Valley family finds closure in Colorado theater shooting guilty verdict

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Valley family is relieved now that the Colorado theater shooter is guilty of the 165 charges against him. The convictions come just days before the third anniversary of the shooting.

The families of those killed, and the survivors, are grateful for the guilty verdicts. Sylvia Vandervelden first spoke with Action News almost three years just after the shooting. Her daughter and son-in-law's friend was one of the 12 killed in the mass shooting.

The judge took an hour Thursday reading each of the 165 guilty verdicts against James Holmes.

"This is going to be a big closure for the people of Aurora, the families, especially those who lost their loved ones," Vandervelden said.

Vandervelden, a Madera resident, watched the courtroom activity while on vacation in North Carolina. We first met her outside the theater, two days after the shooting, where a small memorial grew into a large site for mourners to gather and survivors to grieve.

Her daughter and son-in-law were friends with Petty Officer John Larimer, a sailor stationed with them in Colorado. He was shot and killed in the Century 16 Theater while shielding his girlfriend from the spray of bullets.
"My son-in-law kept it to himself," she said. "He spoke about it a little bit more later on. My daughter was very distraught by it. She felt violated."

Vandervelden and her family still wear bracelets to honor their friend, the 11 others killed and the more than 70 injured in the shooting.

"I've been wearing it ever since and so has my family," she said.

The Holmes defense team tried to keep him from the death penalty by claiming he was insane at the time of the shooting. Prosecutors don't deny the possibility of mental illness, but argued Holmes knew what he was doing, based on his sketches of the theater, marking its exits and noting police response times.

250 witnesses took the stand the past 11 weeks. The trial may be over, but the pain of the attack in that theater still lingers.

"This isn't over for any of those people," said Tom Teves, the father of Alex Teves killed in the shooting. "Everyone else is going to walk away and it's over. It's another day at the job. But it is not for any of these families."

The sentencing phase, which includes determining the death penalty for the convicted theater shooter begins next week.

Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.