado psychiatrist testified at his trial that she called Holmes’ mother about his admission that he had daily homicidal thoughts—but came away reassured that the future mass killer had long had such disturbing urges without acting on them. From the AP’s report on Dr. Lynne Fenton’s testimony:
Fenton called Holmes’ mother, but was told that her patient had been shy and socially awkward for many years, diminishing the apparent risk that he would be a danger to himself or others.
“I thought it was much less likely this was a sudden, new psychotic break,” Fenton said.
CNN writes that after speaking with his mother, Fenton “came to believe [Holmes’] homicidal thoughts were longstanding, dating back to childhood.” The psychiatrist also contacted campus police about Holmes, but believed that he could not be pre-emptively detained without evidence he intended to act on his impulses or was making plans to do so. (It is often permissible for mental health providers to contact police and family members if a mental health patient is feared to present a danger to himself or others.)
Holmes carried out his 2012 attack about a month after the last time he spoke with Fenton. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murder.
Fenton faces a civil lawsuit filed by the wife of one of Holmes’ victims, which alleges she was negligent in not asking authorities to detain him via a “72-hour psychiatric hold.”