Breaking . . . Mother of James Holmes Makes Clarifying Statement

For the past few days, the corporate media has been reporting on a phone call made to Arlene Holmes, the mother of alleged mass murderer James Holmes. ABC News’ placed a call to the Holmes family home in San Diego, CA in the early morning hours after the shootings in Aurora, CO. ABC reported that Mrs. Holmes immediately said, “You have the right person.” Since that time, multiple media sources have reported over and over again that Arlene Holmes was not surprised to learn that her son had gone on a murderous rampage.

Personally, I never interpreted Mrs. Holmes’ words in that way. I assumed that she was saying that, yes, she was the mother of a man named James Holmes who lived in Aurora, CO. It turns out that my interpretation was the correct one.

Today, Lisa Damiani, the Holmes family attorney, read a statement from Arlene Holmes in which she attempted to clarify the media narrative. She explained that the reporter asked her if she was Arlene Holmes and if she had a son, James Holmes, who lived in Aurora, CO. She then said “You have the right person,” indicating that she did have a son by that name. She then asked the reporter why he was calling and he told her about the shooting and asked for a comment. She told the reporter that she needed to find out of the person in custody was really her son. She the said that she would call the police or go to Colorado.

UPDATE: The full statement is reproduced at the end of this post.

I have to say that I am disgusted with the way the media covers horrible stories like this. Can any of us possibly imagine what it would be like to be awakened by a phone call from a national news organization announcing that your son has committed an unspeakable crime? The cold-blooded way that the media confronts families is sickening to me.

I am as fascinated by stories like this as anyone, but I try my best to be fair in evaluating what I read and hear. Unfortunately, the media narrative has probably been set in stone already and will continue to be reported again and again, as people judge this family and hold them responsible for their son’s actions.

I was also surprised to learn from the press conference that the family has not been contacted by Aurora police. It may be that James doesn’t want police to contact them. He’s an adult and legally can make his own decisions.

Another interesting thing the attorney said was that the family does not wish to discuss their relationship with James at this time. I don’t want to read anything into this, but the statement is suggestive that there may have been some kind of difficulty. I don’t want to be guilty of the same behavior that I’m criticizing, so I’m going to wait until there is more information.

TMZ has a breaking news story on this now. As soon as someone publishes the full statement, I’ll link to it here.

Here is the full statement from Arlene Holmes from Politico:

Arlene Holmes, the mother of Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes, says that ABC News mischaracterized her when it reported that her initial statement to the reporter, “you have the right person,” was a reference to her son.

“This statement is to clarify a statement made by ABC media. I was awakened by a call from a reporter by ABC on July 20 about 5:45 in the morning. I did not know anything about a shooting in Aurora at that time,” Holmes said in a statement this afternoon, read to the national press by attorney Lisa Damiani. “He asked if I was Arlene Holmes and if my son was James Holmes who lives in Aurora, Colorado. I answered yes, you have the right person. I was referring to myself.”

“I asked him to tell me why he was calling and he told me about a shooting in Aurora,” she continues. “He asked for a comment. I told him I could not comment because I did not know if the person he was talking about was my son, and I would need to find out.”

In the first paragraph of its initial report on Friday, ABC News reported that it had identified the correct James Holmes because his mother “told ABC News her son was likely the alleged culprit, saying, ‘You have the right person.'”

I don’t know who the reporter was that made the phone call to Arlene Holmes and then twisted her meaning; but he or she should be fired. Brian Ross had previously reported that a Tea Party leader named Jim Holmes might have been the shooter. He should be fired too.

32 Comments on “Breaking . . . Mother of James Holmes Makes Clarifying Statement”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I have also speculated–along with many other people–that James Holmes could have paranoid schizophrenia and possibly could have been experiencing his first psychotic episode. Schizophrenia cannot develop without significant stress on a person who is genetically predisposed to the disease.

    Holmes’ illness could have been triggered by the stress of being in a difficult and highly competitive graduate program. Reportedly, he failed a recent comprehensive exam, and overreacted by withdrawing from the program. An anonymous professor said that he wouldn’t have been terminated, but would have gotten some remedial help in the program.

    That said, I think it is very important not to conclude yet that Holmes has a serious psychological disorder. Even if he does, it could even be bipolar disorder. A psychotic state could have been triggered by a manic episode.

    I’m not trying to defend this young man, but if he does have schizophrenia, he could actually have believed his delusions. He committed a terrible crime and he needs to be locked up. Unfortunately, he probably won’t get adequate treatment for his disease either.

    • dakinikat says:

      The media certainly can act like pack of blood hounds. It’s one thing to treat a politician or even a public figure that way. It’s another to treat a private citizen that way. I can’t imagine what this poor mother is going through.

      Thank you for this insightful post BB!!!

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thank you. I admit, I am fascinated by crime stories like this. I have to try to walk a fine line between being interest as a psychologist and wallowing in gossip. It isn’t always easy, because gossiping appears to be a natural human trait. There’s actually research on it!

    • Beata says:

      BB, I have a question about psychotic breaks. It seems that Holmes slowly and meticulously planned this crime over a period of some time. Is that in keeping with what you know as a professional about people who have psychotic breaks? Are they capable of such careful planning?

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yes, he could have been carried out the plans. We don’t know yet how careful it was. We just know that he ordered a lot of things on-line. He just bought his first gun in May, so the planning hasn’t been that long-term as far as I can tell.

        He could have been having delusions and believed they were real. Or he could have had one-time psychotic break and developed delusions and managed to do those things. Same thing if he were manic and partially lost touch with reality.

        If he has paranoid schizophrenia, his delusions would get worse with time and eventually he wouldn’t be functioning that well. But sometimes people with this disease manage to function in the world. The boyfriend of one of my closest friends developed schizophrenia and the last I heard he was still having delusions but had a job and friends.

        We just don’t know yet what was going on. Maybe he was already diagnosed and had gone off his meds. We’ll find out eventually.

      • Beata says:

        Thank you for your answer, BB. This is a subject I know very little about.

      • bostonboomer says:

        You’re welcome. I don’t claim to be an expert either.

    • janey says:

      I’m sorry, I don’t believe in the schizophrenia diagnosis even though he is in the right age for it. I could have sworn he was doing an act in the courtroom. He was totally acting.

      • bostonboomer says:

        We just don’t know yet. He definitely has many of the behavioral hallmarks of schizophrenia. But there is no diagnosis, so I’m not sure what you mean by using that word. My whole point in this post is that we can’t know what happened yet. The media is creating a narrative that is almost guaranteed to be false, because they don’t know anything. All of us need to wait and see.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s even possible that Holmes was only suffering from severe depression. But I’m very confident from what I’ve learned about him that he wasn’t a psychopath. I think in the end we’ll learn that he was a troubled young man who probably has a serious form of mental illness and acted out violently.

      • northwestrain says:

        A reporter asked if Holmes had been medicated for the hearing and no one knew the answer to that.

        In the photos I’ve seen (like the ones above) he looks dazed or spacey — as if he were medicated.

        So who knows — and I agree with BB — the media has very little respect from me the way they distort and mislead (and probably lie). I absolutely hate the way the family members are treated.

        Very often the family is as much the victims as the people killed or injured. And all too often the family knows something is wrong but find that they can’t get help for their child or even get someone to listen to their pleas for help.

        Nothing will change — the media feeding frenzy will move on without examining the huge gaps in mental health treatment (and helping the public realize that there is a problem.) I got burned out early on mental health issues — almost as soon as I had my degrees. No treatment and no concern until there is a crisis and a lot of damage is done. We are a Nation that lives from crisis to crisis (so said one of my Soc professors.)

    • Fannie says:

      Thanks BB…… are right, he will be locked up or given death.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Holmes’ mug shot has been released.

    • I can see the difference between Holmes and Loughner (Gabby Giffords shooter) at least in the manner of the way he is acting. But that is from someone who is just taking all of this in, with no idea what is going on and why Holmes acted this way.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I thought he looked completely out of it in court. He was probably just waking up to the reality of what he did and that there’s no turning back now.

      • Seriously says:

        He also looked scared, IMO, as if he were just realizing that he’s not in a movie and he doesn’t have a gang of henchmen to save him

  3. Linda C says:

    BB: not convinced yet he has schizophrenia, severely depressed or even was acutely manic. Acutely mania leads to incredible disorganization and generally loud behavior. Severe depression zaps energy and concentration. He was a too methodical for an acute schizophrenic break. We could be talking about a severe narcissistic injury only wanting to hurt other because of his own perceived failures.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Your characterizations of these complex illnesses are much too simplistic. I have enough real life experience with each of the disorders you brush off to know differently.

      As I’ve already stated–quite clearly, I think–we know almost nothing right now. It is going to take some time before we can make any sense of what happened. This post is about the media going off half-cocked and creating a false narrative.

  4. armchairamateur says:

    bostonboomer, thanks for being a voice of (trained) reason here. I’m curious whether you think a severe narcissistic injury could be a sufficient explanation, or if it were just part of the picture, how would it work with the other conditions that are possible?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Who knows? I’m not a Freudian or Kohutian (is that the proper term?). I’ve said already that I think Holmes probably has a serious psychological disorder such as paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics are often able to function pretty well, especially early on. Look at the guy’s hair. He looks like Clarabel the Clown. What sane person would do that? There is also the strange answering machine message.

      As I have said repeatedly, we don’t know enough yet to even begin to understand what happened to Holmes. Most of these school/workplace type shooters are depressed and suicidal. But he apparently wasn’t planning to die. We just don’t know.

      If you want to talk about Freudian explanations for mental illness, I’m not the person to talk to. I have a lot of admiration for Freud’s ideas, but not when it comes to severe mental illness. He didn’t even treat people with schizophrenia, because they weren’t good candidates for psychoanalysis.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Why do you think the issue is narcissism?

      • HT says:

        Just my ignorant intuition, however – commenters who have never been here before asking leading questions asking or demanding your opinion? Just me. You handled them very well. This is unnerving.

      • armchairamateur says:

        Me? I’m not demanding at all; I was just following up on a previous comment about severe narcissistic injury. I am not a Freudian myself, but I do think that if there is such a thing as narcissistic rage, we would do well to understand it, even on a neurophysiological level, since many murder-suicides (and this could be one if he’s aware enough to know he’s likely to get the death penalty) seem precipitated by rejections–loss of job or partner, for example. Holmes either failed or was anticipating failure at his school; perhaps he was used to doing well and couldn’t handle the increased likelihood of mediocrity at the graduate level. He also was apparently rejected by three women at the website where he posted “Will you visit me in prison?” I think it’s natural to be curious and even to need to know why these things are happening in our world, making us unsafe and subject to terrible losses at any time in any place; one of the Aurora victims is shown today saying she just wants to know why he did it, while another does not want to know, and I think both responses are natural and OK. I don’t expect you or myself or anyone here to know why this man in particular did what he did, but I don’t think generalized theoretical speculation should be taboo. Some folks always say in these situations, “There are some things we’ll never understand,” but my opinion is we need to understand and if we tell ourselves we can’t we certainly never will.

        Perhaps narcissism has interplay with schizophrenia. Obviously neither of us is the expert, but I think the experts are still sorting it out themselves, and I think (and this may not be a popular position, and I understand feelings in the opposite direction–I even have some of them) that mass and serial killers should not be executed but should be studied until we really do get why this happens and can make some progress in preventing it. Thank you.

      • bostonboomer says:


        There aren’t really any experts when it comes to these school and workplace shooters. The usual profiles don’t fit. I just think from what I know so far that Holmes has a serious disorder–a disease. Of course I could be wrong.

        Obviously there is such a thing as narcissism and narcissistic rage at least makes intuitive sense. I’m not aware of any actual empirical research on it, and it isn’t a current diagnostic category as far as I know. But we don’t yet know enough to put that label on Holmes. I will continue to follow the case and will keep what you said in mind.

        I’m glad you stopped by, and I wasn’t offended by your question. We sometimes get hit and run commenters, and I think that’s what HT was thinking about. I didn’t take your question that way, and I hope you’ll come again!

        Best wishes.

      • armchairamateur says:

        Narcissistic Personality Disorder is what is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Analysts may have a different framework for discussing narcissism, which can exist without the full-blown disorder. I’m not diagnosing him, just saying there is a diagnostic category for it. I hold with those who think the categories and the diagnostic system should be reexamined since they aren’t the same thing as medical diagnosis. The experts I saw interviewed in the Holmes case have so far speculated that he could be bipolar or schizophrenic but not likely a psychopath, or antisocial–Antisocial Personality Disorder–because of his behavior in the past, The latest tragedy is that he sent a notebook of his plans to kill to a psychiatrist at his school and it wasn’t discovered and opened until Monday.,0,2568701.story Why he did that–to brag or taunt or as a cry for help–would seem a clue to his mental condition. Thanks for welcoming me, and I’ll keep an eye on the page as I stay tuned for all the latest developments in the news. I may find more to say eventually, but I mainly want to encourage people to think and learn and not be afraid to grapple with big mysteries affecting us all. A lot is already understood and we need to keep at it, not intimidate ourselves or each other.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yes, I know that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is in the DSM IV-tr. But I don’t see that as a reflection of Kohut’s ideas necessarily. I really don’t think Holmes has a personality disorder based on what we know about him so far. I totally agree that we should each keep an open mind. That was really the point of this post–that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions and buy into stereotypical beliefs.

        I also agree with you about the DSM. It’s useful in some ways, but it’s certainly not scientific. From what I’ve heard about the upcoming DSM V, most of the personality disorders will be eliminated and some of them will be combined. That seems like a big mistake to me.

        Thanks for the link!

      • armchairamateur says:

        I’m not a Kohutian either, and I was pointing to the idea of narcissistic rage (acute) (or injury, if that’s how the word is used) rather than necessarily a personality disorder. He does seem to have been trying to get attention (provoking victims’ and viewers’ disgust and outrage, understandably) with his hair and his theatrics, whereas a schizophrenic is more concerned with dealing with perceived threats–delusions–as if they were real rather than with how he is seen, isn’t he? Well, we could go on… Thanks for your open-mindedness.

  5. Kimber says:

    As soon as I heard about the booby traps my first thought was “oh no, that poor kid most likely suffers from schizophrenia and the “booby traps” had more to do with a paranoid episode.
    Either way, there will be no happy ending because the horrible deed has been done and no matter what his dx, he’ll never get the treatment he needs or deserves.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s probably true. He might have been better off if he had committed suicide.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I don’t see any evidence in that story that his mother knew her son was mentally ill “for years.” The Mail is so irresponsible. I wonder where they learned he’s adopted? I haven’t seen that anywhere else. Why they would quote a “jail employee” as knowing what’s going on in Holmes’ mind is beyond me.

        Even if the mother had known something, how could she have averted the massacre? Holmes is an adult and it’s virtually impossible to force anyone into treatment the way the laws are now. I don’t get what they believe she could have done. But there’s no evidence she knew anything in the first place.

      • Seriously says:

        Thanks for saying that, bb. Many people are trying to blame the mother, but regardless of what she did or didn’t suspect about her son’s behavior (and there’s no way to know that as you say), I don’t know what she could have done. As many people can attest, it’s impossible for anyone to prevent a non-felon from buying guns even knowing 100% that he shouldn’t have them and it’s impossible to force an adult into treatment.