Parents of Colorado theater shooting suspect pray for victims, still hope for plea deal

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DENVER — The mother of Colorado theater shooting defendant James Holmes writes in a new book that she prays for the victims daily, "by name and by wound."

Bob and Arlene Holmes told the Del Mar Times (http://bit.ly/1IKADqV ) about the book she wrote in their first interview since the 2012 shooting that left 12 dead and 70 others injured. In the forward of "When The Focus Shifts: The Prayer Book of Arlene Holmes 2013 -2014," she writes that proceeds will be donated to mental health services, not to her son or his case.

"This book is being published to raise awareness of the immorality of the death penalty and the futility of seeking justice through execution," she wrote in the book, a collection of prayers taken from her handwritten journals since the shooting. Holmes' parents told the newspaper they still hope their son's life can be spared through a plea deal, even as opening statements in the death penalty case are scheduled for April 27.

"The pretrial process has been lengthy, stressful for everyone, and expensive; the trial will be torturous and lengthy, and the appeal process in death penalty cases could last decades," his mother wrote in the book's forward.

The rest of the book contains prayers for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike, her feelings of guilt for not recognizing her son's mental illness and getting him help, her experiences in the courtroom and reflections on her own struggles with depression after the shooting. She laments what she sees as a lack of compassion for the mentally ill.

Holmes' parents and attorneys have said he was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he slipped into the movie theater and opened fire, but the book offers no new insight into his diagnosis.

In an entry from Jan. 12, 2013 called "Preliminary Hearing Memories," she recalled the violence and wrote, "What were you thinking, Jim? And what are you thinking now? Praying for Jim in jail; please don't commit suicide. You lived so that we could understand you and others could study you and learn to prevent future tragedy."

In another from March 22, 2013, titled "Memories," she wrote that her recollections of her son as empathetic and responsible don't explain the shooting.

"My son never harmed anyone," she wrote. "People think he is a monster, but he has a disease that changed his brain. ... Praying for good men and women engulfed in psychosis and alone with their disease."

Holmes' parents told the newspaper, based near their home in Rancho Penasquitos, that they are bracing themselves for their son's trial. They don't explain the timing of the book, which comes as defense attorneys have asked a judge to move the proceedings out of the suburban Denver community where the attack occurred, saying pretrial publicity has made many prospective jurors biased against Holmes.

A spokeswoman for District Attorney George Brauchler declined to comment on the book, citing a gag order that prevents those involved in the case from talking about it. But in court filings released Monday, prosecutors, arguing against a change in venue, wrote that the one piece of pretrial publicity that may have been most memorable to prospective jurors was a letter Holmes' parents wrote to The Denver Post, presumably to garner sympathy for their son.

Neither Holmes' parents nor an attorney representing them immediately responded to requests for comment. Arlene Holmes said her son's defense team had no knowledge of the book.

In other passages, she wonders if she can forgive herself for not predicting the violence. In "Praying for Prosecutors," she writes, "I do not know why you want to pursue execution of a mentally ill man, But I pray for you ... Please stop this quest for death so you may focus on those who are alive."

After the trial, according to one passage, Holmes' parents would like to meet with victims' families to "give them information, when we get information."

"We can answer some questions, but never can answer 'Why?'"


Associated Press writers Donna Bryson and P. Solomon Banda contributed.

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