The mother of Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes has spoken out for the first time since her son opened fire on an unsuspecting audience, breaking her four-year silence to advocate for mental health awareness.
“They're on my mind every day; it's the first thought when I wake up in the morning” Arlene Holmes told KGTV in her first interview since the massacre.
Her son was sentenced to serve 12 consecutive life sentences without parole, plus 3,318 years in prison after he slaughtered a dozen people and injured 70 more at a packed Century Aurora 16 theater during a 2012 screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’
Holmes spoke out against her son’s crimes and called for better discourse around mental health issues and treatment.
"It's a big concern to me, I want to show respect for the victims and to let people know that the reason why I'm giving you an interview is because May is Mental Health Awareness Month,” she told the TV station.
“I want to share the lessons that I've learned," she said. "My son had a diagnosis of schizophrenia which I didn't know about until I sat in the trial.”
Holmes, who had no known criminal record prior to the shooting, was normal and happy growing up, his mother said. But that changed when he became a teenager, as the young man became more withdrawn and irritable as time went on, she said.
"He was chattier when he was younger, and over the course of a decade he got quieter and quieter,” she said.
A therapist the family saw for about a year suggested the Holmes’ move from northern California to San Diego could be the root of the teen’s mood changes, but nothing improved as the family made an effort to enjoy fun times together to cheer him up.
"Don't try to solve it yourself, get some help, some professional help," Arlene said. "This is what I have to offer, I failed to be educated and I want to offer up that failure as advice to other people."
The victims of her son’s crimes have never escaped Arlene, who said she carries them with her everywhere she goes.
"I can't erase the day but I wish I could. The way that I want to honor their injuries and their distress is to try and help prevent something this bad from happening again."