(AURORA, Colo.) — Accused movie theater gunman James Holmes was not on drugs when he appeared dazed in court, but experts are looking for explanations for his odd behavior that included turning evidence bags on his hands into puppets after his arrest, sources told ABC News.
The loopy, seemingly unconcerned actions by the former Ph.D student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others is seen by some as signs of psychosis — or that he’s faking it.
Sources tell ABC News that Holmes was not on drugs or medication at the time of the hearing, but he has demonstrated a pattern of bizarre behavior since his arrest outside an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last Friday.
When Holmes was arrested he told police he was the fictitious Batman villain, The Joker. When police put evidence bags over his hands to preserve traces of gunpowder residue, Holmes pretended the bags were puppets, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Holmes has acted unfazed by his arrest, police say. He has been uncooperative since he was taken into custody, giving investigators little information, and yet disclosing his apartment was booby trapped with dozens of explosives.
His behavior in court Monday was particularly strange. Unshaven, with died orange hair, Holmes alternated between staring wide-eyed to closing his eyes and appearing to nod off.
His lawyer even had to nudge him to rise when the judge entered the courtroom. He said nothing during the proceedings, in which he was held without bond.
Some observers wondered if Holmes was on drugs or being medicated. Sources told ABC News, he was not on drugs, leading to expert theories that he may have been in the grips of a “psychotic episode,” exhausted from stress or simply faking it.
“I think there are two possibilities going on here,” Marissa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist for the U.S. Secret Service and an expert in mass shootings, told ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday.
“One is that he is in the middle of a psychotic episode which is quite possible. We see him distracted at multiple points, an almost sort of ‘coming to’ and trying to figure out where he is and process what’s going on,” she said. “The other thing that we’re seeing — and we’ve seen some of this behavior in the past couple months — might suggest mania. Meaning hyperactivity, hyper energy, been possibly up and not sleeping for days. What we might be seeing here is the post effects.”
But Randazzo also said there was a third possibility: he might simply be faking it.
“It’s possible,” she said when asked if Holmes’ behavior could be all an act. “It is possible. We’ll leave that open,” she said, adding that most people who lie about that sort of behavior are sociopaths and “what we’ve heard about his history does not suggest sociopath at all.”
“Let’s keep that in mind that he was studying neuroscience. He was studying exactly the type of brain issues that we’re going to be talking about throughout this whole case,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio