'Do NOT Offer Admission Under Any Circumstances,' University of Iowa Says About 'Batman' Shooting Suspect (Updated)

James Holmes, the man accused of shooting and killing a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater last month, was denied admission to the University of Iowa in 2011.

IOWA CITY, IA - James Holmes, 24, the man accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 people while on a shooting rampage at a "The Dark Knight Rises" premiere in Colorado last month, was denied admission to University of Iowa by faculty members who were adamant that he should not be allowed in.

In response to a records request, the University of Iowa has released e-mails from applications to the school's neuroscience graduate program in January 2011. Holmes, a gifted neuroscience student, had apparently applied to become a member of the department's graduate program.

“Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances,” wrote Daniel Tranel, a professor of neurology, in an e-mail about Holmes' application.

However, the biggest question - what red flags prompted UI to deny Holmes - remains unanswered.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said on Thursday that the university could offer little additional information beyond the documents that have been released.

"The search committee felt that Mr. Holmes would not be a good fit for our program," Moore said.

He added that "the committee made the decision and the university supports the committee's decision."

Moore said he cannot elaborate further due to confidentiality restrictions under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. He said while the applications of a student not admitted is a public record, the application interview is confidential.

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You can read the documents, which have been redacted by the university, attached to this post at the right.

A second professor chimed in two days after on Tranel's e-mail thread. He agreed with Tranel's assessment.

"I agree with Dan, do not admit," Professor Mark Blumberg wrote.

Tranel did not respond to phone or email requests seeking comment.

Blumberg responded to an email saying, "I don't have any specific recollections of his interview and so don't have anything to add."

Holmes' application is listed as being denied on Jan. 28, 2011, among a pool of seven candidates. The reaction from Tranel, which was sent on Jan. 30, was markedly more negative than it was to the other applicants, some of whom he praised as "stellar" and "solid," whose names have been redacted from the document.

Holmes' application for the 2011-12 school year was submitted on Oct. 14, 2010. It depicts Holmes as an exceptional student.

Holmes did his neurology studies as an undergraduate at the University of California-Riverside, where he had nearly a 4.0 grade point average. An unnamed professor there provided Holmes with a letter of recommendation that identified his "general all around scientific ability" as "truly exceptional."

He identified himself as aspiring to become a cognitive neuroscientist, who was interested in research related to memory and continuing on after school in an academic or public setting.

"My lifelong goal is to increase the efficiency of how human beings learn and remember," he wrote in an essay in his application.

"I have always fascinated by the complexities to a long lost thought seemingly arising out of nowhere into a stream of awareness," he wrote. "These fascinations likely stemmed from my interest in puzzles and paradoxes as an adolescent and continued through my curiosity in academic research."

He continued to reflect on his upbringing in the essay.

"Looking back, my life could have gone in a completely different direction had I not possessed the foresight to choose the path of knowledge," he wrote.

And, added, "I too will bring my past, specifically my strong moral upbringing. In addition, I will also exemplify my resolution and clairvoyance in problem solving."

Holmes also applied to Texas A&M, Universities of Michigan, Alabama and Colorado and Kansas University, according to his application to Iowa.

His admission to the University of Illinois grad school program was accepted and financial assistance was offered as part of the package. Holmes instead chose to attend classes at the University of Colorado.

But a year and half after applying to Iowa, Holmes dropped out of the program at Colorado. Soon after, 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in the shooting at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater in July.

Holmes has since been charged with multiple counts of murder for the crime. The primary difficulty prosecutors may face in this trial is whether or not they can prove that Holmes is sane.

Judy R August 31, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I would like to see an article by Professor Tranel on how to spot these kinds of antisocial personalities. He seems to have a good eye!
Maria Houser Conzemius September 01, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Judy R., I, also, am very curious as to what cues or body language or whatever Prof. Tranel spotted in James Holmes that made him so adamant that the UI not admit him. Sadly, the administration won't let him talk. Maybe the UI's legal beagles are afraid of prejudicing a jury or inviting a lawsuit.
Kristine Dolezal September 01, 2012 at 03:33 PM
We don't want anything to interfere with the proper adjudication.
Maria Houser Conzemius September 01, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Kristine, that's fair -- frustrating, but fair. I don't want anything to interfere with the proper adjudication either. After all, Profs. Tranel's and Blumberg's objections to James Holmes' admission application made the national and possibly international news.
Judy R September 04, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I was talking about a general how-to article, not specifics for this person.


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