Skip to main content

Widow of Colorado theater shooting victim sues psychiatrist

By Carma Hassan and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 10:08 AM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A civil lawsuit accuses psychiatrist who treated shooting suspect of negligence
  • Dr. Lynne Fenton should have alerted police about James Holmes, suit says
  • A University of Colorado spokeswoman says the lawsuit "is not well-founded legally"

(CNN) -- The widow of a victim killed in last year's Colorado movie theater shooting is suing the accused gunman's psychiatrist and the university where she works.

The psychiatrist should have advised police to apprehend suspect James Holmes weeks before the theater rampage, Chantel Blunk said in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court.

Blunk's 26-year-old husband, Jonathan, was one of 12 people slain in the July 20 shooting.

Dr. Lynne Fenton reportedly saw Holmes as a patient.
Dr. Lynne Fenton reportedly saw Holmes as a patient.

Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who works at the University of Colorado and saw Holmes as a patient, "knew that James Holmes was dangerous" and "had a duty to use reasonable care to protect the public at large from James Holmes," according to the lawsuit.

An attorney representing Fenton could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the University of Colorado Denver, said officials there were aware of the lawsuit and had received notice that 11 others could be filed.

Report: Holmes' psychiatrist reported behavior to colleagues

"The University of Colorado Denver has nothing but sympathy for the victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting and their families, but in our initial review of this case, the University believes this lawsuit is not well-founded legally or factually," Montgomery said in a written statement.

State: Holmes intended to kill them all
Cynthia Davis, center, visits the roadside memorial set up for victims of the Colorado shooting massacre across the street from the Century 16 movie theater on Monday, July 30, in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed in the theater early July 20 during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Suspect James Holmes was taken into custody shortly after the attack. More photos: Colorado movie theater shooting Cynthia Davis, center, visits the roadside memorial set up for victims of the Colorado shooting massacre across the street from the Century 16 movie theater on Monday, July 30, in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed in the theater early July 20 during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Suspect James Holmes was taken into custody shortly after the attack. More photos: Colorado movie theater shooting
Colorado massacre: Mourning the victims
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Colorado massacre: Mourning the victims Colorado massacre: Mourning the victims
The public gets its first glimpse of James Holmes, 24, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting during his initial court appearance Monday, July 23. With his hair dyed reddish-orange, Holmes, here with public defender Tamara Brady, showed little emotion. He is accused of opening fire in a movie theater Friday, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. More photos: Mourning the victims of the Colorado theater massacre The public gets its first glimpse of James Holmes, 24, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting during his initial court appearance Monday, July 23. With his hair dyed reddish-orange, Holmes, here with public defender Tamara Brady, showed little emotion. He is accused of opening fire in a movie theater Friday, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. More photos: Mourning the victims of the Colorado theater massacre
Colorado movie theater shooting
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Colorado movie theater massacre Colorado movie theater massacre
FBI: Holmes' apartment rigged to kill

On June 11 -- more than five weeks before the shooting -- Holmes told Fenton that "he fantasized about killing a lot of people," the lawsuit says.

But according to the lawsuit, when a police officer asked whether Holmes should be placed on a psychiatric hold for 72 hours, Fenton "rejected the idea."

The lawsuit accuses Fenton of negligence and said the university is also liable.

In August, Fenton testified in court that her contact with Holmes ended on July 11. She said she later contacted campus police because she was "so concerned" about what happened during her last meeting with him, but she declined to detail what bothered her.

Holmes, a 25-year-old former doctoral student in neuroscience, faces 166 charges, including murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses, tied to the rampage during a screening of "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises."

His interactions with Fenton before the shooting have come up several times during court proceedings.

Just nine minutes before he burst into the suburban mall movie theater, Holmes tried to call Fenton but failed to reach her, prosecutors have said.

In September, a judge ruled that a notebook mailed to Fenton would not be accessible to prosecutors.

Last week the judge overseeing Holmes's case agreed to delay an arraignment in the case to allow defense lawyers more time to pore over 30,000 pages of evidence and hundreds of DVDs and CDs.

The arraignment -- a formal reading of charges by the court and, frequently, the entering of a plea by the defendant -- had been scheduled for Friday after Judge William Sylvester ruled Thursday that prosecutors had provided sufficient evidence in the preliminary hearing for the case to proceed to trial.

Sylvester said he was concerned Holmes's case could be appealed if he moved too quickly with the arraignment.

During that step, now scheduled for March 12, the list of charges against Holmes will be read, and he will have an opportunity to enter a plea, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told reporters.

CNN's Ashley Fantz, Jim Spellman and Casey Wian contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Meet the victims involved in the Colorado theater massacre through shared photos and read the memories kept alive by their loved ones.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Thu March 28, 2013
Colorado shooting suspect has offered to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life behind bars in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
updated 10:36 AM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
Back in the 1950s, Hollywood fell in love with the idea of truth serum. But it doesn't work the way the movies have made it seem.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Fri March 1, 2013
Lawyers for James Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting suspect, took aim against the state's insanity defense laws in court documents made public Friday.
updated 7:18 AM EST, Tue January 8, 2013
So much blood the theater floor had become slippery. Bodies with horrific injuries. The eerie sound of cell phones ringing, over and over again.
updated 11:34 AM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
Relatives of nine people killed said an invitation to attend an event on the eve of the remodeled complex's reopening is "disgusting."
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Tue July 31, 2012
Colorado movie shooting suspect James Holmes was charged Monday with 24 counts of first-degree murder -- two counts for each of the 12 people killed in the shooting.
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
From the silver lining of welcoming a newborn into the world on Tuesday to promising to live life to the fullest, survivors are looking forward.
updated 10:46 AM EDT, Sun July 22, 2012
James E. Holmes is described by those who know him as a quiet, clean-cut doctoral student.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Fri July 20, 2012
A heavily armed gunman opened fire at a movie theater on July 20, killing at least 12 and wounding 38. Here are some of the worst U.S. mass shootings since World War II.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
Photos of the scene in Aurora after the shooting took place.
updated 9:59 PM EDT, Fri July 20, 2012
A heavily armed gunman sprayed the audience with gunfire during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, killing 12 and wounding 38 others, authorities said.
Are you a friend or family member of one of the victims? Share your tributes here.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT