Mother of Holmes’ Youngest Victim Also Lost Her Baby in Shooting

     DENVER (CN) – A mother was paralyzed by a gunshot, lost her 6-year-old daughter and her unborn child. A second mother’s son died shielding his bleeding girlfriend with his body. The last thing a third mother heard her son say was, “I love you, Mom.” They all testified Wednesday to the jury that must decide whether to sentence James Holmes to death.
     Closing arguments were to begin Thursday in the capital trial of James Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded 70 at the midnight premier of a Batman movie. On Wednesday, family members told the jury about the people Holmes murdered.
     Cierra Cowden, 19, said her dad, Gordon, was a World War II buff and loved to play basketball.
     “He was pretty little, but he was pretty good at it for a little guy.” His basketball team was called The Rejects.
     The only time Cierra saw her father cry was when their dog Ditto died.
     She was with him in the theater on July 20, 2012, when Holmes killed him. She remembers laughing with her dad during the preview of a Superman movie.
     She touched him in the heat of the rampage and immediately knew that he was dead.
     “I remember there was a complete uproar of people crying.”
     Her most difficult memory to bear is of putting her hand on his coffin.
     Jerri Jackson then told the jury about her son, Matthew McQuinn, who died trying to shield his girlfriend from the bullets. Matt’s death devastated Samantha Yowler, who was wounded, and whom Matt wanted to marry and start a family with.
     “It took a couple of months before she could go out in public,” Jackson said.
     Matt’s death also wreaked havoc on his two brothers, one of whom “went through a time that he drank more than he should have,” his mother said. “But then, once a certain amount of time went by, he had a whole new outlook and is now focused on keeping his brother’s memory alive.”
     Matthew and his other brother, Chris, were “two peas in a pod.”
     “They loved to laugh and cut up together,” Jackson said. “When Chris’s daughter had to have surgery, Matt came over at midnight for that. They were just close.”
     She said Chris didn’t talk much about the shooting “until the trial started. He didn’t want to talk about it at all.”
     She said Matthew’s stepfather, her second husband, was closer to him than his biological father was.
     “To them it was not a ‘step,'” Jackson said. “Dave was there for him, and would do anything for him.
     “One night Matt hit a deer at 12:30 and I was getting up to go to him. Dave said, ‘Well, I’m not letting you go alone. I’m going to be there for him too.'”
     She said her husband now is sometimes “more angry than he used to” be.
     “I believe that part of that is because he doesn’t have Matt.”
     The night he died, Matt told his mom on the phone that he was going to the Batman movie, and that he would “just get an energy drink” because he had work at 4 a.m., an hour after the movie ended.
     “I said be careful,” Jackson said. “He said, ‘Oh, Mom, nothing’s going to happen.’ He said, ‘I love you mom.’ And that was all.”
     She was awakened at 4 a.m. by a sheriff at her home in Ohio, who told her of the shooting. Still unaware of where Matt was, she immediately flew out to Denver. His girlfriend Samantha was in the hospital after being shot in the knee.
     “We got out to Denver probably about 1:30 Denver time,” Jackson said. “My brother called when we were on the highway. He said, ‘Jerri, this doesn’t look good. I want a friend of mine to come be with you.'”
     She was called into the coroner’s officer to identify her son.
     “I went in,” she said. “The gentleman told me that Matt would be behind a glass window and that we would be in a little room. So we went in, and my brother’s friend and Samantha’s stepmom went with me.
     “He was there. He was my son. I had asked if he suffered, and they said he was shot in the neck and it was probably within seconds.” She paused again to cry.
     “I told him that I loved him. That I was proud of him because he saved Samantha’s life. And that we would take care of Samantha. “
     Jackson has been diagnosed with PTSD. She went back to her job as a claims analyst for two weeks, but had to quit when she realized it was too much to handle.
     “I’ve been on Social Security disability, which has cut my income in half,” she said. “I’ve been in counseling for almost three years now. I’m on medication to help me sleep from the nightmares.”
     Caren Teves told the jury her son Alex “loved working with children.”
     “He wanted to be a counselor and he obtained that goal,” Caren Teves said. “He graduated with his master’s in psychology and counseling, and as an intern he worked in a school with kids that had a lot of special needs.
     “These kids wouldn’t fit into a typical setting, and he would bring them into the weight room and teach them, ‘You are a whole person. It’s not just your mind, it’s your mind and body to work together.’ He taught them to respect themselves.”
     She said one of Alex’s students told her that he “pretty much saved their lives.”
     “He got them off alcohol and drug addictions and made them appreciate their families.”
     When Alex and his friends were hurt in a rollover accident in the desert, he refused to get on the Medevac helicopter until his friends were flown out.
     “He just crawled through the broken glass out that back window to get help,” his mother said. “He passed out in the back of the truck, but he tried really hard. The injuries were so bad that they had to bring in a chopper. Alex’s injuries dictated that he was next and he said, ‘No don’t take me. Take her.’ And they said, ‘Alex you have to go now.’
     “‘No, take her.'”
     In the hospital, Alex asked his father to go sit with another boy who had been ejected from the vehicle, whose parents lived in Georgia and weren’t there yet.
     “Go sit with him, he needs you more than I do,” Alex told his dad.
     The father of the Georgia boy approached Caren after Alex’s death.
     “He says, ‘You probably don’t know this, but while my son was in the hospital, and this was probably two months, your son sat with him every single day.’
     “We had no idea that Alex did that. We’d say, ‘What’re you doing today?’ and he’d say, ‘Oh, just going out.’
     “Alex was there every day – sit with him, and talk to him and read to him. That’s just how Alex was. We didn’t know.”
     In her last conversation with her son, Alex asked for a dining room set as a graduation gift. He had just moved into an apartment with his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren. She changed her name to Amanda Teves after Alex died.
     “That’s what he wanted,” his mother said. “So I said, ‘Of course.'”
     Jackson was on vacation in Hawaii when she awoke to a ringing phone. The look on her husband’s face scared her.
     “He had the phone to his ear but his face was completely white,” she said. “All the blood had drained out of his face. I knew then that something was terribly, terribly wrong.”
     Amanda told them there had been a shooting at the movie theater she’d gone to with Alex. She didn’t know where he was.
     “I said, ‘Well, where is he?’ She said, ‘I don’t know!’ Tom said, ‘Do you have any blood on you?’
     “She said, ‘Yeah. Lots.'”
     Fifteen hours later she learned her son was dead. She still has nightmares about that night in Hawaii.
     “We tried to go back [to Hawaii] but my phone was on the nightstand, and Amanda had tried calling me first but I didn’t hear it,” Jackson said. “And whenever I lay in that bed next to that nightstand and that phone, I had flashbacks. At one point I was even out of the room and I heard screaming. There were no missed calls. My phone never rang.”
     She recalled the joy that “emanated” from her son. “He always had this brilliant smile on his face.” Alex hated to wear shoes.
     “He just felt that he didn’t need shoes,” his mother said.
     Lisa Childress then told the jury about her son Jesse, an Air Force veteran.
     “In high school Jesse was shy. Quiet. He loved soccer. He tried to go out for the football team. He made it through two or three weeks of Hell Week, but when it came to putting on the equipment, he put on the helmet and he couldn’t stand it.”
     Jesse asked his mom how to tell his father he didn’t want to play football.
     When he found out he was failing English, he “intercepted the mail,” and ran away from home for half a day.
     “For eight hours,” his mother said. “He ran away from home with a backpack and a sleeping bag and a hundred dollars. He came home at midnight, walking through the door, saying, ‘Mom, that was stupid. That was a dumb idea.'”
     He found his niche in the Air Force, after scoring well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
     “He scored very high,” Lisa said. “He chose satellite communications.”
     Asked to tell more about her son’s job in the Army, she said: “He’s gonna roll his eyes in heaven at me – a cyber systems operator?”
     Jesse loved the Denver Broncos and buying gifts for his younger brothers.
     “He was a single guy and earning money. He also knew how to be downsized, frugal, but pay for Broncos season tickets.”
     Alex would live on ramen so he could spend money on his brothers and his puppy, Max.
     Her son Colin called her and told her about the shooting.
     “I handle stress by saying, ‘OK, it’s not nothing to worry about.'”
     Then she found out the shooting was at the Batman movie.
     “He had to be at the premiere. He loved superhero movies. My mother’s intuition said of course he was there. I went to work, told my bosses this might be happening.”
     She got another call from Colin.
     “I said, ‘Do I need to go home? Should I go home?’ And he said, ‘Mom, you need to go home.'”
     Colin said Jess was not on any of the lists of hospital patients.
     “I was still OK,” their mother said. “‘He probably crawled out of the back door. He’s in a ditch somewhere. He’s still alive.’
     “Then later … it was dark … I get the call … and Colin says, ‘Mom, he was one of the 10 in the theater.'”
     A colonel and chaplain from Edwards Air Force Base came to her house.
     “They came in and I said, ‘Hey, guys, I already know. Welcome to the Childress house. Would you like some juice?’ I went into mom mode. My son was gone.”
     The final witnesses were the mother and grandfather of Holmes’ youngest victim: 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Veronica’s mom, Ashley Moser, was paralyzed by a bullet and will be in a wheelchair the rest of her life.
     Veronica was Robert Sullivan’s only grandchild. His son married Veronica’s mother.
     “We lost our only child’s only child,” he told the jury.
     He read to Veronica, took her to the zoo and sledding. She was shy, so he’d make silly faces at her and pick her up “like a sack of potatoes” until she giggled.
     Veronica’s mother was pregnant the night of the shooting. She lost her unborn child and Veronica, her “Silly Billy.”
     “She was silly and fun, caring and sweet,” Moser said. “She liked to draw and read.” Veronica had just learned how to read and was excited that soon she would have a sister. She learned that the day she died.
     Moser said she was at a loss about what to do with her life. She has been on medication for depression and anxiety.
     “I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m not a mom anymore. She was like my best friend. She was my life.”
     Moser was the last to testify in the final sentencing phase of the trial.
     Holmes declined Judge Carlos Samour Jr.’s request to testify or give a statement.
     Closing arguments were to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday in Arapahoe County Court.
     The jury then will decide whether to sentence Holmes to death or to life in prison.

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