Emotional victims of Aurora theater shooting testify

Also published here, at the CU News Corps website.

By Peri Duncan // CU News Corps // Published May 27, 2015

All Jansen Young could think about during her escape from theater 9 on July 20, 2012, was getting help for her boyfriend of nine months, 26-year-old Jonathan Blunk.

Blunk pushed his petite girlfriend, then 21 years old, under the seats when the shooting began, blocking her with his body. Young knew something was wrong because her boyfriend’s easy-going demeanor was replaced by an urgency she’d never seen from him before.

“I thought it was a prank, like a zombie crawl,” Young said.

Blunk’s breathing had slowed to a heavy gurgling, and stopped. Unable to carry him, she tried to find a way out, to get help. After seeing shotgun shells on the theater floor, Young assumed the shooter was in the lobby and exited to the back parking lot.

Outside the door stood James Holmes, the shooter, although Young was unaware of his identity. All she knew was that he “weirded her out,” so she hid under a nearby trash compactor. The sounds of police apprehending the shooter soon encouraged her to come out, but she never saw her boyfriend alive again. Blunk died that night saving Young’s life.

Jansen Young pointing to where she and boyfriend Jonathan Blunk were seated in the theater for Prosecutor George Brauchler and the jury

The prosecution on Wednesday continued its case for the death penalty, focusing on Holmes’ mental state, while the defense continued to try to convince the jury that the defendant was insane when he killed 12 people and wounded 70 more at the Aurora Theater that night nearly three years ago.

This morning the court heard from two U.S. Postal Service employees involved in identifying the envelope that Holmes sent Dr. Lynne Fenton, his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Boulder. Other witnesses who testified today included victims Nathan Juranek, Toni Billapando and Stefan Moton.

Juranek went to the movie with his sister, and was shot in the leg. Billapando attended with her ex-husband and friends. When the massacre began, she stood up and suffered a gunshot wound in her upper lip before her husband tackled her to the ground.

As she lay on the ground in the theater, Billapando didn’t know if she would ever see her 3-year-old girl again. After she and her ex-husband escaped, he drove her to Aurora South Hospital’s emergency room; she was the first of many victims to arrive that night.

Stefan Moton and his brother saved up for a week in order to attend “The Dark Knight Rises” premiere. At the time, Moton was attending Everest College in Thornton to be a dental assistant. Now he will never be able to complete that goal. A bullet fired by Holmes passed through his collar bone and hit his spine. Moton is now a quadriplegic.

Stefan_Moton

Stefan Moton, now unable to use his arms or legs. 

Chelsea Elice Corser-Jensen, a neuroscience Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado Denver, had classes with Holmes. She testified about her academic experience with the shooter.

Corser-Jensen said the defendant never volunteered in class but always knew the correct answer when called upon. He would talk to his friend Benjamin Garcia before class; they had the same faux-Nintendo phone case. Jensen also recalled that Garcia dyed his hair red-orange long before the defendant had, somewhere between March and May of 2012.

For the most part, Jensen recalled the defendant being calm and quiet. Overall he achieved similar scores to other students in class, and she did not notice a change in his demeanor or perceive him to be detached from reality during the year.

Representatives from Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com both came to the stand today to answer questions about the defendant’s online dating accounts, which were activated on July 5, 2012. The defense repeatedly objected to the entry of one specific phrase, the title on both profiles: “Will you visit me in prison?”

Jeff Gold, host of the online talk show “The Gold Patrol,” tweeted that because Holmes knew that he would likely go to prison, he knew right from wrong. If the jury agrees, it will poke a big hole in the defense’s case for insanity.

Young Mook Lee, a professor who worked with Holmes during his third of three lab rotations at CU Boulder, also testified today. Like Jensen, Lee also told the court that the defendant did not appear to be detached from reality during any of their interactions.

The defense has continually highlighted the shooter’s professionalism, lack of anger and quietness in their cross examination of witnesses.

Today’s final witness was Nickelas Gallup, who attended the movie with his girlfriend and friends. When the shooting started he got on his knees and attempted to shield his girlfriend, who had leaned over into an adjacent seat. Gallup witnessed people getting shot as they attempted to escape the theater. “People were in a panic,” he said. Gallup distinctly remembers the green laser in the smoke, coming from a laser sight on the shooter’s handgun.

Also today, the defendant’s spiral notebook was released to the media, and therefore the public. It can be found here.

Editor’s Note: CU News Corps will remember the victims of the tragedy with every post via this graphic.

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