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Inside the mind of a mass murderer: Why?

Inside the mind of a mass murderer: Why?

CREATED Jul 23, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV/AP) – James Holmes appeared in a Colorado court Monday, with his hair dyed a bright reddish-orange, appearing dazed and tired.

Police say Holmes is the gunman who killed 12 people and injured 58 others during the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a Colorado movie theater on June 20.

Prosecutors said they didn’t know if he was on medication. Police said he is being held in isolation and refusing to cooperate.

Is he crazy? Why did he snap? And what’s his motive? They are all questions that swirl around the massacre, as experts try to figure out what goes on inside the warped mind of a mass murderer.

They are heinous, headline-grabbing crimes: the deadly rampage at the University of Arizona nursing school; the shootings during January 8th at a Tucson grocery store; and just days ago at the movie theater, among others.

Gary Lavergne is the author of "A Sniper in the Tower,” a book on mass shooter Charles Whitman, the former Marine who killed 16 people in near a Texas tower in 1996.

He told KGUN9 News that mass shooters often have some failure or frustration – stemming from academic problems, for example – and also hunger to be in the spotlight.

“They are very, very selfish self-centered people who want attention,” Lavergne said. “And by and large, they get what they want, especially those who live through it.”

Holmes got plenty of attention in court with his bold hair color, while he looked sedated and struggling to pay attention. But Lavergne said there is a chance he is faking his odd behavior. After all, Colorado police said this is man who acted calculated and deliberate. He carefully assembled all his weapons and gear legally, while booby trapping his apartment. He also planned his attack to coincide with the one of the most anticipated movie premiers.

“They have the presence of mind to amass, to plan, and to get what they need to do what they want,” Laverge said. “He did what he what he had to do to accomplish the goal he had set out – and that was to kill as many people as possible.”

According to various media reports, people have described Holms as clean-cut, studious and quiet. And by all accounts, the neuroscience graduate student was very intelligent.

“They are able to call upon more experience and more knowledge … That brilliance allowed him to get away with a lot of stuff for a long time,” Lavergne said.

But on June 10, Holmes told campus officials he was dropping out of school. It was a sign he had lost control. And Lavergne said Holmes found a way he thought he would be able to regain it. 

Laverne said: “What a better way to regain control of everything than to be the only person among innocents who has a gun – and you decide who’s living and who’s dying?”