The mother of James Holmes, who is awaiting trial for the Colorado movie theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens more, has said she prays daily for her son's victims and the millions of people engulfed in mental illness.
"The first time I prayed for them by name and by wound, I was shaking, overcome," Arlene Holmes writes in her new book, "Kept praying; made it through the list. Please, victims, please, feel my prayers. I pray for you by name."
The book, titled "When the Focus Shifts: The Prayer Book of Arlene Holmes," contains hundreds of her personal prayers which date back to her son's 2012 arrest, which took place after he killed 12 people and wounded 70 others at a midnight screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises." He has since pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but faces a possible death sentence. His trial is set to begin next month.
In an interview with the Del Mar Times, Arlene explained that she started the prayer journal in 2013 as a way to cope with the horrific events surrounding her family. The book, she said, will hopefully bring attention to mental disorders and her opposition to the death penalty.
"The images of red hair, black eyes help to justify everyone's hatred," Arlene writes on Jan. 11, 2013. While she "apologizes to the world" for her son's actions, she writes, "I don't believe Satan took [him]. I believe mental illness exists. [I'm] praying for those who have been written off as evil."
Holmes says she is praying her son does not receive the death penalty. In her book, she addresses the prosecution: "I do not know what you have been through in life. I do not know why you want to pursue execution of a mentally ill man. But I pray for you, so that you will find peace in your life. I pray you will change your mind. Please stop this quest for death so you may focus on those who are alive."
Although "When the Focus Shifts" has been denounced as a "calculated attempt to influence members of the jury" by the victim's family members, Holmes says she is simply attempting to draw attention to the devastating effects of mental illness.
"My son never harmed anyone," she writes in an entry titled "Memories" on March 22, 2013. "He never committed a criminal act. He never stole anything. He was not interested in drugs. He did not gamble or stay out late. He loved animals and children. He was responsible. People think he is a monster, but he has a disease that changed his brain."
Holmes also believes helping those with mental illness is "starting to be a mission for churches in general." She recalled how when the world shunned her family, the church reached out in love. "Who can I call, who will drop everything and come and do something, help us cope? I knew if I called the church they would come," she said.