James Holmes, the 24-year-old former graduate student at the University of Colorado who is facing 24 counts of murder and more than 100 counts of attempted murder after the deadly shooting at the Aurora movie theater earlier this month, was being seen before the attacks by Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist who specialized in schizophrenia, according to news reports.
CNN reported that Holmes' lawyers are requesting that a package Holmes sent her be turned over to them since "Holmes' communications with Fenton are protected as he was her patient."
Fenton, who works at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus as the student mental health services director, has received grants to research schizophrenia since 2008, CNN reported.
However, PBS Newshour noted that there's no information about why Holmes was under the care of Fenton -- he may have just been seeing her for her general mental health expertise, and to receive treatments or medication for any problems. Or, it may have had something to do with Fenton's specialty -- schizophrenia.
Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig said on the PBS Newshour:
The other indication about what this could have been is the specialty of the clinician who was seeing James Holmes. Lynne Fenton is the doctor in the case. Her specialty and what she has been mostly researching is schizophrenia. She has also done some lectures and some presentations on bipolar disorders and borderline personalities. But, again, most of her current research is on schizophrenia. She treats -- according to the websites for the center, she treats about 15 to 20 graduate students in her psychiatric practice.
Schizophrenia is reported to affect about 1.1 percent of adults in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Of those, people, 60 percent have sought health care services for the condition in the last year.
The condition's characteristics include having delusions and hallucinations, as well as withdrawal, lack of emotion and motivation and attention and memory problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with paranoid schizophrenia, which is a specific kind of schizophrenia, may hear voices that aren't there, feel anxiety and anger and believe that people are out to get them.
To be clear, there has been no official word yet on why Holmes was seeking Fenton's care, or if he had been diagnosed, or was being treated, for a mental condition.
ABC News reported that there were no clear signs that Holmes had a mental condition, and that he also didn't have a previous criminal record.
"In most of these cases, these are not what you would call a psychopath or a sociopath, as hard as it may be to believe," psychologist Dr. Marisa Randazzo told ABC News. "These are often folks who often up onto this point have been functioning fairly normally but went through a series of events, a series of losses, ended up in absolute despair or desperation."
However, Elizabeth Bernstein, a columnist at the Wall Street Journal who has covered mental illness, made note that if in fact Holmes does have some sort of mental disorder, he would fit the age category for it.
"He's actually in the age range for it -- males, it's 15 to 25 is the peak age," she said in a Wall Street Journal video interview.
She also added in the video interview that most cases of mental illness don't prompt violence.
"There are obviously serious classified mental disorders … not all of these things, though, cause people to do the horrific things that James Holmes did," Bernstein said in the video interview. "Not all mentally ill people are violent, in fact a vast majority of them are not. And not all of this incomprehensible violence is perpetrated by someone who has a mental illness."