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story.lead_photo.caption This file photo released on Sept. 20, 2012 by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office shows Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- James Holmes' mother insisted Wednesday that she would "have been crawling on all fours" to reach him had she known he was talking about killing people weeks before he ambushed a crowded Colorado movie theater.

Arlene Holmes said her son's campus psychiatrist never told her that James Holmes had homicidal thoughts when she called that June and revealed that he was quitting therapy and dropping out of school.

"We wouldn't be sitting here if she had told me that!" Holmes' mother said, her sobs rising to anger. "I would have been crawling on all fours to get to him. She never said he was thinking of killing people. She didn't tell me. She didn't tell me. She didn't tell me!"

"He was not a violent person. At least not until the event," Holmes' father, Robert Holmes, said earlier Wednesday.

"The event" is a phrase he used several times to refer to his son's attack on the audience inside a Colorado movie theater on July 20, 2012, which killed 12 people, injured 70 others and made James Holmes eligible for the death penalty.

Arlene Holmes was the defense's last witness in its portion of the sentencing phase. Others who testified included family friends, teachers and former neighbors who said the James Holmes they knew was shy, mild-mannered and polite -- not the kind of man who would gun down innocent strangers.

Closing arguments were scheduled for today. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty; Holmes' attorneys are arguing for life in prison.

Death sentences must be unanimous. While the jury has already decided that Holmes was legally sane at the time of the attack, his defense is hoping at least one juror will agree that his mental illness reduces his moral culpability so much that he deserves the mercy of a life sentence instead.

James Holmes on Wednesday declined his last opportunity to speak to the jury.

In her testimony, Arlene Holmes said the University of Colorado psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, didn't respond to a message seeking more details about their son. They hadn't known he was getting therapy, and thought perhaps he was depressed, or was suffering from Asperger's syndrome, Robert Holmes said.

Fenton testified earlier that she had called James Holmes' parents, overriding her concerns that she was violating her client's privacy, because she was trying to decide whether he posed a danger to himself or others.

A campus security official had offered to detain him for an involuntary hospital mental health commitment, but Fenton declined, in part because she said the parents told her he had always been withdrawn.

"Schizophrenia chose him; he didn't choose it and I still love my son. I still do," Arlene Holmes said Wednesday, choking up on the stand.

Throughout the day, Holmes' parents were seen holding hands in the courtroom gallery, their fingers intertwined. James Holmes looked up at the screen as his childhood photos were displayed.

Holmes had enrolled in a prestigious neuroscience postgraduate program at the university in 2011. But his parents had grown increasingly worried when he returned home to California on his first winter break looking haggard and making odd facial expressions. He shared his fear of failure later that spring, but his parents said they had no idea he was descending into mental illness.

His parents had been thrilled when he started dating in graduate school, and knew it wasn't a good sign when that first relationship ended. "We knew some things weren't going well there," Robert Holmes said.

"He said he was having trouble in school," Arlene Holmes said, stifling a sob. "I kept telling him, just keep trying, keep trying, but I didn't realize that his loudest cry for help was his silence."

Holmes' father said he has only seen his son in jail three times because James Holmes typically does not allow visitors. During one of the visits, he "was clearly really messed up," his father said. "But he told us he loved us."

A Section on 07/30/2015

Print Headline: Gunman's mother tearfully describes talk with therapist

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