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Colorado suspect was brilliant science student

Last Updated: Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 11:23

Denver: James Eagen Holmes came from a well-tended San Diego enclave of two-story homes with red-tiled roofs, where neighbours recall him as a clean-cut, studious young man of sparing words.

Tall and dark-haired, he stared clear-eyed at the camera in a 2004 high school yearbook snapshot, wearing a white junior varsity soccer uniform -- No 16. The son of a nurse, Arlene, and a software company manager, Robert, James Holmes was a brilliant science scholar in college.

The biggest mystery surrounding the 24-year-old doctoral student was why he would have pulled on a gas mask and shot dozens of people early yesterday, killing 12, in a suburban Denver movie theatre, as police allege.

In the age of widespread social media, no trace of Holmes could be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter or anywhere on the Web. Either he never engaged or he scrubbed his trail.

A longtime neighbour in San Diego, where Holmes grew up, remembers only a "shy guy ... A loner" from a churchgoing family. In addition to playing soccer at Westview High School, he ran cross country.

The bookish demeanor concealed an unspooling life. Holmes struggled to find work after graduating with highest honours in spring 2010 with a neuroscience degree from the University of California, Riverside, said the neighbour, retired electrical engineer Tom Mai.

Holmes enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph D programme at the University of Colorado-Denver but was in the process of withdrawing, said school officials, who didn`t provide a reason. The school later said in a statement that he left the programme in June 2012.

As part of the advanced programme in Denver, a James Holmes had been listed as making a presentation in May about Micro DNA Biomarkers in a class named "Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders."

In academic achievement, "he was at the top of the top," recalled Riverside Chancellor Timothy P White.

Holmes concentrated his study on "how we all behave," White added. "It`s ironic and sad."

From a distance, Holmes` life appears unblemished, a young man with unlimited potential. There are no indications he had problems with police.

Somehow, the acclaimed student and quiet neighbour reached a point where he painted his hair red, called himself "The Joker," the green-haired villain from the Batman movies, according to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who said he had been briefed on the matter.


First Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 11:23

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