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Centennial, Colorado - The man accused of killing a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater during a showing of the new “Batman” film gave little away in his first court appearance on Monday, sitting silently in a red jailhouse jump suit and with his hair dyed bright red.
James Eagan Holmes, 24, who was detained immediately after the massacre early on Friday morning, appeared groggy and emotionless during the brief hearing, looking straight ahead and occasionally closing his eyes. He was shackled at the wrists and ankles.
About 40 members of the victim's families were seated on the left side of the courtroom. One family member seated in the front row glared at Holmes throughout the entire proceeding.
Several times when Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester a sked Holmes a question, one of his attorneys answered for him.
Police say Holmes was dressed in body armor and toting three guns when he opened fire at a packed midnight screening of the new Batman movie at a theater complex in the Denver suburb of Aurora in the early hours of Friday. Fifty-eight other people were wounded, and many of them have serious injuries.
The former neuroscience student also left his apartment booby-trapped with explosives that police said could have destroyed the apartment complex. They conducted a controlled detonation over the weekend.
Police say they are still searching for a motive for the crime, which baffled fellow students and acquaintances. They descibed him as a quiet high-achiever whose past gave little inkling that anything was amiss.
At the hearing the judge set a date of next Monday for formal charges to be filed.
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said she would consult with the victims and families of the dead before making a decision on seeking the death penalty.
She told reporters outside the court house that the decision on the death penalty had to be made within 60 days of his arraignment, “so it's months down the line.”
Chambers has prosecuted two of the three inmates who are now on Colorado's death row.
Holmes was represented by a public defender during the brief hearing before Sylvester. It was not clear if any of his family attended the hearing.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama traveled to the suburb of 325 000 to offer comfort to families of the victims. He told them their loved ones would be remembered long after the justice system was done with the killer.
The dead included war veterans, an aspiring sportscaster who had barely escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall earlier this summer, and a 6-year-old girl.
The crime meets all the elements of Colorado capital case law, including premeditation, multiple victims, and the killing of a child, said former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman.
“If James Holmes isn't executed, Colorado may as well throw away its death penalty law,” he said.
Many in Aurora have vowed to deny Holmes the publicity they believe he craves by not uttering his name.
“I refuse to say his name. In my house we're just going to call him Suspect A,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told a memorial on the steps of the suburb's municipal center on Sunday night. He captured a spirit of defiance voiced by citizens as well as religious and political leaders.
Holmes and his motives remained largely a mystery, with past associates saying he displayed no hints of a mental illness or violent tendencies.
He was armed with a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 semi-automatic rifle, similar to an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun. Police found an additional Glock .40-caliber handgun in his car. All the weapons had been bought legally.
He is in solitary confinement to protect him from other prisoners. Holmes had recently dropped out of a doctoral degree program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical School, a few blocks from his apartment. - Reuters