The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Aurora theater shooter’s dark diary describes his ‘obsession to kill’

James Holmes and his defense attorney Daniel King, right, sit in court for a hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colo., on June 4, 2013. (Andy Cross/Reuters)

Hours before James Holmes walked into a Denver area movie theater in the summer of 2012 and allegedly gunned down dozens of people, he slipped a brown spiral notebook into a bubble mailer along with $400 worth of burned $20 bills and shipped it to his psychiatrist. The notes described his “obsession to kill” and detailed plans to do so, including his method, weapons he needed to do it and diagrams of the movie theater, Aurora Century 16.

“The obsession to kill since I was a kid with age became more and more realistic,” he wrote, according to the Denver Post.

On Tuesday, those notes were given to jurors. Holmes, 27, is on trial for murder, accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others during the premiere of the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in June 2012. Prosecutors say he plotted to kill. The defense argues he was having a psychotic breakdown at the time of the attack, CNN reported. Holmes, a former doctoral student in neuroscience, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

[Why the Aurora movie theater shooting trial is so unusual]

Aurora Police Sgt. Matthew Fyles read passages Tuesday from the notebook, titled “Of Life” — first for the prosecution, then for the defense.

Holmes, according to testimony, wrote about possible murder methods: nuclear bombs, a biological agent and then “serial murder via a cellphone, stun gun, folding knife at national forests.” He drew a check mark next to “mass murder/spree.” Then he considered possible targets, debating between airports and movie theaters.

On page 49, Holmes wrote about the Aurora movie theater. “What better place to case than that of an inconspicuous entertainment facility?” he wrote, according to a courtroom video posted by KDVR-TV. He drew sketches of the theater, pointing out exits, or ways for people to escape, Fyles testified in court.

He also made notes to remind himself to research laws as well as mental illness.

Holmes’s attorneys used his ramblings to paint a portrait of a troubled man who claims to have been fighting his obsession for more than a decade. “The real me is fighting the biological me,” he wrote, explaining that, for years, he had been battling his own thoughts — and ultimately failed, according to CNN.

“That’s my mind,” he added. “It is broken. I tried to fix it. I made it my sole conviction but using something that’s broken to fix itself proved insurmountable. Neuroscience seemed the way to go but it didn’t pan out. In order to rehabilitate the broken mind, my soul must be eviscerated. I could not sacrifice my soul to have a normal mind. Despite my biological shortcomings, I have fought and fought,” according to courtroom video.

In one passage, it seems Holmes attempted to diagnose his own mental health issues, referencing “catatonia,” “excessive fatigue” and “isolationism.” He described times he pulled out his hair, beginning in high school until he created a bald spot near the back of his head. “Most recently eyebrows and eyelashes,” he wrote, according to the Denver Post.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, according to the Associated Press. The district attorney has promised to show the jury interviews with two psychiatrists who both determined that Holmes suffered from a mental illness but was sane at the time of the shootings, the AP said. If Holmes is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be sent to a state psychiatric hospital.