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Aurora massacre suspect may have role-played serial killings, police say

James Eagan Holmes, who had a dyed-red beard and hair when he was arrested last year, seen as he appeared in court in September. Bill Robles / Reuters file

The man accused of killing 12 people at a Colorado movie theater last year may have role-played a serial killer in a bizarre self-created "maze game" on the streets of Denver before the deadly attack, police testified Wednesday.

At a preliminary hearing in Centennial, Colo., Aurora police Detective Tom Wilson testified that during a search of James Eagan Holmes' apartment, he found a spiral notebook with a drawing that depicted a serial killer navigating the maze in a section of Denver called LoDo, or Lower Downtown.

Holmes, 25, is scheduled to go on trial in February in the July 20, 2012, massacre at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, where 12 people were killed and dozens more were injured. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Wilson's testimony came on the final day of preliminary hearings in which Holmes' lawyers are asking state District Judge Carlos Samour to throw out evidence from Holmes' home, car and computers. The next hearing, on Dec. 2, will kick off arguments over Colorado's death penalty law.

Holmes' public defenders contend that investigators entered Holmes' apartment without a legal search warrant, making any evidence found there inadmissible. 

Prosecutors have acknowledged that Holmes' apartment door was blasted open using a robot hours before a signed warrant arrived. They repeated Wednesday that investigators needed to enter the apartment immediately to clear it of bombs or other traps that Holmes might have set — the so-called exigent-circumstances exception.

Investigators with the Arapahoe County sheriff's bomb unit have similarly acknowledged that they also had no warrant when they searched Holmes' Hyundai Tiburon shortly after the shootings. They, too, have testified that they were concerned that the car might have bombs in it.

Investigators told Samour on Wednesday that they found numerous "black plastic spheres" appearing to hold explosives, trip-wire devices that looked like booby traps and an ammunition box in the bedroom of Holmes' apartment.

Detective Paul Capolungo, a technician with the Denver police bomb squad, testified that he was very concerned about a strong odor of gasoline and the sight of 15 to 20 "mortar shells" with green fuses connected to yellow electrical wires in the apartment.

Capolungo said he could also see through a window that wires led to a black plastic case with an antenna mounted on top.

"That's highly dangerous," he said, possibly indicating "numerous, numerous explosive devices."

"It would have been devastating" if the explosives had been triggered, he said.

Besides the bomb-making materials and the serial killer game, other materials found in the apartment included a plastic Batman mask, prescription drug bottles and unsigned forms for Holmes' withdrawal as a doctoral student at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, investigators testified Wednesday.

Samour has yet to rule on the defense motions.

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