On July 20, 2012 James Holmes entered a crowded movie theater during a midnight show and opened fire. Twelve people died and 58 were injured. As the movie house descended into chaos, Holmes was found outside the theater and arrested. Holmes has since pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity as of June, 2014. The beginning phases of jury selection has begun for the trial of the alleged shooter with over 9,000 summons being sent out to the public.
The community of Aurora, Colorado chose not to tear down the movie house. Instead, they requested a memorial. On Friday, the City Council of Aurora announced plans to build a memorial to reflect and remember the event and honor the victims.
According to the Denver Post, a committee launched a fundraising effort and selected a location. The "Reflection Memorial Garden" will be at the Aurora Municipal Center, at East Alameda Parkway and South Chambers Road. Enhancements such as benches, artwork, sculptures, and pathways are planned by the committee, which is comprised of mainly victims and family members of the shooting.
The city of Aurora is donating the land and will maintain the memorial garden. Money for the garden will be raised through donations with a goal of $400,000.
City Councilwoman Barbara Cleland, co-chairwoman of the memorial committee, said three locations were under consideration but the committee felt the Xeriscape site at the Municipal Center made the most sense.
She said the families who took part in the planning should be commended for coming up with the idea of a reflection garden.
"I really appreciate the families that have been involved," Cleland said. "They've been just very good to work with, very thoughtful."
The statement comes on the heels of a release of a letter by the parents of James Holmes requesting that Holmes be spared the death penalty. Holmes had originally asked to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without parole. It was refused. His parents who have been largely silent since the incident recently asked the courts to reconsider and spare the life of their son. As reported by the Associated Press, Holmes parents, who live in Rancho Penasquitos, California, say they want to avoid a traumatic trial. One option would be a deal that calls for a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.
"If that happened, our son would be in prison the rest of his life, but no one would have to relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise," the parents wrote.
They say the best option would be sending their son to an institution for the mentally ill, which would happen if he is found not guilty by reason of insanity. Read more about the letter here.
The statement has been met with mixed reactions from the victims of the shooting. The prospect of a long court battle troubled victim Pierce O'Farrill, who was shot three times.
He said he would welcome an agreement that imprisons Holmes for life and did not see how a possible death penalty would "bring peace to anybody, whether it's justice or not."
"Life in prison, throw away the key, and he doesn't see the light of day again and we move on," O'Farrill said of a possible plea deal, noting he has forgiven Holmes.
Some victims questioned their sincerity. Melisa Cowden, whose ex-husband Gordon Cowden was killed in the shooting, called the statement comical.
"He's not mentally ill," Cowden said.
Official jury selection is scheduled for January 20.
Contributions to the memorial fund can be made here: npojustgive.org/720Memorial or sent to:
Reflections Memorial Garden,
c/o 7/20 Memorial Foundation, City of Aurora,
15151 East Alameda Parkway,
Aurora, Colorado, 80012
[Photo credit: AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez]