Hearing in Colorado massacre reveals new details on suspect's prior actions

Psychiatrist Lynne Fenton was treating Colorado movie massacre suspect James Holmes.

Psychiatrist Lynne Fenton was treating Colorado movie massacre suspect James Holmes.

The revelation that accused Aurora, Colo., massacre suspect James Holmes may have tried to contact his psychiatrist just minutes before he opened fire in a movie theater is the latest detail in a series of reports this week on what happened in the hours and days before the July 20 shooting.

On Thursday, defense attorneys said at a hearing that Holmes had tried calling a university hospital switchboard nine minutes before the shooting, looking for Dr. Lynne Fenton. The defense argues that call proved an ongoing doctor-patient relationship between Holmes and Fenton, which would prevent any type of communication between them from being used by prosecutors in court.

The University of Colorado Hospital said Friday, however, that no one at its switchboard talked to Holmes before the attack, but a caller did hang up without saying anything around that time.

Hospital marketing director Brad Fixler said Friday the switchboard did receive a seven-second call at 12:31 a.m. on July 20, about eight minutes before 911 dispatchers began receiving calls about the shooting. But he said the caller hung up without saying anything, according to a story first reported by the Denver Post.

"We did not receive any calls asking specifically for Dr. Fenton nor any other psychiatrist at our hospital," Fixler is quoted as saying.

Holmes’ defense argues that patient-doctor privilege would also cover a package sent by Holmes to Fenton before the shooting that the doctor never received. The package contained a notebook with information that depicted, among other things, stick figure drawings of a violent attack, sources told Prosecutors believe the notebook could also contain information that may explain motive or planning behind the attack.

A U.S. Postal Service inspector, Greg McGahey, testified in court that the package was likely put into the mail after the last pickup on July 19. It was scanned through a Denver processing center on July 21, and arrived in the mailroom at the University of Colorado Anschutz on July 23, according to his testimony. The package was addressed to Fenton, and included Holmes’ return address. originally reported the package had arrived in the university mailroom before the shooting, and sat unopened and undelivered. That information was based on a law enforcement source, who also revealed the existence of the notebook to The source said investigators had been told in briefings that the package arrived before the shooting. The university disputed the original Fox News account that the package had arrived before the shooting.

Defense attorneys say Holmes is mentally ill and sent the notebook to the psychiatrist as a cry for help, qualifying it as privileged communication. Prosecutors are trying to include the notebook as evidence, and say Holmes had no intention of asking for or getting help when he sent the package.

Fenton testified that she had last seen Holmes on June 11, which prosecutors argue is the date that patient-doctor confidentiality between the two ended. Fenton also testified that after her last meeting with Holmes she contacted a campus police officer to relay concerns about a patient.

"I communicated with (the officer) to gather more information on this case and also communicate my concerns," Fenton said.

The motive and timing behind Holmes’ attack is still unclear. He failed a key exam in his Ph.D. neuroscience program six weeks before the rampage, and reportedly make threats and was banned from the college, prosecutors said earlier this month. University of Colorado Denver spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery later disputed that Holmes was banned from campus, but confirmed a criminal background check was done on him before the attack. She said Holmes' access to restricted areas on campus was canceled because he left his program in June, not because of threats.

Montgomery said a court gag order prevented her from discussing who requested the check, who performed it, and who saw the results.

The university has hired former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Robert Miller to conduct an investigation into the case. Miller's investigation has no deadline date, and the school has not said when and if the investigation’s results will be made public.

The Associated Press contributed to this report