James Eagan Holmes came from a well-tended San Diego enclave of two-story homes with red-tiled roofs, where neighbors recall him as a clean-cut, studious young man of sparing words.
Tall and dark-haired, he stares clear-eyed at the camera in a 2004 high school yearbook snapshot, wearing a white junior varsity soccer uniform. The son of a nurse and a software company manager, Holmes was a brilliant science scholar in college.
The biggest mystery surrounding the 24-year-old doctoral student is why he would have pulled on a gas mask and shot dozens of people in a suburban Denver movie theater, as police allege.
In the age of widespread social media, no trace of Holmes could be found anywhere on the web. Either he never engaged, or he scrubbed his trail.
Holmes enrolled last year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver but was in the process of withdrawing, according to school officials, who didn't provide a reason.
Holmes is not talking to police and has asked for a lawyer, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.