Colorado Victims & Families Respond To James Holmes' Verdicts By Focusing On Relief & Healing

On Thursday, three years after James Holmes killed 12 and injured 70 at a Colorado movie theater, a jury found Holmes guilty of all counts of murder, as well as every charge levied against him. Charges against him included more than 100 counts of attempted murder and two counts of first-degree murder for each victims who died. The prosecution and Holmes' defense have primarily debated not whether he committed the murders, but whether he was sane at the time of the shooting. After evaluating Holmes, medical professionals generally agreed he was legally sane and had been aware of his actions. After filling the courtroom to listen to closing statements, the Colorado shooting victims and their families shared their reactions since the guilty verdict was released.

Tom Sullivan, father of Alex Sullivan, who attended The Dark Knight Rises showing to celebrate his 27th birthday and his wedding anniversary, told the Associated Press that after the judge read the first guilty verdict, "we all knew the dominoes were about to fall." Of the final conviction, Sullivan said, "We got it done the right way."

Sandy Philips, mother of Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sports broadcaster who also just survived a shooting in Toronto, said of the conviction: "We're very happy this animal — this monster — will never see the light of day." Philips also told the Associated Press that with Holmes' conviction, she "felt like a weight had been lifted off her back." NBC News reported that outside the courtroom, Philips quietly said to other families of victims: "We got him."

Jansen Young, the girlfriend of Jonathan Blunk, a Navy veteran and father of two who reportedly "threw himself in front of [Young]" and saved her life, expressed her relief at the guilty verdict to the Associated Press. Outside of the courtroom, she recalled details of the shooting, which she described as "unreal," and recounted how she had been "... doing nothing" when Holmes entered the theater and began shooting. Young said the verdict brought her closure. She told a CNN reporter:

I didn't know what I would feel when I came, but I just feel so much relief. Justice is here. This is a huge step forward today.

Yousef Gharbi, a survivor who was shot in the head by Holmes, told the Associated Press "[his] body shuddered" upon hearing the first verdict. Gharbi also told NBC News reporters, "That's what I wanted to hear, but I didn't know if that's what I was going to hear." He said that he had no expectations for the verdicts, as he did not want to be disappointed. Now that Holmes has been found guilty on 166 counts, Gharbi said he is ready to move on.

Marcus Weaver sat next to Rebecca Wingo when Holmes entered the theater and shot Wingo dead. Following the verdict, Weaver said of his experience in the theater, "I'll never forget the silhouette of the shotgun." Weaver told the Associated Press that he wept as he watched a livestream of the judge reading verdicts. He also told CBS Denver reporters:

We've been waiting for this day for a long time ... I think the jury got it right. ... I've always said vengeance is the Lord's. The jury got it right on all counts.... I just broke down crying. I couldn't hold it back any more. Nothing can prepare you for a day like this.

John Hickenlooper, Colorado's governor, released the following statement after the guilty verdict:

This has been an emotional and difficult time for the victims, their families, loved ones, and friends. My hope is that this step brings some peace to each of them, and begins the healing process for all of Colorado.
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The mayor of Aurora, Steve Hogan, also told survivors and the family and friends of victims: "We're still here for you, and we will always be here for you."

Holmes' parents, Arlene and Robert, have attended nearly all of their son's court hearings and, while offering their prayers to victims' friends and family, they stated in December 2014 that their son is "not a monster," and that he should not be convicted. Although Holmes' parents have yet to comment on the verdict, the Associated Press reported that as the verdict was being read, Arlene and Robert held hands. After the final count, Arlene reportedly buried her face in her husband's shoulder.

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