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Accused Shooter’s Psychiatrist, Colorado University Sued

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The wife of a victim of the July shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 dead sued the university psychiatrist who counseled James Holmes, charged with murder in the case.

Chantel Blunk, a Nevada resident and widow of Jonathan T. Blunk, 26, sued University of Colorado and Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist employed by the school who had worked with Holmes, according to a complaint based on negligence and wrongful-death claims filed yesterday in federal court in Denver.

Blunk claims Holmes told Fenton on June 11 that he “fantasized about killing a lot of people,” and that on the same day, Fenton notified the university’s threat assessment team about him. A university police officer asked Fenton if Holmes should be placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, and she rejected the idea, according to the complaint.

Fenton “knew that James Holmes was dangerous,” and breached her duty to use “reasonable care” when university police “offered to apprehend James Holmes on a psychiatric hold,” according to the complaint.

The University of Colorado Denver “has nothing but sympathy for the victims of the Aurora theater shooting and their families, but in our initial review of this case, the university believes this lawsuit is not well-founded legally or factually,” the university said in an e-mailed statement.

Trial Ordered

Holmes, who studied neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver, must stand trial on 166 counts, including murder and attempted murder, and will be arraigned March 12, Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester ruled last week.

The judge delayed the proceeding at the request of Holmes’s lawyers, who said they need more time to determine an appropriate plea. Holmes may face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Richard Murray, a lawyer representing Fenton, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Blunk v. Fenton, 1:13-cv-00080, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado (Denver). The criminal case is People v. Holmes, 12-cr-01522, 18th Judicial District Court, Colorado (Centennial).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net; Jeff Kass in Denver at kassj@msn.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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