The former girlfriend of James Holmes described him as an introverted, awkward grad student who once worried her with a confession that he wanted to do something evil.
Testifying last week in the trial of Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and attempting to kill 70 others during the 2012 midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, Gargi Datta said the two had been classmates in the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Colorado. They dated for four months before Datta, described by prosecutors as his first love, broke it off.
"I think he liked me more than I liked him," she told the court as Holmes sat a few feet away with his lawyers.
They went on their first date in October 2011 — dinner and a horror movie film festival in Denver— after she had previously asked him if he'd like to join her study group. He was quiet and awkward in class, but alone with her, he talked more and his sense of humor came through.
They were both kept busy by a grueling and stressful class schedule, but over the next months, they grew closer. In between seeing each other, they'd talk over Gchat. They'd spend the night at each others' apartments, and once, he brought her a Slurpee while she was studying.
Though he had social anxiety, he was never aggressive or violent; she said she never believed he could hurt anyone.
At one point, she told Holmes he should see a therapist, and he agreed, recognizing his issues. He was prescribed medication, and as far as she knew, he was taking it.
"He never had highs and lows of emotion ever," she said. "He was pretty calm for the most part, and friendly if people interacted with him."
She went out of town over the holidays, and when they were reunited in January, she began to think about ending things.
"I did not really feel much closer with him, so I wanted to break up with him," she said.
She finally broke up with him in mid-February, telling him she didn't see a future together. He had been talking about buying a house in the Denver area, and she had only wanted a casual relationship. They carried on with a physical relationship after the breakup, which lasted until early April.
On March 25, 2012, she sent him an instant message about a Rick Astley video in his status message. As they chatted, Holmes told her he wanted to do something evil.
"Initially I was thinking he was just messing with me, he was joking," Datta said.
But Holmes continued to talk about killing, the value of human life, and justice.
“It did not make sense to me, and it seemed a bit irrational,” she said.
In a later interview with a court-appointed psychiatrist, Holmes would expand on these ideas as his motivation for the shooting massacre.
"At that point I start thinking maybe he is serious, but it seemed very philosophical, discussion-wise," Datta said.
She still didn't believe he was dangerous, but she showed the messages to a mutual friend. They decided to go talk to him.
"We asked him if he was talking to his therapist about this philosophy, and he said he was," she said.
A few days later, Holmes called her and said he couldn't continue to just be friends. He mentioned he was hanging out with someone else.
"I did not want to be anything more than friends at that point, so he did not want to continue talking to me," she said.
She continued to see him in class until mid-May, and she'd say hello to him. Two months later, now a grad school dropout, Holmes packed up his newly acquired arsenal and headed to the Century Aurora 16 movie theater.
View the Gchat transcripts here.
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at email@example.com.
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