Holmes Jury Hears|Heart-Wrenching Tales

     DENVER (CN) – Calling for his death, prosecutors Tuesday presented seven family members of the people James Holmes murdered at a “Batman” movie, telling the jury their stories would provide only “the faintest of whiffs of the impact on those left behind.”
     Victim impact statements are the final phase of Holmes’ trial. The jury must sentence him to life in prison or death for murdering 12 people and wounding 70 at midnight three years ago in an Aurora movie theater.
     Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has told the jury all along that Holmes’ schizoaffective disorder should not excuse him from being executed for the meticulously planned slaughter.
     The first to testify, Robert Wingo Jr., had two daughters with his wife Rebecca Wingo. They met at a language school in California, where Rebecca was learning Mandarin Chinese and he was learning Croatian.
     He told the jury he was initially attracted to her “huge smile.”
     “She was fearless,” he said. “Wild … yet cultured and intelligent. That juxtaposition of things was quite intriguing to me.”
     He said the social worker-in-training was a “fun mom” to their daughters Jaelyn and Jewel Wingo, who were in the eighth and third grades.
     “She did not hover,” he said. “She was the one that always encouraged them to explore and be confident in what they wanted to do. She was always the one that would have the music turned up.”
     While he believes her independent spirit has been “instilled in the kids,” he’s concerned that she was “a model they don’t have on a day to day basis anymore.”
     The night of the massacre, he said, he felt some relief upon hearing that the shooting was at the Century 16 theater in Aurora.
     “I had never known her to go to that theater very often,” he said. “I had posted at the time that the girls and I were OK, and I was not too concerned with Rebecca at that point. I figured it wasn’t the case.”
     He was wrong. When a family friend brought the girls back from an outing, “I sat the girls down,” Wingo said. “I let them know that mom had died that day.”
     The next witness, Tom Sullivan, was the father of 27-year-old Alex Sullivan. He spent the hours after the shooting showing a picture of his son to anyone who would listen, trying to track him down. Alex had been at the movies with co-workers at a Red Robin, celebrating his birthday.
     Tom asked reporters for help.
     “‘I can’t find him,’ I said. ‘I don’t know where he is. Can you help me find him?’ …
     “On the morning he was murdered, I was forced to grow up. From that moment on all I’ve been doing is getting older.”
     Tom said that when the family goes to the movies now, they leave “Alex’s seat” open. They also keep an empty seat for him at their table.
     Amanda Micayla said her 23-year-old sister Micayla “always had a ton of friends. Very level-headed, very grounded. Very giving” – she paused to cry – “very forgiving.”
     “It was like she had a secret – no anxiety was needed. Life would just go on. She was a gentle, sweet, loving kid. We’re all very, very close.”
     The last time she saw her sister, they planned a birthday party for their grandmother, whose birthday is July 20 – the day Holmes killed Micayla.
     She got the news in a voicemail from her father, who had called her at 5 a.m. She spent the morning helping her parents call every hospital they could. Her mother had been calling hospitals since 1 a.m.
     “We knew there were a bunch of Jane Does. … I went to Swedish, I went to hospitals they weren’t admitting people to.” She paused to cry.
     At Gateway High School, where police set up a base for Holmes’ victims and their families, an officer showed Amanda her sister’s driver’s license.
     “All I did was identify the photo. They wouldn’t tell me anything.”
     Finally, after going home, they were visited by “two black cars.”
     “We were in the back yard, just the immediate family. All I remember is my knees buckling and slamming into the concrete floor. I have a hard time remembering what happened after that.
     “It’s been a hard three years,” Amanda said. “I don’t remember periods after it happened. I was self-medicating … I lost my little sister.
     “I think it’s really hard to change the dynamic of your life … being the only child.”
     Amanda closed by saying she “can’t walk into a movie theater anymore.”
     Mary Hoover’s 18-year-old son AJ Boik, a “class clown,” was popular 1,200 people attended his funeral. His name was Alexander Jonathan Boik, but he went by AJ, or Age. He grew up with an older brother in a single-parent household, because his father left when he was two.
     AJ was “funny,” he “bounced into rooms,” his mother said.
     “He made me laugh on a regular basis, every day. I’d wake him up in the morning and tell him he had to get up, and he’d make some wisecrack. ‘Your face needs to get up.’ He skateboarded, he loved music. Everything was good for him, to him, and he took that and gave it to everybody else. You didn’t see him sad. He made friends with everyone.”
     AJ had just graduated from Gateway High School, where he was first chair viola. He had a scholarship to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where his first day of orientation was July 21, the day he died.
     “He was so excited. He knew he was going to be able to teach kids the art of ceramics.”
     Mary said her son had a kind spirit.
     “There was a kid in the neighborhood – (AJ) didn’t think was being treated nicely by his family. So this boy didn’t have to stay inside and be sad and scared of his father, he decided to give him one of his skateboards so he could go skating with AJ. He was probably three years, four years younger than him. But that was how AJ was. He took them under his wing … he had your back.”
     He wanted to marry his girlfriend, Lasamoa Croft.
     “When Lasamoa was around, she kind of laid the hammer on him, and said, ‘If you’re going to be with me, you’re going to be a graduate.'”
     Mary last saw her son the day of the shooting.
     “He came by my work to get some gas money. I knew he was going to the movie. I asked him if I could take him out to dinner. He couldn’t because he had to go watch Lasamoa do her hula [dance].”
     She took AJ to a Dairy Queen.
     “We took the dog and sat out in front of Dairy Queen and ate our ice cream, which we hadn’t done since he was probably 3 years old. That’s a nice kind of memory to have.”
     Lasamoa and AJ’s friends and teachers held a pep rally for him at the school.
     “I am now a single mother of one child,” his mother said. “I’ve lost half of what I was put on this earth to do. He was one of the two best things I ever did and now. My life is basically half of what it was.”
     Kathleen Larimer’s son John was in the Navy, working cyber security.
     “The Navy gave us an award for John posthumously,” she said. “They went ahead and they created the John T. Larimer Mentoring Award for people now in the cyber fleet who are acting as mentors to others.”
     The University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, John’s alma mater, has named a scholarship after him.
     She saw him for the last time on her birthday.
     “It was July 2nd. We met for breakfast at Rosie’s Diner. He gave me a Buckley Air Force Base mug for my rack at home. I collect mugs. We said goodbye in the parking lot.”
     She too spent hours of agony wondering what had happened to her son.
     “All we know is John was at the theater, and now he’s missing,” she said. “John was pretty good about leaving his cell on vibrate. It went on a bunch of times between us texting him saying, ‘Where are you? Call us.'”
     She got the news from her son Noel, John’s brother, who was flying to visit his grandmother for her 100th birthday. He changed his ticket to Denver.
     “I’m real glad he did,” Kathleen said. “Some of the Navy people met him as he was coming off the plane. he called us about 8:15 our time to tell us that John was dead.”
     John’s body was flown to O’Hare Airport, then taken to their home in Crystal Lake, Ill. The route was packed.
     “The intersections were blocked,” Kathleen said. “People were stopped. Every fire station was outside, hands over their hearts, people in uniform saluting. …
     “I miss being able to talk to him about the big things going on in the world. He was so grounded, he was so aware of so many things. I never go to Chick-fil-A. Long before all that public flack about the owner of Chick-fil-A being anti-gay, John told us about it. ‘The owner is using his influence to promote bias and bigotry.’ And I said, ‘OK, John.’ And I don’t go to Chick-fil-A anymore.”
     Kathleen said her large family hasn’t been the same since John died.
     “We used to get photos, it was once a year. I don’t think we’ll ever do a family picture. Because every time you look at a family picture, it just jumps out at you, who’s missing from that family picture.”
     Chantel Blunk was the high school sweetheart of her husband Jonathan. They married in 2007 and had two children.
     Jonathan was kicked out of home when he was 15, and made his way in the world by being “very hard-working,” his wife said.
     “Even with the struggles he was going with at home, you never saw it. His walk … just his walk was very strong. He would lean forward, like he was ready to challenge anything in front of him.”
     Jonathan was a Navy veteran.
     “He could work a 24-hour shift in the Navy and just go, go, go and just come home and he wouldn’t go to sleep. ‘Let’s go to the beach, let’s go play volleyball, let’s barbecue.’
     “He was always just positive and outgoing. If you needed help, he was there.”
     Chantel took their kids to Nevada to be with her mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Her last conversation with her husband was over the phone, two days before the shooting.
     “I needed my family back together and he felt the same way. We were talking on the phone and it was a really good talk. He was telling me how much he loved me.”
     Maximus, their infant son, was “starting to walk.”
     Jonathan texted her later that he was going to the movies. His boss called her the next day to tell her he hadn’t shown up for work at his hardwood flooring job.
     “I was on the phone all day calling him, leaving voicemails, texting.” She called the list of hospitals published by Colorado media, and described her husband.
     “They told me if somebody showed up at my door at 6 o’clock that he was somebody who passed away. I was on the porch waiting. Two vehicles pulled up in normal cars. Regular looking people came out.”
     Chantel thought they were from a construction company they had just hired to do some work on their house.
     “I was about to say hi and they asked for me. I remember stepping back, like, wait, what?
     “It was just like, wake up, wake up, wake up.”
     Now Chantel finds it difficult to leave the house. Her daughter Hailey worries that her mother won’t come back, the way her father did.
     “Hailey was supposed to start kindergarten that August. I couldn’t go anywhere. She thought if I was going to leave, I was gong to die.
     “I don’t want my kids to be afraid of the world.”
     Sandy Phillips concluded the day by telling the jury about her daughter, Jessica Ghawi, a “whirlwind, full of energy,” who had just landed a sports broadcasting internship with a TV station in San Antonio.
     “She was like a little shooting star,” her mother said. “When she made up her mind to do something she would get it done.”
     She learned of the shooting in a phone call from one of Jessie’s friends. She screamed as the friend told her she had tried to find Jessie. “I tried,” the friend told her. “I tried.”
     Sandy suffers from PTSD and does not celebrate Christmas anymore. She said she has no “plan for a future.”
     “I’m not the same person that I used to be,” she said. She can’t go to a movie, or sit anywhere in a theater seat.
     “I can’t stand the smell of popcorn,” she said.
     “My husband is everything. Between the two of us, we hold on.”
     Prosecutors were to call their final five witnesses Wednesday.
     Judge Samour Jr. has tentatively scheduled closing arguments for Thursday.

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