Aurora theater shooting gunman James Holmes' psychiatrist Dr Lynne Fenton: Gunman hated 'sheeple'

Posted at 6:44 AM, Jun 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-17 04:28:26-04

Prosecutors in the Aurora movie theater shooting trial have called the gunman's psychiatrist to the stand. She testified that she was aware he had homicidal thoughts and even called his mother, but said he never met the criteria necessary for her to put him in a hospital.

Lynne Fenton, M.D., is a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado and the medical director for student mental health.

Fenton treated the theater gunman in the months before the shooting and is answering questions about her meetings with him and the prescriptions she wrote him. 

"He remained very quiet... he would give me very short answers," Fenton said about her first meeting with the gunman, on March 21, 2012. "He tells me he's having some relationship problems - that his girlfriend had recently broken up with him."

Fenton testified that she asked about his anxiety around people.

"He just talked very briefly, succinctly, about that," she said.

Later in their first session, Fenton asked about his relationships.

"I don't have relationships with people, they have relationships with me," Fenton quoted the gunman as saying.

During that first meeting, the gunman told Fenton he was having homicidal thoughts three to four times a day. Fenton said she asked if he was taking any action and whether the threat was directed at a specific person. At that point, she testified, she did not feel there was an immediate threat.

"I had the impression [his homicidal thoughts] had been there a long time... maybe years," Fenton testified.

Fenton said she first brought up prescribing an anti-psychotic, Seroquel, during their second meeting, on April 3. The gunman declined because he was afraid it would make him too sleepy.

Fenton next saw the gunman on April 17 and said his appearance and demeanor had not changed.

"His mood seemed fine and he was not suicidal," Fenton testified.

The gunman talked about his recent breakup.

"He was doing OK, but had an increase in obsessive thoughts about women," Fenton said. He also had obsessive thoughts about "men" and "everyone."

District Attorney George Brauchler asked why Fenton did not press the gunman harder about his obsessive thoughts. Fenton said she felt he wouldn't respond to direct questioning and it might push him away.

At one point, the gunman became upset, Fenton said.

"He was angrily asking me, 'Why you won't tell me your philosophy on life? I've told you mine,'" she said.

Fenton also said the gunman made "a few select, odd statements that I didn't understand."

"He said, regarding me, 'You do certain things, like crinkle your nose, which means dislike,'" Fenton said. He also said, "You have an unconscious and that makes you do things."

Fenton said she asked the gunman if he would allow Dr. Robert Feinstein to join their next session. She felt the gunman might respond better to a male.

During his first session with both doctors, on May 31, the gunman told Dr. Feinstein that he "hates sheeples and shepherds."

Fenton says the gunman did not tell her anything about the purchases he had made.

His appearance was the same and he had no signs of mania, Fenton said.

During the May 31 session, Dr. Feinstein also brought up prescribing anti-psychotic medications but the gunman was not willing to take it. He did, however, agree to another session.

They met again on June 11.

According to Fenton, his appearance was the same, but he appeared relaxed or relieved.

He told Fenton he had failed an important exam and was dropping out of the neuroscience program.

"He seemed very relaxed. To me that seemed inappropriate," Fenton said. 

Fenton said she wondered if he was mad at the program, the school or any individual associated with it, but that he didn't seem to be.

"He seemed to be making reasonable plans for the future and did not appear depressed," Fenton testified.

She said their meeting only lasted 20 minutes instead of the usual 45-50 minutes.

After the lunch break, Fenton talked more about her last meeting with the gunman - on June 11 - when he told her he was dropping out of the neuroscience program.

Fenton discussed continuing his treatment, but his insurance was going to expire as he exited the program.

She says she offered to see him for free but he said he couldn't see a reason to continue treatment if he was not going to be in the grad student program.

Feinstein asked if the gunman would consider therapy for "his life." Fenton said the gunman thought about it for a moment, but declined.

Prosecutors then asked a series of direct questions about what the gunman did and did not tell her.

Fenton testified the gunman did not tell her about the weapons and accessories he had purchased.

He never said he was hearing voices or seeing shadows or flickers, Fenton said.

She also said he never mentioned concerns about his nose and eyes.

Fenton said she never saw any signs of mania or depression. 

After the gunman told her he was not continuing therapy, Fenton said she was concerned and contacted the school's BETA Team.

The BETA Team did a background check - looking for a criminal record, military/combat experience, concealed carry permits and more. The report came back "clean," Fenton confirmed.

Fenton said she also called the gunman's mother about his behavior.

"She said essentially that he had always been like this, meaning very shy and socially awkward," Fenton said.

Fenton testified she wanted to see the gunman to try to rule out diagnoses including Asperger's Syndrome, schizophrenia and/or a schizoid personality disorder.


Over a month before the July 20, 2012 shooting, Dr. Fenton informed CU Police that Holmes was having homicidal thoughts and also that he had harassed her via email and text message, search warrants say.

Sources told 7NEWS Investigator John Ferrugia that Fenton was asked by an officer if a 72-hour hold was necessary, but she said it was not because, in part, Holmes was withdrawing from the graduate neuroscience program. Since he was leaving the campus, the University of Colorado Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team dropped the issue.

Before the theater shooting, the gunman sent his notebook to Dr. Fenton. Prosecutors said the notebook shows the gunman carefully planned the mass shooting, weighing his options on various ways to kill and even detailing steps to take beforehand, such as "research firearms laws and mental illness."

"The obsession to kill since I was a kid, with age, became more and more realistic," the gunman wrote in the notebook, according to Aurora Police Department Sgt. Matthew Fyles who read excerpts from the notebook in court.

The gunman, James Holmes, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and injuring 70 others on July 20, 2012. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

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