DENVER (AP) — The man accused of opening fire in a suburban Denver movie theater had been an excellent student who left an impression good enough for acceptance to a competitive neuroscience program at the University of Illinois.
Those who recommended James Holmes found him intelligent and mature. His application materials described a bright student with strong interests in the cognitive sciences.
“He takes an active role in his education, and brings a great amount of intellectual and emotional maturity into the classroom,” one recommendation letter said. “James received excellent evaluations from the professors and graduate students with whom he worked and was mentored.”
The letter and all of the university’s documents related to Holmes were provided to The Associated Press on Friday after an open records request. The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill., first obtained the documents.
Holmes had applied to the highly selective program in Illinois last year. The school paid for his travel expenses for a visit, and he was offered a stipend $22,600 per year and free tuition. At least two researchers vied for Holmes to join their laboratories.
“Your personal and professional qualities are truly outstanding,” and “you will be an excellent match for our program,” read the acceptance letter.
But the person described in the admissions application contrasts starkly with the 24-year-old man who has attended court hearings with a dazed expression on his face, his hair dyed a cartoonish orange, his eyes directed straight ahead. Defense lawyers said this week that Holmes suffers from a mental illness.
Little is known about Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 in the attack during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” A judge has sealed court documents in the case and issued a sweeping gag order that prevents the University of Colorado, Denver, from releasing his school files. The judge’s gag order does not apply to other states.
Holmes attended the Denver school’s neuroscience program but dropped out in June without providing a reason.
His application to the Illinois school indicated he was committed to pursuing a career as cognitive neuroscientist.
“Researching learning and memory interests me because these are the very cognitive processes which enable us to acquire information and retain it,” he wrote in his personal statement. “They are at the core of what distinguishes us as people.”
Recommendation letters say he was in the top 1 percent of his honors classes, graduating with a cumulative grade point average of 3.949. Another letter describes him as “a very effective group leader” on assignments.
The names of those who wrote the letter were blacked out.
The only part of his application that seemed odd was the photo he submitted: a photo of himself, standing next to a llama.
It was not clear whether he used the photo to make his application memorable, although it seemed to work. Samuel Beshers, neuroscience program coordinator, referred to Holmes as “llama” in emails. Beshers did not return a message left at the school.
Holmes eventually declined the school’s acceptance by email, writing: “My apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Best wishes in your candidate search.”
More Related Stories
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
- Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements
- Obama to all-male university graduates: Be the best husband to "your boyfriend or partner"
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- GOP attorney general candidate tried to force women to report miscarriages to police
- Chinese hackers resume attacks against U.S.
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11