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Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes was an 'unusually bad intern'

James Holmes was an academic achiever, but there were hints of a troubled young man. John Jacobson, Holmes' supervisor at Salk Institute described him as "oddly stubborn.' A Colorado gun club rejected him after hearing his 'guttural rambling' on a voice message.

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Holmes was in his first year as a graduate student, living off a $26,000-a-year stipend -- part federal grant, part university funding. In keeping with those modest means, he rented an 800-square-foot (74-square-metre) apartment in a scruffy neighborhood a short walk from the medical campus.

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But he recently quit the program. A person who works in the neuroscience lab said Holmes did not join the other doctoral students at an end-of-the-year celebration in a local pub. Instead, a professor stopped by the impromptu party to tell everyone that Holmes had withdrawn from the program, with the clear implication that he had fallen behind academically, this source said.

The university declined to release his academic records, citing privacy rules.

It is unclear at what point in the year Holmes might have begun struggling in his doctoral program, but Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said he had been planning a rampage for at least four months, judging from his methodical stockpiling of arms and chemicals. Oates said Holmes had ordered materials delivered both to his apartment and to his lab at the university.

Holmes used some of the material to booby trap the apartment with an elaborate series of trip wires and improvised explosives, police said. The night of the shooting, he allegedly set a timer for techno music to blare loudly starting around midnight, as if trying to lure a neighbor or a police officer to open his door and tell him to turn it down, a law enforcement source said.

Less than a month before the shootings, Holmes emailed Glenn Rotkovich, who owns a gun range in Byers, Colorado, requesting a membership. Rotkovich called the contact number Holmes had left on the application and got a voice mail message he said could only be described as "bizarre, freakish." He could make out just a few words, he said; most of it sounded like a "guttural rambling."

Rotkovich said he warned other members at the gun range to watch out for Holmes -- who never did show up at the facility. "I've learned to listen to my gut," Rotkovich said, "and there was something wrong there, something weird."

But Holmes didn't set off alarms with others he met during this time period. A fellow doctoral student described him as a typical studious introvert; a neighbor who met him by chance at the Zephyr Lounge in Aurora last week said they spent a relaxed afternoon chatting idly about the Denver Broncos.

It is not known whether Holmes was in touch with his family much over the past year. His mother, Arlene, is a nurse and his father, Robert, is a mathematician and computer scientist with degrees from Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. His younger sister, Chris, who is still living at home, is an accomplished musician, the family's pastor said.

Following Holmes's arrest, his father flew to Colorado but his mother remains at their home in San Diego. Pastor Borgie said he plans to meet with her, pray with her and "share some tears" with her as soon as she is ready to receive him. He already knows what he will say.

"When you run out of ways to pray, the best one is 'Lord have mercy,'" Borgie said. "Lord have mercy on James. Lord have mercy on his family. Lord have mercy on all those people whose lives were forever changed by this."

(Additional reporting by Chris Francescani and Mary Slosson in Aurora, Marcus Stern in Atlanta, and Sarah McBride in San Francisco. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Eric Beech)

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