Aurora Theater Shooting

James Holmes's alleged "confession" about theater shooting: The National Enquirer version

Last week, our Alan Prendergast wrote about an inmate who claims accused Aurora theater killer James Holmes told him his murder spree had been spurred by a homicidal directive implanted by a therapist.

Earlier today, the National Enquirer published its version of the story -- and the tone and substance are very different.

Prendergast notes that the inmate, Steven Unruh, 38, has what he describes as "a long history of drug and theft charges" -- among them meth and credit-card-fraud offenses for which he served six years behind bars. Moreover, Unruh admits to having been diagnosed with bipolar condition.

At present, Unruh is facing habitual criminal allegations that he'd like to address via mental-health treatments rather than an extended stay in stir. He hoped his observations would convince the authorities to offer him a deal -- and his narrative included anecdotes about Holmes trying to injure himself by banging his head before reports about him doing so surfaced in relation to a postponed hearing.

But no such agreement has been offered, presumably due to doubts that Unruh could have had an extended conversation with Holmes immediately after he was taken into custody for allegedly killing twelve people and wounding 58 at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. A representative of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office and the person in charge of the booking operation both flatly reject Unruh's tale, which Prendergast synopsizes like so:

[Unruh] says that Holmes told him "he felt like he was in a video game" during the shooting, that "he wasn't on his meds" and "nobody would help him." He says Holmes also mentioned NLP -- presumably, neuro-linguistic programming, a much-scorned and outmoded approach to psychotherapy -- and claimed to have been "programmed" to kill by an evil therapist.

"When he got out to his car, he wasn't programmed no more," Unruh says. "It sounded kind of crazy. He was trying to run it by me, basically."

No such caveats are shared by the Enquirer in an article headlined "'Batman' Killer's Incredible Confession." There's mention of an inmate with whom Holmes is said to have spoken through a ventilation pipe in an adjoining cell, but Unruh isn't named, and no information is provided about his background or the poo-pooing of law enforcers. Instead, the information is credited to an anonymous individual referred to as either an "insider" or a "source."

Are these people Unruh, too? Hard to say....

Continue to read more about the National Enquirer's James Holmes story. Here are some of the piece's assertions, presented Enquirer-style....
"Holmes said he initially went into the theater for the sole purpose of finding his therapist, who he believed would be waiting there for him," the insider revealed.

"While he said he was programmed to commit a shooting spree, he wasn't exactly sure if he was supposed to do it on that particular night.

"But once he got inside the theater, Holmes claimed that he heard something in the movie's musical score that told him it was time to shoot certain people, though not everyone."

There's also this:
"Incredibly, Holmes said he didn't mean to shoot that particular person but was too amped up on adrenaline to take good aim," said the source.

"He showed no emotion in describing how the bullet hit the victim in the eye, and it exploded like glass. And he didn't even wince as he recalled seeing brain matter splatter on the people sitting directly behind the person. After that, he said everything was just a blur."

By presenting this material without contextualizing it, the Enquirer lives up -- or down -- to its journalistic reputation. Don't be surprised, though, if its account travels far and wide. Even though the judge in the case has unsealed some documents, and the University of Colorado has released a few others, there's essentially an informational vacuum in the case at this point that's begging to be filled. And the Enquirer appears happy to oblige.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes case: Judge lifts gag order related to University of Colorado."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts