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Parents of Aurora Suspect James Holmes Say He’s ‘Not a Monster’

The parents of accused Colorado theater shooter James Holmes say their son is "not a monster" and should be spared the death penalty because he is mentally ill. Robert and Arlene Holmes released a letter Friday — their first comments since the tragedy — trying to shed light on their son and arguing that he needs treatment for life.

Twelve people were killed and 70 injured in the July 2012 massacre at an Aurora movie theater during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Holmes, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. Jury selection for his trial, which is permitted to be broadcast live, is set for Jan. 20. Holmes' parents said they want to avoid a trial because it will "cause everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma."

Their letter, obtained by NBC affiliate KUSA, reads in part:

"We realize treatment in an institution would be best for our son. We love our son, we have always loved him and we do not want him to be executed. We also decry the need for a trial. ... In the criminal justice system, the prosecution and defense can agree to a sentence of life in prison, without parole, in exchange for a guilty plea. 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.

We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed. But we are aware of people's sentiments. We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.

We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill."

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— Erik Ortiz