James Holmes’ Psychiatrist at U. of CO Specializes in Schizophrenia

Lynne Fenton MD

From the Washington Post:

The shooting suspect in the Colorado theater rampage was seeing a university psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia in the weeks before the July 20 attack, according to court records released Friday.

James Holmes was seeing Lynne Fenton, the director of student mental health services at the University of Colorado and a medical school professor. Holmes was a first-year graduate student in a neuroscience Ph.D. program.

Fenton is the person to whom Holmes sent a notebook containing drawings supposedly related to Aurora, Colorado theater massacre. Fenton’s university home page is password protected, but the WaPo says she “has written numerous papers and launched research in the area of schizophrenia.”

The judge in the case, William Sylvester, has ordered that all documents in the case, including the notebook and the defendant’s university records are “off-limits” to the media. Colorado is an open records state, but the prosecution asked the judge to hold off on any release of information to the public.

“The People have not had access to the defendant’s records from the University of Colorado, but are of the belief that disclosure of such records to the media would be contrary to the public interest,” the motion asserts.

In his response, Sylvester, the 18th Judicial District’s chief judge, agrees. He writes: “This court orders that the University of Colorado shall not disclose information about the defendant…”

The order goes on to stress that the DA’s office and the legal team representing Holmes will be able to see all this stuff, but that’s it won’t be made available to the wider public until the court vacates this decision or the final judgement of the case is rendered, whichever comes first.

According to the New York Daily News, Holmes is now claiming he doesn’t remember anything about the night of the shooting and doesn’t understand why he’s in jail.

Feel free to use this as an open thread. I’ll update if I can find any more information on Fenton. Her university home page is password protected, but they spell her first name “Lynn.” The media is calling her “Lynne.” I’m not sure which is correct yet.

UPDATE: CNN has a little more information on Fenton:

Fenton is the director of student mental health services at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, and an assistant professor, according to a resume posted on the school’s website.

As director, a position she’s held since 2009, Fenton sees between 15 and 20 graduate students per week for medication and psychotherapy, coordinates a team of four mental health clinicians, supervises some residents who treat students, and lectures. She also serves as a psychiatrist for between five and 10 patients, the resume states.

She’s held many jobs over the years. Fenton worked as a physician in private practice in Denver from 1994 to 2005, and was chief of physical medicine with the U.S. Air Force in San Antonio, Texas, in the early 1990s, according to the resume. Since 2008, she has won various grants and contracts to study schizophrenia.

Fenton did her undergraduate work at the University of California, Davis and earned her medical degree from Chicago Medical School in 1986.

50 Comments on “James Holmes’ Psychiatrist at U. of CO Specializes in Schizophrenia”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    It’s looking more like schizophrenia the more we learn about James Holmes.

    • dakinikat says:

      Interesting. What a sad state of affairs.

    • northwestrain says:

      Your guess was on target.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It was an educated guess, AKA a hypothesis based on known evidence. But we still don’t know for sure what his diagnosis was or whether he was taking medication. I wish I still had access to a university database. I haven’t been able to find any of Fenton’s research papers yet.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Romney’s fundraising event in Israel coincided with a Jewish fast day, and had to be rescheduled after a “public outcry.”


    • bostonboomer says:

      It sounds like Mitt isn’t any better prepared for his visit to Israel than the one to Britain.

      Just a detail, perhaps, but it underlines the clumsiness of Romney’s decision to come to Israel. Yes, he’ll get an effusive welcome from old friend Benjamin Netanyahu. But the risks of the visit are much greater than the potential profit. There are few voters he can actually influence. There are many pitfalls. Etiquette requires that a candidate avoid off-shoring: he’s not supposed to criticize his own government while abroad or to foreign media. Keeping that rule with the Israeli press will only be harder than it was with the British, since Romney’s point in coming is to spotlight his claim that Obama has mishandled relations with Jerusalem.

      Facing slow pitches from Ha’aretz’s Ari Shavit before his arrival, Romney avoided explicit jabs at Obama. But when he said that any discussion of whether Israel should build settlements would lead him to “showing a distance between me and the president,” he implied he’d drop American opposition to settlement, a stance that stretches back to 1967. This might satisfy hawkish Jewish voters already on his side. In other capitals, it will raise concern about the potential president as an elephant in a china shop.

      Romney also told Shavit that U.S.-Israel disagreements should only be expressed in private. That’s not just criticism of Obama; it’s a jibe at every Republican president since Israel was founded, including GOP semi-deity Ronald Reagan. Outside of AIPAC, it should worry American voters: Romney has promised that he will tie his right hand behind his back before dealing with Israeli actions that could hurt U.S. interests.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    A Romney campaign “official” spoke to the Daily Mail, and called London Mayor Boris Johnson

    an ‘eccentric, odd fellow’ whose public attack on the Republican candidate was ‘unbecoming’ and an indication of his bias towards President Barack Obama.

    The official also

    said that the campaign had not had a dedicated protocol adviser ‘to ensure there were no snafus’, such as when Romney addressed Ed Miliband, the Opposition leader, as ‘Mr Leader’ and when he stated he had been briefed by the head of MI6.

    ‘The first rule of diplomacy is that when you’re in a foreign country you get titles and forms of address correct.

    • HT says:

      OMG – are these Romney people totally out of touch? Blimey (as my brit cousins would say), they’re stupid, and the fact they had no protocol adviser just cements the deal. I thought Hillary’s ad re the 3AM call was totally on point for O and his people, but faced with the ineptitude of R and his crew – well it proves that things can always get worse.

      • dakinikat says:

        Each and every one of them is a pompous wazzock!

      • Seriously says:

        I think it’s so funny that some of Romney’s supporters are trying to portray him as this loveable, endearing dork, instead of as the smarmy entitled oaf he actually is. Apparently because he’s an incompetent gaffe machine, that proves that his heart is pure and he’s some kindly, well-meaning nerd. You know, except for the fact that his entire campaign is a vanity exercise, he’s never accomplished anything in his life and he’ll pander to the worst forms of craziness to get ahead. I don’t know how many high school alpha bullies morph into nerdy underdogs eventually, nor do I know how many sincere, decent people run for President without having anything to run on or any interest in governing.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Well, apparently Romney succeeded in showing his foreign policy chops – he has NONE. No dedicated protocol adviser? No briefing either, no doubt. Just because the rich can get away with murder in “the colonies” doesn’t mean the rules are the same on the other side of the pond. Apparently “new money” doesn’t carry the same weight in the UK as it does in the US. Obviously no one bothered to check if today would be a good day to make his big entrance into Israel either. Welcome to the Big League Mittens. It’s a whole new ball game, buster.

      • HT says:

        The thing that amazes me is their total lack of awareness – both of themselves and others with whom they are attempting to bring to their side (or should that be the “Dark side”?). They are totally clueless. “New money” in Europe is definitely accorded consideration in the finance industry, however I believe the expression “nouveaux riches” definitely carries a rather negative connotation, as any protocol advisor would have been able to tell. One good thing, from all of my family over there – once they got past the first few insults -they are getting a lot of amusement out of Mitts tour.

    • dakinikat says:

      Uh, did some one tell them that Boris is a conservative and extremely so over there? He used to be the editor of the Spectator … no liberal rag that at all!!! He did come out in favor of Obama early on … but sheesh, Obama is fairly conservative and he’d probably be a conservative MP if he lived in the UK for pete’s sake!

      • northwestrain says:

        So true! I have several friends from the UK — some of whom call themselves conservatives but they are nothing like wingnut US conservatives.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Medical ethicist tells CNN that the package sent to Lynne Fenton, and even her records of treatment of James Holmes probably aren’t privileged information.

    The key factor is whether she has information about the alleged crime, said Prof. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

    “Once there has been a crime, I believe, she has a duty to notify that she has information about that crime,” said Prof. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said Caplan.

    Police can subpoena the record, he said, “and they would certainly get it.”

    Since the university turned the package over to police and the prosecution has it, it seems Fenton isn’t claiming privilege.

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    Another actor has died, Lupe Ontiveros: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-lupe-ontiveros-dies-20120727,0,413771.story Most recently she was on Desperate Housewives. She was also in As Good As it Gets, one of my most favorite films (really loved the dog(s)).

  6. Linda C says:

    BB: still not convinced it is schizophrenia. The doctor is the director of mental health services at the school who also happens to specialize in schizophrenia. Obtaining research grants to study schizophrenia does not make your entire working life caring for persons only with schizophrenia.
    My specialty is actually geriatric psychiatry, but I am also the coordinator of the ECT program. However not all of our patients receiving ECT are over the age of 65.
    Now Mr. Holmes claims “he doesn’t remember”? I still need more information before I say anything regarding a Axis I diagnosis

    • bostonboomer says:

      Do you think you are telling me something I don’t know? You’re coming across as very condescending.

      As I have said repeatedly, I do not yet know what Holmes’ diagnosis is. I said it again in a comment on this post at 4:38PM. I have posted information on this case as it has been reported. This is a blog, and we like to follow interesting news stories.

      I have not claimed that Holmes is schizophrenic because his doctor has studied that disease. I have suggested several possibilities that could explain his odd behavior, nothing more.

      That said, your announcement that you are in charge of a program in which elderly people are given ECT is quite telling. It’s also stunning that you would presume to assign an Axis I diagnosis to someone you have never met or even seen in person.

      • HT says:

        Well done BB.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Are you getting the idea that I don’t think much of psychiatry?

      • northwestrain says:

        I’m with you on that opinion – shrinks use drugs and frankly few have the listening skills needed to follow up the drugs. Shrinks are MDs — and they do not have the extensive training that Clinical Psychologists have.

      • JR says:

        Agreed. The majority of psychiatrists on the faculty of a major university medical center will have specific research interests while still treating a who spectrum of disorders. In other words, just because she receives grants to investigate schizophrenia, these studies are entirely separate from her clinical practice and we cannot automatically assume that is why he is being treated.

        As far as his “diagnosis” if he indeed has one, it’s impossible to draw a valid conclusion based on third, fourth-hand information presented by the media. We have not examined him, performed an extensive history, gathered collateral, etc.

        That said, if you pinned me against the wall and asked for an opinion, I’d say that he probably is psychotic or at least paranoid. He certainly appears to have many of the so-called negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Obviously I have no idea if he’s actively delusional or hallucinating. He probably is.

      • bostonboomer says:


        So you agree with my cautious hypothesis. I have studiously avoided trying to diagnose James Holmes from a distance. Like you, I have just noted (in previous posts) some of the behaviors that have been mentioned in the media and connected a few dots.

        No one has suggested that a professor’s research interests indicate what kinds of patients she treats in the university clinic. That is something you and Linda C are reading into a news report that I wrote a post about.

        Thank you for your comments.

      • Linda C says:

        BB Not at all. I am just cautious . ABC new reported the “chilling” fact that the psychiatrist also specialized in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a severely disabling mental illness. People with the disorder are marginalized even in the health care profession. People with severe mental illness are more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than a perpetrator. People with severe mental illness have a 14 year less life expectancy due to lack of medical care even when they have access to that care. The medical profession simply does not treat or order the necessary tests for people with severe mental illness to treat their medical conditions. Reduction in funding for mental health services are leaving up to 30% to 50% of people with mental illness without the necessary treatment.

        The point of my post was to caution against assumptions. My specialty is geriatric psychiatry. I am also the coordinator of the ECT program. However, only a small minority of our patients receiving ECT are over the age of 65. Given that Mr. Holmes pscyhiatristrist “specializes” in schizophrenia because she has funding for such research, does not translate to all of her patients have schizophrenia given that she is also the director of mental health services at the college.

        Unfortunately, the press wants to make this leap questioning why these people have access to firearms instead of asking why these people do not have access to treatment. They do not question why we still have ineffective medications that come with a boat load of unwanted side effects, some of them permanent. Also I wonder why after all the progress in medical science and neurology, that the quickest most effective treatment with the least relapse for certain psychiatric diagnosis is still an 80 plus year old treatment of putting an electrical current through someone’s brain. Barbaric isn’t it.

        The public and the press are always quick to demonize people with schizophrenia instead of looking in the mirror to see why we have failed as a medical profession and as a society to ensure that proper care be provided for those suffering from this devastating illness.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Linda C.

        {Sigh….} You’re not going to stop lecturing and patronizing me, are you? In that case, I’ll simply ignore your comments from now on. But please make an effort to treat your clients with more respect than you have me!

        Thanks for stopping by again. Best wishes.

    • JR says:

      Also, northwestrain, your comment that psychiatrists have few listening skills and simply dish out meds is an entirely ill-informed generalization that, quite frankly, as a psychiatrist I find offensive. Yes, there are plenty of shrinks out there who run a med mill, but most do not. Psychiatrists come up with treatment plans that may or may not include medications. Many of my colleagues are actually quite conservative when it comes to prescribing. While it is true that most outpatient psychiatrists do mostly med management, there are some who still do therapy, and many more who
      work in the inpatient setting, which involves
      quite a bit of listening.
      Yes, we do not get the extensive training in psychotherapy that psychologists do — that’s part of what makes us a different profession. But our training does involve learning how to do therapy and there are many who go on to receive additional training.
      In short, psychiatry is a much more complicated and varied field of medicine that the public gives it credit for.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Many people have had negative experiences with psychiatrists. Sometimes that leads them to generalize about the profession as a whole. I’ll leave it at that. Again, thanks for stopping by. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

  7. northwestrain says:

    For DAK — Vouchers in LA. short version — a con and a sham.

  8. C Scholte says:

    Psychiatry has a campaign to prescribe, without regard for the “Black Box” warning that the prescription will cause homicidal ideation. Clearly Psychiatry needs to advance from 18th
    Century beliefs in some ‘cult’ that a gnome theory will someday advance their cause

  9. C Scholte says:

    The ‘Psychiatric Nazi’ at columbia university will need to explain the incompetence of their sanctioned ‘prescriptions’ the FDA warns will cause homicidal ideation

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t know what you’re talking about CScholte, but thanks for stopping by.

      • northwestrain says:

        Message removed at author’s request.

      • northwestrain says:

        Opps that goes to a Scientology website — too bad that that cult has tainted the real questions about the side effects of many of the drugs prescribed by shrinks. BB remove that link — please,, thank you.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m aware of the side effects of psychiatric drugs. The mysterious part of of the comment is the part about “‘Psychiatric Nazi’ at columbia university.”

        Besides, I haven’t seen any reports of what drugs James Holmes was taking, if any–other than his claim that he took 100 mg of Vicodin before the shooting. That can’t be true, or he’d be in a hospital being treated for liver failure. A standard dose (5mg) of Vicodin contains 500 mg acetaminiphen (Tylenol), so 100 mg would contain 20 times that or 10,000 mg, which could be lethal.

      • northwestrain says:

        BB — I’d expect that your Profs would make you aware of the side effects etc. of the psychiatric drugs commonly in use as my Profs did — plus what you learned while getting your degrees is more up to date than when I got my degrees back in the Stone Ages. When I was getting my MA — it was just after RayGun emptied the mental institutions. As I remember the treatment and care of patients was a massive chaotic mess. Nearly all the cheap rentals near the college were taken by “group housing” for former mental patients. “treatment” consisted of trying to teach the former patients when and how to take their meds.

        Now as to the visitor above — I had a vague memory of reading something in SciAm a few years ago about misdiagnosis by Psychiatrists and thus horrible side effects from the meds etc. After an Internet search it is more likely that Scientology is related to the mysterious remarks by the individual above.

        What I did find in my Google search is that some of the meds given to teens may be related to an increase in suicide. Unfortunately there are problems — too bad the visitor didn’t leave a link to add more information than merely name calling.

  10. eyecatcher59 says:

    Aurora Colorado jail inmates have already made it known to the administration there, that all inmates are wanting to kill James Holmes and that they are just waiting for that opportunity. I can’t believe that he wasn’t sent away from the location in which it occurred to incarcerate him. Now the burden is on the State of Colorado….knowing of this threat, but not moving him to another facility to keep him safe.

  11. steve bober says:

    Interesting conversation. I believe I heard earlier that Holmes, despite his high IQ, was exquisitely shy about conversing That is, did not communicate conversationally, and reluctantly answered questions with a “yes” or “no”. However he got to the psychiatrist, I’m guessing he was not generous with self-disclosure. Going out on a limb, it is possible he was under the influence of a delusional disorder, and may even have been tormented by auditory hallucinations, of the “command” type. Again, still hypothesizing, psychotherapy and medication management with this type is exceedingly difficult, for obvious reasons. Aside from the Holmes catastrophe, treating the delusional or paranoid client is almost always paradoxical…the treatment that would help is too often incorporated into the client’s delusional system, and the treater/treatment becomes the enemy…especially when the medications cause adverse side effects. Court ordered medical treatment is controversial, again for obvious reasons. Painfully complicated, the human condition gone awry. To say the least.

    • paul hill says:

      The cover up doesn’t have be anything special, just generalised social abuse and ridicule toward someone a bit ‘weird’. The mob go out of their way trying to outdo each other and score points as who can be the most cutting. This just makes the disturbed person even more disturbed thus inviting even more vitriolic response, ad infinitum. One way to avoid this is to just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions, thereby not providing something to BE ridiculed. Be very careful what you say to the shrink as she might increase your dose of poison, have you incarcerate, given ECT etc.

      The other way is to increasing avoid as much contact with people as possible. But losing contact means speculating more and more as to what is going on and so become increasingly paranoid. Meanwhile ‘peers’ increasingly speculate just what one is up to, especially with the blinds pulled down and THEY become increasingly paranoid as to what he is up to in there.

      Someone walking toward the ‘nutter’ in company with others will go straight past, avoiding all eye contact, so as to avoid the embarrassment, or walk across the other side of the road, or stop to look in a shop window, thinking that the ‘nutter’ is not aware of what they are up to. If he does get uptight and say something about this they will retorts with indignation that is just his ‘illness’ that makes him think these things. This becomes just another vicious downward cycle with paranoia increasing on BOTH sides.

      Society NEEDS ‘nutters’ as scapegoats, someone as a yardstick to measure there own sanity by, someone to blame for all sorts of things and thus get themselves off the hook. There will be universal agreement that the nutter was peering through that girls window or thieved that purse or vandalised the golf course. A ‘conspiracy’? Well it is really, now isn’t it?

      Another psychotic episode, back in the bin and back on to the poison, Clozapine for the intractables, Abilify for the more manageable or compulsory Modecate injections for the dangerous. Naturally I just imagine all of this as society is all sweetness and light, psychosis is hereditary and anybody that says otherwise is dangerous and should be medicated pronto and locked up for promulgating such subversive filth.

  12. paul hill says:

    As RD Laing said, schizophrenia is the result of a lifetime of social abuse. He said the very label itself constitutes a horrific abuse which actually worsens the psychosis. This is because it implies being capable of extreme violence without ANY PROVOCATION WHATSOEVER. Being aware of this connotation the patient become terrified of losing his or her mind and going berserk. He or she sees conspiracies everywhere because EVERYONE denies the abuse. Because the side effects of antipsychotics are so extreme, the patient believes that he or she is being DELIBERATELY poisoned by the state.

    The dogma that schizophrenia is inherited suits the abusers, including the state as it gets everyone off the hook, blame the perpetrator of a massacre as EVIL. As long as this self serving delusion persists, massacres will persist and if anything just get worse. Just a comment like this is seen as a provocation to more massacres. How will the death penalty deter a massacre if the potential perpetrator is going to commit suicide anyway. In this case it is just an incitement to take out as many people as possible to avenge a lifetime of abuse. Wake up America. You are extremely ill.

  13. paul hill says:

    The question is, was he insane or just putting on an act. If he’s not insane, why did he do it? What possible motive could he have, a lethal injection, or at best the rest of his life in max security psych hospital. There was no possibility of monetary gain. Being insane enough to believe he is going to be hailed as some sort of revolutionary hero, like McVey and the bloke in Norway, is the only possible explanation. Other examples are Australia’s Martin Bryant, Julian Knight, even Ned Kelly actually believed that there was a groundswell of support for their naive political beliefs in that they were firing the first shots of a revolution which would immediately commence once they lit the fuse. Even if they go to jail their supporters will turn up with a truck bomb and blow a hole in the wall and get them out. Hence not trying to escape after the massacre.. They totally misinterpret what they see and hear, from a variety of sources. It’s still psychotic but has a crude logic to it. His bulging eyes are definitely those of someone with hyperthyroidism, commonly associated with schizophrenia. It doesn’t have to be Graves disease, simply the result of long term unremitting stress.

    He was washed up, a failed PhD, no income from NIH once he quit his PhD, had to be out of his flat within a month of quitting, and going by what his mother said, I don’t think he would have been welcome at his parent’s place. Even with the qualifications he had he just couldn’t get work. Too weird. His mother puts up the money initially for him to go back to Uni to do his PhD Best job he could ever get was a stint at McDonalds. Imagine how demeaning that would have been for a qualified, with honors, neurobiologist. To him, the system is a Fascist monster that has screwed him to the point that all he’s got left is suicide, no friends, couldn’t relate to women, a failed PhD, no job and soon to be homeless. He IS washed up. He sees himself as some sort of left wing revolutionary, Che?

    Then there is the Presbyterian religion. Did he believe that he was dammed as indicated by his all round failure and that killing a bunch of Batman worshipers, ie Fascists, was the only way God would save him from Hell. As he got weirder the ridicule, which NOBODY would admit to, would intensify which would make him even weirder and ever more paranoid, getting messages from the tele, billboards, music etc. The system had created only one way out for him. Thus the system is every bit as psychotic as he is because it spawned him.

    The University has to go on trial first, with no threats of prosecution so that people don’t clam up. Same with Holmes. This situation is unique in that this guy is in the midst of research into psychiatric disorders, psychiatrists etc. at a major University and yet nobody can see this
    coming. Jesus wept!!!! His psychiatrist herself is very disturbed, on Xanax and Vicodin, has been reprimanded years before by the hospital for wrongly prescribing drugs for friends and Uni colleagues. If the US of A can’t learn from THIS situation then it is DOOMED. If Holmes gets burned, America goes up in the flames with him. Check out all of the really disturbed blogs and he is being hailed as a scapegoat, a martyr even.

  14. paul hill says:

    I was just reading about how Holmes must know right from wrong if he is sane and was wondering if the US military was his role model when it pulverized Iraq back onto the pre-stone age TWICE, then left such a mess behind that it’s turned into the most horrific bloodbath of sectarian violence on Earth. And to steal it’s oil as well. Perhaps Nixon gave him a lead when he enunciated US foreign policy as, “When you’ve got ’em by the balls their hearts and minds will follow” or “Once you can fake integrity, the rest is easy”, implying that integrity is always a fake.

    Maybe it’s dropping napalm on kid’s in Vietnam. Could be waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay of a terrorist suspect detained for five years who turns out to be innocent or the dozens of prisoners executed each year that turn out to be innocent, even if they are NOT innocent. Perhaps it’s the wonderful equality in the distribution of wealth, democracy being the right for a multi-billionaire to sleep on a park bench in winter if he so chooses.

    Then there are all the great movies of war heroes who blow away the baddies, (and they are OBVIOUSLY baddies), by the megaton whilst being great in the cot with his wife and gentle with the kids. Then there was that great TV series Exterminator? with Edward Woodward in it in which some poor little kid come to him to tell him about some horrible baddie who did something vicious to him or his mum, so ex-cop Ed goes and blows this baddies brains out. So James, there is no excuse as right and wrong is clearly defined in the US, especially if you’ve got an aircraft carrier fleet.