Aurora Theater Massacre: James Holmes' Sister Describes How He Changed After the Shooting

Chris Holmes Testifies: Sister of Aurora Theater Shooter James Holmes
James Holmes
Andy Cross/The Denver Post/AP

07/28/2015 AT 11:15 AM EDT

The sister of convicted murderer James Holmes took the stand in a Centennial, Colorado, court on Monday, her voice cracking as she answered questions.

Chris Holmes, 22, was the first family member of the Aurora theater shooter to testify on his behalf, hoping to spare his life by convincing the jury that he was mentally ill when he opened fire in the crowded cinema in 2012.

Choking back tears, Chris told the jury of a "normal" middle-class childhood, with supportive parents who would take the family on vacations.

But everything changed, Chris says, when her brother started fighting mental illness. She testified that she didn't know how to recognize the signs but that there was a physical change in her brother after the shooting.



When she visited him in jail after the killings, "his eyes were almost bulging out of his head in a way," she explained, adding that he would only answer her questions with one-word answers.

Chris was one of several character witnesses offered by the defense as they try to convince the jury to sentence him to life in prison. Last week, the jury refused to rule out the death penalty.

Holmes was convicted of multiple counts of murder and attempted murder earlier this month.

The trial is in the second phase, in which jurors decide whether mitigating factors outweigh the convictions. The trial will then move to Phase 3, in which the victims will be allowed to testify before final sentencing.

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