By David A. Fahrenthold, David Nakamura and Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; A01
PHOENIX - Arizona shooting suspect Jared Loughner made an initial appearance in a federal courtroom here Monday, while 100 miles away in Tucson a team of doctors watched Rep. Gabrielle Giffords enter a crucial phase of her recovery from a gunshot wound.
Loughner, 22, had a shaved head and a cut on his right temple as he appeared in court, and new details emerged about his life and the difficulties he had with his family.
Loughner faces five federal counts, including two charges of murder. In all, the rampage left six people dead, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and 14 injured.
More than a dozen federal marshals stood by as Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson listed the potential punishments Loughner faces if convicted, including life in prison and the death penalty.
Anderson asked the suspect if he understood. Loughner leaned into the microphone and answered calmly: "Yes."
In Tucson, doctors said that the 40-year-old congresswoman's condition had not changed since Sunday. "At this stage in the game, no change is good, and we have no change," Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center, said in a news briefing at the hospital.
In Washington on Monday, President Obama and congressional leaders paused to honor the victims of Saturday's shootings. The president plans to attend a memorial service in Tucson on Wednesday.
As Loughner appeared in court, acquaintances in Arizona revealed new details about his past few years - in which an increasingly erratic Loughner distanced himself from family members and friends and made decisions that sabotaged his ambitions.
"What Jared did was wrong. But people need to know about him," said Roxanne Osler of Tucson, whose son had been a friend of Loughner's. "I wish people would have taken a better notice of him and gotten him help. . . . He had nobody, and that's not a nice place to be."
Osler and her husband, George, said Loughner told them he had a severely troubled relationship with his parents. George Osler recalled an incident around 2008 in which Loughner's parents appeared at his door in the early morning. They said that their son - then about 20 - had left home and that they hadn't seen him in days, Osler said. Osler's son told Loughner's parents that they could find him at a nearby motel.
Loughner's parents have not made any public statements since their son was arrested on Saturday.
Roxanne Osler said that Loughner, who visited to play guitar with her son, was more formal and polite with her than her son's other friends were. She said he made a point to thank her for having him over. "He craved not only my son's attention, but my attention," she said.
The Oslers said they have not seen Loughner for more than a year. He had severed his relationship with their son in a single text message. "Jared just texted him one day, says, 'I don't want to be your friend anymore,' " Roxanne Osler said.
George Osler said Loughner was fascinated by movies such as "A Scanner Darkly" and "Donnie Darko," in which characters experience reality as distorted or dreamlike.
"He got into the whole 'lucid dreaming' thing and the whole kind of concept that our existence isn't really real," George Osler said. "That eventually weared and weared on him until he just finally snapped."
Roxanne Osler said that she had seen a change in Loughner a few years ago, when he focused on classes at Pima Community College in Tucson. He said he wanted to be a writer, she said, and he cut his hair short before starting school.
"He went from that long, scraggly, bummy look to a normal kid," she said. "I did see a change in him, and he did want to improve his life."
But at the school, Loughner became known for loud, nonsensical outbursts in class, and other students feared that he would become violent.
One of Loughner's ambitions had collapsed in late 2008.
Alex Montanaro, a former schoolmate, said in an e-mail to The Washington Post that Loughner had worked out for months in preparation to enlist in the Army. He was rejected. A military official said this week that the rejection was because of Loughner's drug use.
Montanaro said he was told that it was "because he was colorblind."
In 2008, according to voter registration records, Loughner moved out of his parents' house and into an apartment in northwest Tucson. Montanaro said Loughner had no income and had to move back in with his parents a short time later.
Montanaro had a different view of Loughner's parents. If there was a problem with their relationship, he said, it appeared to stem from Loughner's odd behavior.
"As Jared became more strange, his relationship with his parents, mainly his father, appeared strained," Montanaro wrote in the e-mail. "From a neutral standpoint it was mainly because Jared began disrespecting them and his parents simply had to respond."
At some point, Loughner began buying guns. Last year, he purchased a single-shot shotgun, made by Harrington & Richardson, from Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson. Then, on Nov. 30, he went to the same store and bought a 9mm Glock pistol.
That was the weapon, fitted with an extended magazine that held more than 30 bullets, that Loughner allegedly used in Saturday's rampage. The FBI has both guns.
Now, Loughner's life has become a legal case. On Monday, the Federal Public Defender's Office asked a judge to appoint him the same lawyer who defended Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber.
Judy Clarke, a San Diego lawyer, is known as a tireless and effective campaigner against capital punishment. In the 1990s, she convinced a South Carolina jury that Susan Smith did not deserve the death penalty for drowning her two sons in a lake.
At Monday's hearing, Loughner was asked whether he accepted Clarke as his attorney. He replied that he did.
Arizona officials said Monday that they plan to file murder charges against Loughner in state court. They are considering filing dozens of additional charges in connection with "endangering" people who were present, but not hurt, during the shootings.
"We have so many victims, and it's important to have justice for them and not just for the federal employees," said Barbara LaWall, the Pima County attorney. She said it is unclear whether charges will be filed soon or after the federal case against Loughner is finished.
"We don't want to do anything to endanger the [federal] case,'' she said.
At La Toscana shopping center in Tucson, where the shootings took place, stores reopened on Monday. Shoppers and store owners tried to return to their routines, as news trucks sat in the parking lot and FBI agents roamed the sidewalks outside the Safeway.
"There's no one here," said Ted Tucker, who lives nearby and was trying to pick up a prescription at Walgreens. "This is our Safeway. It is where the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts sit out and sell cookies."
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Fahrenthold and Markon reported from Washington. Staff writers Amy Gardner, Sari Horwitz, Clarence Williams and Dana Hedgpeth in Tucson and staff researchers Alice Crites and Lucy Shackelford in Washington contributed to this report.