James Holmes charged with first-degree murder in theater shootings

Posted July 30, 2012, at 10:38 p.m.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — James E. Holmes was formally charged Monday with 142 criminal counts, including 24 of first-degree murder, in connection with the shooting rampage at a suburban movie theater showing the latest Batman movie.

Holmes appeared in the courtroom in the Arapahoe County Courthouse looking different than he did during his first appearance in court on July 23. His reddish-orange hair was combed forward and down, rather than the tousled look he had last week when the judge read him his rights.

Holmes’ demeanor appeared calm Monday, his expression changing from wide-eyed and expectant to periods of staring ahead.

He spoke only once, replying “yes” when District Court Judge William B. Sylvester asked him about a future hearing date.

Afterward, officials set Nov. 13 for the preliminary hearing in the July 20 shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded. Other hearings are expected sooner on motions, including one from media outlets seeking access to records.

In all, Holmes was charged with 142 counts including two counts of first-degree murder for each person who died in the movie theater shooting in Aurora. The movie house was showing the local premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

In addition to the murder counts, Holmes was charged with 116 counts of criminal intent to commit murder and one count of illegal possession of an explosive device.

It was not immediately clear to what the explosive charge referred. During the attack, the gunman used a canister of gas then opened fire with several weapons.

In addition, Holmes’ apartment on Paris Street was booby trapped with explosives, authorities have said.

Holmes was also charged with one count of a crime of violence, a sentence enhancer. The district attorney has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

Syrian diplomat quits post; new fighting reported in Aleppo

LONDON — The highest-ranking Syrian diplomat in London has abandoned his post, the British Foreign Office said Monday, the latest in a string of Syrian diplomats and military officials to defect from the embattled government of President Bashar Assad.

Ayoubi had been the most senior diplomatic official left in London after Britain expelled charge d’affaires Ghassan Dalla in May over the slayings of more than 100 women, children and other civilians in the Syrian town of Houla. The United Nations has said the killings were probably the work of forces sympathetic to the government; Syria says its own investigation shows the rebels are to blame.

Ayoubi joins the former ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, and a high-ranking general and son of the former defense minister, Manaf Tlas, among the ranks of defected Syrian officials. Syrian diplomats in Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates also reportedly quit their posts last week.

New clashes were reported Monday in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, as the government and rebels both said their respective forces were advancing amid international concern for the fate of civilians.

Heavy rain hits N. Korea, flooding buildings

ANJU, North Korea — More heavy rain pounded North Korea on Monday, submerging buildings, cutting off power, flooding rice paddies and forcing people and their livestock to climb onto rooftops for safety.

The rain follows downpours earlier this month that killed nearly 90 people and left more than 60,000 homeless, officials said. The floods come on the heels of a severe drought, fueling renewed food worries about a country that already struggles to feed its people.

Two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people face chronic food shortages, a U.N. report said last month, while asking donors for $198 million in humanitarian aid for the country.

On Sunday and Monday, rain hit the capital Pyongyang and other regions, with western coastal areas reporting heavy damage. In Anju city in South Phyongan province, officials reported 1,000 houses and buildings were destroyed and 5,680 acres of farmland were completely covered.

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