AURORA | A California memorabilia dealer says he sold a letter James Holmes sent from prison for $480 Thursday, marking possibly the first personal item from the theater shooter sold in the controversial “murderabilia” industry since his conviction.
The letter, which was postmarked Oct. 15, sold in less than a minute for $480, according to the seller, Kelly Hutchison.
“Literally, 15 seconds. It was the fastest sale I ever made,” Hutchison said.
Andy Kahan, a victim advocate for the city of Houston who closely follows the sale of items like this one, said it is the first item directly from Holmes he has seen sold.
“This is probably just the beginning of the merchandising and marketing of him from the murderabilia industry’s perspective,” Kahan said.
The next step for dealers, Kahan said, is to pressure killers to do some art work.
Hutchison said Holmes didn’t know the letter — which he sent in response to a letter from another collector — would be sold.
The buyer is someone who collects unique true-crime items, Hutchison said. He declined to say more about them.
Hutchison, who sells several similar items from his website, DarkVomit.com, didn’t mince words when asked about profiting from the theater shooting.
“I am profiting, no more than your newspaper is profiting — from your advertisers and readers following stories written about the case,” he said.
In the letter, which appears to come from the Colorado State Penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence, Holmes discusses some of the places he traveled and talks about prison life.
“I’m doing ok in prison, they have me very isolated. I’m in my own pod which has 16 cells in it. The guards call cells houses, which I found intriguing. It’s a lot different from jail. For one, the food is considerably better. It’s also less safe in prison. There’s guys doing hard time and who don’t care about the consequences of being violent because it’s not like they will get a longer sentence,” he wrote.
A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections did not immediately return a call for comment.
Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was one of 12 people killed in the July 2012 theater shooting, said he wasn’t shocked to hear that memorabilia from the case was being sold. He noted that one of the survivors sold some of the shotgun pellets she was struck with.
But, Sullivan said, he finds it “curious” that someone would want the letter.
“It’s just a testament to our society, I guess, that there are people out there who would collect that stuff,” he said.
Sullivan said he hopes that any money Holmes might receive for his items would be put in a fund for victims and their families.
“He doesn’t get to paint for profit,” he said.
Kahan said he hopes when details about sales like this one are published prison officials crack down on inmates sending items that could be sold. He said he also hopes federal lawmakers pass legislation barring the interstate sales of these items.
District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted Holmes, said the sale of the letter was “sad.”
“I guess this is yet another example of how something can be completely legal, and at the same time completely immoral,” he said.
Brauchler said he wouldn’t back a law banning sales like this, but said the fact that a market exists for items like this is disappointing.
“It should be embarrassing for the person who sold it and for the person who bought it,” he said.
Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and prosecutors sought the death penalty against Holmes, but at least one juror balked at a death sentence, citing Holmes’ mental health issues.
Brauchler, who argued Holmes was sane at the time of killings, noted that in the letter, Holmes comes off “coherent and grounded,” and didn’t appear the least bit insane.
— Sentinel reporter Nikki Steele contributed to this report.
So who is the nutty woman mailing Holmes and selling the letters?