Blog Posts by Jason Sickles, Yahoo

  • Evidence suggests suspected killer James Holmes’ had a getaway plan

    James Holmes' car behind the Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July (File/Getty Images)

    [Updated at 10:25 p.m. ET/8:25 p.m. MT]

    CENTENNIAL, Colo.— James Holmes’ two-door hatchback was full of items indicating he might have planned to flee after allegedly shooting up an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July.

    Tire-puncturing devices, a canister of tear gas, a .40-caliber handgun, ammunition, Holmes' iPhone and various backpacks were found in the car, police testified this week.

    “I do think he was thinking that he was going to get away from that movie theater,” Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI profiler not associated with the case, told Yahoo News.

    Prosecutors painted a picture this week of how and where Holmes allegedly executed his horrific attack. What they didn’t explain is why, or if, the suspected mastermind had plans to flee after shooting 70 moviegoers, 12 of them fatally.

    Testimony from the officer who handcuffed the suspect said Holmes, clad in SWAT gear, gave up without a fight behind the movie theater moments after the massacre.

    But another officer, Aurora Sgt.

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  • Colorado suspect James Holmes took creepy self-portraits hours before the theater shootings

    Sketch of James Holmes being led into court this week. (AP Photo/Bill Robles, Pool)

    [Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. MT]

    CENTENNIAL, Colo.— Photos recovered from James Holmes’ iPhone show the alleged gunman posing with weapons and making creepy faces in the weeks and hours before the shooting massacre at an Aurora movie theater.

    The images were not released to the public, but were shown in court Wednesday during Holmes' preliminary hearing.

    It was the state's final move before declaring that it had presented overwhelming evidence that Holmes meticulously planned and executed the attack without remorse.

    "Because he wanted to kill all of them, and he knew what he was doing," prosecutor Karen Pearson said in arguing that the case should go to trial.

    One of the more disturbing self-portraits was snapped on July 12. It shows his infamous orange-dyed hair flaring out from beneath a black skull cap. His eye color is darkened by black contact lenses, and he is grinning with his tongue sticking out.

    Three other self-portraits were snapped approximately six hours before the

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  • Updates from hearing: Holmes said to have rigged home with explosives to distract police

    In this file photo, police are pictured outside of the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo. on July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)Editor’s note: No electronic equipment is allowed in the courtroom. We’ll update here when possible during recesses and other breaks.

    [Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. MT]

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. - At times late Tuesday afternoon, Sgt. Fyles had to pause to compose himself while on the stand confirming the names and injuries of all 83 people killed, shot or injured by suspected gunman James Holmes' actions.

    Fyles seemed particularly poignant on the names where he had more personal knowledge.

    "He can't move his arms or legs," Fyles said of a man who is permanently paralyzed.

    After helping prosecutors enter the names of the injured, prosecutors asked him to verify the names of the deceased.

    Family members of Rebecca Wingo, a 32-year-old mother of two, sobbed as her name and the criminal charges associated with her death were read aloud.

    Holmes faces a total of 166 criminal counts. Where warranted, the state of Colorado allows dual charges (premeditated and without remorse) for murder and

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  • Detective: Holmes bought movie ticket weeks before theater shooting

    Sketch of suspect James Holmes being led into court on Monday. (REUTERS/Bill Robles)

    [Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. MT]

    CENTENNIAL, Colo.— Half of the people killed inside the movie theater suffered multiple gunshot wounds, two Arapahoe County coroners testified on Monday.

    Their wounds came from the assault-style rifle, shotgun and pistol prosecutors allege James Holmes carried with him during the rampage.

    Some of the people who survived the attack were burned by two canisters of tear gas police said Holmes tossed into the crowd.

    Detective Todd Fredericksen testified that he had the tough task of interviewing many of the injured in the days and weeks after the shooting.

    One victim told investigators it seemed the shooter was, "targeting people who were fleeing," Fredericksen told the courtroom.

    Tuesday's testimony resumes at 9:30 a.m. Mountain time.

    [Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET/2:35 p.m. MT]

    Suspected mass murderer James Holmes purchased his movie ticket to the premier of “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 8, 2012, almost two weeks before his alleged shooting rampage in

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  • Victim’s plea for suspected Colorado theater gunman James Holmes

    Suspected gunman James Holmes. (Arapahoe Co. Sheriff)
    DENVER -- As a God-fearing man, Marcus Weaver tries to accept that alleged movie theater gunman James Holmes deserves his day in court.

    “But he could do us all a favor and just plead guilty,” said Weaver, one of at least 70 people injured in last July’s ambush in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed when the shooter opened fire during a during a midnight showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises."

    Weaver, 42, was in the fifth row of the dark theater when the heavily-armed assailant burst in and began firing. Weaver’s right shoulder was peppered with gunshot pellets. Rebecca Wingo, one his best friends, died in the attack.

    “It’s tough, it’s tough, it’s tough,” he said with a sigh. “The noises, the sounds, it all comes back.”

    Weaver is dreading the coming week when never-before-disclosed details of the case against Holmes will be made public at a long-awaited preliminary hearing.

    [RELATED: Hearing may be 'mini-trial' in theater shootings]

    The purpose of the hearing is for

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  • Former Boy Scout safety director freed from federal prison

    DALLAS - The Boy Scouts of America have banned thousands of pedophiles and other undesirables from working as volunteers.

    But one name on their rejection list stands out: Douglas Sovereign Smith Jr. The BSA’s former national director for youth protection was released from prison last week after serving nearly seven years behind bars.

    He was in charge of Scout safety programs in 2005 when police discovered hundreds of images of child pornography and videos on his home computer. Some included prepubescent boys exposing themselves and engaging in sexual acts.

    “Heart-wrenching and gut-tearing,” a prosecutor said at the time.

    Smith reenters public life at a time when the Scouts are being heavily scrutinized for their past handling of alleged child sex abuse at the hands of staff and troop leaders.

    None of Smith’s 520 photos were of Scouts and he was never accused of molesting children, but his case is a disturbing reminder that people in positions of power can lead double lives that put

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  • First person: Harsh reality of reporting on young lives lost

    A casket carrying the body of shooting victim Jessica Rekos, 6, is brought out after her funeral. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

    NEWTOWN, Conn.—Small talk with new acquaintances inevitably evolves to, "What's the worst story you ever covered?"

    The question makes me cringe. I enjoy what I do, but 20 years of reporting on crime and national news has put me face to face with unforgettable tragedies.

    Being on the scene at Hurricane Katrina, Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre undoubtedly made me pause and seek perspective in life.

    But what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary has been different. Not to take away anything from those other horrors, but first-graders slaughtered by some sicko is a gut-wrenching story even for the most jaded journalist.

    My “worst” stories have always been and will always be tragedies involving kids.

    Kids like 11-year-old Jason Boner, who I witnessed get sucked down a storm drain during a 1994 Dallas rainstorm. I can still hear his mother crying his name as she ran to the scene.

    Or 9-year old Amber Hagerman, whose kidnapping and murder inspired the Amber Alert

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  • Gunman’s behavior indicates planning and control: Ex-FBI profiler

    An undated photo of Adam Lanza, who posed for a group photo with the Newtown High technology club (AP)

    NEWTOWN, Conn.—In stockpiling ammunition, smashing his computers and killing his mother as she slept, Adam Lanza undertook considerable preparation before shooting up an elementary school on Friday, a former FBI profiler said.

    "He didn't just snap. This takes a lot of planning," said Mary Ellen O'Toole, who worked for 15 years in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit where she studied psychopaths and helped capture killers.

    O'Toole retired in 2009 and has no direct connection to the case.

    Investigators had hoped Lanza's computers would shed some light on what caused him to massacre 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, a school he once attended. But the 20-year-old reportedly butchered his computer's hard drives with a hammer or screwdriver, according to ABC News.

    Still, the FBI's Computer Analysis and Response Team has been working around the clock on the case and could make progress despite the damage.

    "The FBI is pretty good, we can pull stuff off anything,"

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  • Funerals begin for school shooting victims

    Mourners file into Honan Funeral Home to remember 6-year-old Jack Pinto. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo)

    NEWTOWN, Conn.--The families and friends of two little boys killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings poured into funeral homes Monday as the first of the massacre's victims were laid to rest.

    Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner, both age 6, were remembered at separate services. Both boys were killed in a mass shooting Friday at the school, one of the worst in U.S. history. 26 people died, including 20 children.

    On Main Street in Newtown, mourners strolled somberly in a cold drizzle to Honan Funeral Home to remember Jack. An obituary published over the weekend called him "an incredibly loving and vivacious young boy."

    Classmates and sports teammates were among those who came to pay their respects. Members of his wresting team wore their club T-shirts and letter jackets.

    On a sidewalk, a father knelt down to comfort his son who was wiping tears with his shirt sleeve before entering the service.

    A group of teens from a local choir quietly sang church hymns for those waiting to get inside the historic two-story funeral home.

    A police car was parked in the street out front to help maintain order and the family's wishes for a private service. Plain-clothed detectives in trench coats also combed the area for extra security.

    A grieving woman arrived in the building's driveway to hand funeral directors a small black and red dress for another victim, a grim nod to the services yet to come. Funerals for some of the 12 little girls killed in the attack are scheduled later this week.

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  • Sandy Hook School to remain closed as a protected crime scene, police say

    Connecticut state police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance speaks to the media on Monday. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)NEWTOWN, Conn. - Sandy Hook Elementary School will remain closed and a protected crime scene for months to come, police said Monday.

    Investigators have launched a painstaking examination of the school because of the number of shots gunman Adam Lanza fired in his rampage that left 26 people, 20 of them first-graders, dead inside the school, state police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said.

    "Every single round of ammunition will be examined," Vance told reporters at a morning news conference here.

    All schools were closed in Newtown Monday but were set to reopen on Tuesday. The Sandy Hook children will remain home but will resume classes at a vacant middle school in nearby Monroe once the classrooms can be modified for them. A date for that to happen has not been decided.

    The community was set to begin the grim task of burying its dead. Funerals for Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner, both 6, were scheduled for Monday afternoon.

    Investigators are working around the clock at the gunman's home, where

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