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Widow of Colorado theater shooting victim sues psychiatrist

By Carma Hassan and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
January 16, 2013 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A civil lawsuit accuses psychiatrist who treated shooting suspect of negligence
  • Dr. Lynne Fenton should have alerted police about James Holmes, suit says
  • A University of Colorado spokeswoman says the lawsuit "is not well-founded legally"

(CNN) -- The widow of a victim killed in last year's Colorado movie theater shooting is suing the accused gunman's psychiatrist and the university where she works.

The psychiatrist should have advised police to apprehend suspect James Holmes weeks before the theater rampage, Chantel Blunk said in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court.

Blunk's 26-year-old husband, Jonathan, was one of 12 people slain in the July 20 shooting.

Dr. Lynne Fenton reportedly saw Holmes as a patient.
Dr. Lynne Fenton reportedly saw Holmes as a patient.

Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who works at the University of Colorado and saw Holmes as a patient, "knew that James Holmes was dangerous" and "had a duty to use reasonable care to protect the public at large from James Holmes," according to the lawsuit.

An attorney representing Fenton could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the University of Colorado Denver, said officials there were aware of the lawsuit and had received notice that 11 others could be filed.

Report: Holmes' psychiatrist reported behavior to colleagues

"The University of Colorado Denver has nothing but sympathy for the victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting and their families, but in our initial review of this case, the University believes this lawsuit is not well-founded legally or factually," Montgomery said in a written statement.

State: Holmes intended to kill them all
Cynthia Davis, center, visits the roadside memorial set up for victims of the Colorado shooting massacre across the street from the Century 16 movie theater on Monday, July 30, in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed in the theater early July 20 during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Suspect James Holmes was taken into custody shortly after the attack. More photos: Colorado movie theater shooting Cynthia Davis, center, visits the roadside memorial set up for victims of the Colorado shooting massacre across the street from the Century 16 movie theater on Monday, July 30, in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed in the theater early July 20 during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Suspect James Holmes was taken into custody shortly after the attack. More photos: Colorado movie theater shooting
Colorado massacre: Mourning the victims
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The public gets its first glimpse of James Holmes, 24, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting during his initial court appearance Monday, July 23. With his hair dyed reddish-orange, Holmes, here with public defender Tamara Brady, showed little emotion. He is accused of opening fire in a movie theater Friday, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. More photos: Mourning the victims of the Colorado theater massacre The public gets its first glimpse of James Holmes, 24, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting during his initial court appearance Monday, July 23. With his hair dyed reddish-orange, Holmes, here with public defender Tamara Brady, showed little emotion. He is accused of opening fire in a movie theater Friday, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. More photos: Mourning the victims of the Colorado theater massacre
Colorado movie theater shooting
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FBI: Holmes' apartment rigged to kill

On June 11 -- more than five weeks before the shooting -- Holmes told Fenton that "he fantasized about killing a lot of people," the lawsuit says.

But according to the lawsuit, when a police officer asked whether Holmes should be placed on a psychiatric hold for 72 hours, Fenton "rejected the idea."

The lawsuit accuses Fenton of negligence and said the university is also liable.

In August, Fenton testified in court that her contact with Holmes ended on July 11. She said she later contacted campus police because she was "so concerned" about what happened during her last meeting with him, but she declined to detail what bothered her.

Holmes, a 25-year-old former doctoral student in neuroscience, faces 166 charges, including murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses, tied to the rampage during a screening of "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises."

His interactions with Fenton before the shooting have come up several times during court proceedings.

Just nine minutes before he burst into the suburban mall movie theater, Holmes tried to call Fenton but failed to reach her, prosecutors have said.

In September, a judge ruled that a notebook mailed to Fenton would not be accessible to prosecutors.

Last week the judge overseeing Holmes's case agreed to delay an arraignment in the case to allow defense lawyers more time to pore over 30,000 pages of evidence and hundreds of DVDs and CDs.

The arraignment -- a formal reading of charges by the court and, frequently, the entering of a plea by the defendant -- had been scheduled for Friday after Judge William Sylvester ruled Thursday that prosecutors had provided sufficient evidence in the preliminary hearing for the case to proceed to trial.

Sylvester said he was concerned Holmes's case could be appealed if he moved too quickly with the arraignment.

During that step, now scheduled for March 12, the list of charges against Holmes will be read, and he will have an opportunity to enter a plea, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told reporters.

CNN's Ashley Fantz, Jim Spellman and Casey Wian contributed to this report.

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