CENTENNIAL, Colo. – As James E. Holmes' preliminary hearing continues Wednesday, prosecutors are expected to keep filling in the details of their case in the Aurora movie theater massacre that left 12 dead and as many as 70 wounded.
The hearing will determine whether enough evidence exists to try the suspected gunman. In the first two days of testimony, the prosecution methodically described the chaos and carnage inside Century 16's Theater 9 in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, as well as the events leading up to the rampage and officers' desperate efforts to save lives.
On Monday, the first police officers on the scene told of finding a blood-soaked theater with bodies and spent shell casings strewn amid spilled popcorn, abandoned flip-flops and incessantly ringing cellphones that had been dropped in the panic to escape. All the while, the movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” continued to play above the screams of terrified moviegoers.
Aurora police officers also told of a man captured just outside the theater’s emergency exit. He stood silently in full body armor with a semiautomatic handgun resting on the roof of his car, but he did not attempt to pick up the weapon. One officer said he acted strangely “detached” from what was happening and even volunteered that his apartment was booby-trapped with homemade bombs. That man was Holmes, the witnesses said.
On Tuesday, the prosecution painted the former neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado-Denver as a deliberate and calculating killer who began amassing an arsenal of weapons and military-style gear as early as May 10. He bought four guns and 6,295 rounds of ammunition from online sources and local sporting goods stores, witnesses said.
According to the testimony, he set an elaborate trap inside his apartment with trip wires, remote devices and chemical explosives designed to cause a fire or explosion should anyone enter.
Prosecutors also worked to dispel theories that Holmes had an accomplice by introducing testimony that moviegoers saw only one shooter.
Holmes faces 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. He has not yet entered a plea and is being held without bond.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty. The newly elected district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, George Brauchler, will make that decision. He was sworn into office on Tuesday.
Defense attorneys have worked to further their own scenario, previously describing Holmes as mentally ill and seizing on testimony of bizarre behavior just after his arrest. They also pointed to how some witnesses described him as sweating profusely and having dilated pupils. During cross-examination, defense attorneys asked police officers why they did not order a drug test for Holmes.
If the case goes to trial, the defense is expected to offer an insanity defense.
The preliminary hearing, with District Judge William Sylvester presiding, is expected to last until Friday.