(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — A courtroom packed with survivors of one of the country’s worst mass shootings was counting on the state’s star witness to bring the James Holmes’ case home and she did not disappoint them.
Ashley Moser, who rolled into the Centennial, Colorado, courtroom in a power wheelchair, recounted on Friday the last time she saw her 6-year-old daughter Veronica Moser-Sullivan alive as prosecutors wrapped up their case.
Moser testified that she, her daughter, her then-boyfriend Jamison Toews and two babysitters went to the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012, to celebrate good news: Moser had learned she was three months pregnant. They sat in the fourth row of what’s now referred to as “Theater 9” and settled in for what Moser said she mistakenly thought was going to be a family movie.
Veronica wanted to sit on her mother’s lap, but being pregnant — and Veronica being “a very tall, bony child” — that was hurting her stomach, Moser said.
“You’re a big girl. You can sit in your own seat,” she told Veronica, though the jury was not allowed to hear her last words to her daughter as the judge agreed with the defense that some of her words could not be uttered out loud in court for fear of prejudicing the jury.
Moser bit her upper lip as she quietly led the jury through that night, testifying that she thought the first shots 15 minutes into the movie were fireworks but was horrified to find out someone was firing at them from the front of the theater near the right exit door.
Her first instinct was to grab Veronica and run for the exit.
“I went to stand up to reach for her hand,” she said. “It slipped through my hand.”
Her daughter was the youngest of the 12 victims to be killed that night. Seventy more were wounded. Moser herself was shot three times and she lost her unborn child. One bullet remains embedded in her spine.
Holmes faces multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder including explosives charges. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Besides Moser’s last words to her daughter, Holmes’ attorneys had a list of items they did not want for jurors to hear or see, including Veronica’s picture.
“The point is so Ashley will start crying to evoke sympathy,” public defender Tamara Brady said in court earlier in the week, but Judge Carlos Samour ruled against the request.
The child’s smile filled three large courtroom monitors. A photo of her kindergarten graduation was displayed for the allotted time of three seconds before District Attorney George Brauchler waved his hand to shut it off.
“It’s been a tough day,” said Moser’s aunt, Maryellen Hansen, as she got into her SUV to drive away from the courthouse. Moser’s grandmother was in the front seat, wiping her eyes with a Kleenex. The family had decorated their left hands with a gold glitter circle in solidarity.
Court will not meet again until Thursday when the defense begins its case. Attorney Dan King estimated they expect to be finished with their portion within two weeks.
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