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January 2, 2013

Colo. theater shooting kin reject movie invitation

— Relatives of the majority of people killed in a Colorado movie theater rejected an invitation on Wednesday to attend its reopening later this month, calling it a “disgusting offer.”

The parents, grandparents, cousins and widow of nine of the 12 people killed released a letter sent to the theater’s owner, Cinemark, in which they criticized the Plano, Texas-based company for not reaching out to the families of victims to offer their condolences. They also said the company refused to meet with them one-on-one without lawyers present.

The families said they were asked to attend an “evening of remembrance” followed by a movie when the Aurora theater reopens on Jan. 17 in invitations sent two days after Christmas.

“Thanks for making what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult. Timing is everything and yours is awful,” they wrote.

The company had no immediate comment.

Cinemark has been renovating the Aurora theater and plans to re-open it Jan. 17, a move the city’s mayor said had widespread support in the community. Gov. John Hickenlooper is among those planning to attend.

The families of some victims have sued Cinemark. The father of the youngest person killed in the shooting, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, is among them. He didn’t sign the letter but the girl’s grandparents did.

Also Wednesday, prosecutors and defense lawyers said they are ready for a crucial hearing next week in which prosecutors will outline their case against James Holmes, who is charged with killing 12 people and wounding 70 during a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Night Rises” on July 20.

It starts Monday and is scheduled to run all week. At its conclusion, state District Judge William B. Sylvester will decide if the evidence is sufficient to put Holmes on trial.

During Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors and defense lawyers also discussed with Sylvester a sealed motion from the prosecution that made some reference to witnesses. Sylvester said he planned to rule on it later in the day but wouldn’t refer to witnesses by name.

Holmes didn’t say anything during the half-hour hearing.

He is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder and hasn’t been asked to enter a plea yet. His lawyers have said he suffers from mental illness.

Next week’s preliminary hearing will give the public its first officially sanctioned look at much of the evidence against Holmes.

Sylvester imposed a gag order shortly after Holmes’ arrest barring attorneys and investigators from speaking publicly about the case, and many documents have been sealed.

The University of Colorado, where Holmes was a graduate student, has also been tight-lipped about the case.

At prosecutors’ request, Sylvester barred the university from releasing records requested by numerous media organizations. Prosecutors argued that the information could jeopardize Holmes’ right to a fair trial. Sylvester initially agreed but amended his order last month to allow the release after media organizations objected in court.

Holmes was enrolled in a Ph.D. neuroscience program at the university. Investigators said he began stockpiling firearms and ammunition while taking classes in the spring.

In June, he made threats to a professor and on June 10 filed withdrawal papers after failing a year-end exam, prosecutors said. The next day he saw his school psychiatrist who tried to report him to a campus security committee, according to Holmes’ lawyers.

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