LOS ANGELES — The parents of shooting suspect James Holmes on Friday pleaded that their son be spared the death penalty in a deadly rampage in a suburban Denver movie theater that shocked the nation two years ago.
In a letter to the Denver Post and emailed to journalists around the country, Robert and Arlene Holmes said: “We wish the tragic events of July 20, 2012 never happened,” Los Angeles Times reported.
“He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” they wrote in their first comments except for a brief statement immediately after the attack in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that was presenting a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Holmes is accused of purchasing a ticket to the show, then leaving and returning wearing tactical gear. He opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun, a semiautomatic rifle with a drum magazine of ammunition and a Glock handgun.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the attack.
Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 20.
“We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed,” wrote the parents, who live near Rancho Penasquitos in San Diego. “But we are aware of people’s sentiments. We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster.”
The parents went on to say that they oppose capital punishment. “We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill,” they said. James Holmes has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
For some, the letter was just an attempt to spare Holmes from being executed.
“I think it’s a ploy by the defense and the shooter’s family to save his life,” said Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed on his 27th birthday.
The parents have “had over two years to comment and the timing of this – a week before Christmas is rather strange,” Sullivan said, adding: “Maybe had they thought about their son’s emotional problems they would have addressed it and maybe my son would be here opening presents this Christmas.”
In their letter, Holmes’ parents said they have spent every moment of the two years since the shooting thinking about the victims and their families and friends. “We are always praying for everyone in Aurora,” they wrote.
Holmes was diagnosed with mental illness in May, 2013, and prior to the attack, “he never harmed anyone and he had no criminal history,” the parents wrote.
“We understand that if our son is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he could go to an institution that provides treatment for the mentally ill for the remainder of his life. This result would prevent any future harm to him and others,” they said.
The parents called for their son to be institutionalized for the rest of his life.
“We love our son, we have always loved him and we do not want him to be executed.”
“We also decry the need for a trial,” they said. “If that happened, our son would be in prison the rest of his life, but no one would have to relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise.”