Colo. Shooting Suspect James Holmes Got 'A's, but Called '2nd-Rate Student'

Colo. shooting suspect graduated U. Cal.-Riverside with "high honors."

ByABC News
September 5, 2012, 8:08 PM

Sept. 5, 2012 — -- Newly obtained college records for suspected mass murderer James Holmes highlight a perplexing disconnect between a student who appeared to have remarkable academic ability, and the now-24-year-old accused of the most extensive mass shooting in U.S. history.

Holmes is charged with opening fire July 20 inside an Aurora Colo., movie theater, murdering 12 people and injuring 58 others attending a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." He has not entered a plea.

College transcripts obtained Wednesday by ABC News show that while attending the University of California Riverside, Holmes earned almost all "A" grades, graduating with "high honors" in June 2010.

In subjects including biology, chemistry, economics and Spanish, Holmes received "A+" grades that helped him earn a 3.94 GPA.

In one philosophy class taken in the winter of 2010, titled "Ethics and the Meaning of Life", Holmes got an "A."

According to at least one former associate, however, Holmes' apparent book smarts did not translate to real-world ability.

"He was not an exceptional mind," said John Jacobsen, a former researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., where Holmes was an intern in 2006.

Jacobsen recalled giving Holmes an experiment to be conducted on a computer. According to Jacobsen, Holmes failed.

"He was a second-rate student. Not very good at all," Jacobsen told ABC News.

A phone call to Holmes' attorneys -- who are under a strict court-imposed gag order preventing them from talking about the case -- was not returned to ABC News.

In court, Holmes' public defenders repeatedly have suggested their client is mentally ill. Court documents reveal Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist while a graduate student at the University of Colorado.

Holmes' U.C. Riverside transcripts and other records were sent to ABC News and other news organizations from the University of Kansas in response to a Kansas Open Records Act request. Holmes submitted the transcripts as part of his application to the University of Kansas PhD. program in neuroscience.

According to the application, three U.C. Riverside staffers wrote letters on Holmes' behalf, including director of student affairs Kathryn Jones and professors Khaleel Razak and Edward Korzus. Emails and phone calls requesting comment were not immediately returned.

Last week, officials revealed Holmes also applied to the neuroscience program at the University of Iowa, and was given an interview there in January 2011.

After meeting with Holmes, neuroscience program director Daniel Tranel wrote an email to the admissions committee urging them to reject Holmes' application.

"James Holmes: Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances," Tranel wrote. He did not elaborate.

A University of Iowa spokesman later told the Associated Press that Holmes "was not a good personal fit for our program."

Ultimately, Holmes withdrew his University of Kansas application and never met in person with staff there.

In a letter dated March 4, 2011, an official with the neuroscience graduate program said he was "sorry to hear" Holmes no longer wanted to attend the school.