DENVER (Reuters) - Mourners packed a Denver church on Thursday for the funeral of a 23-year-old woman who was among the 12 people shot to death at a midnight showing of a new “Batman” film, and a judge clamped down on leaks of information about the accused gunman and the investigation.
The private, two-hour memorial for Micayla Medek ended with sobbing family members clustered around her flower-covered coffin, some softly singing “You Are My Sunshine” while others blew kisses after the hearse that bore her body away.
It was the second funeral in as many days for victims of the shooting rampage that ranks among the worst outbursts of U.S. gun violence in recent years.
Nearly a week after the carnage in a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora, authorities have yet to explain why such bloodshed was unleashed.
One clue under examination was a mysterious package that was delivered to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where the suspect, James Holmes, 24, had been enrolled as a doctoral student of neuroscience, and was reported to contain a notebook detailing the shooting scenario.
According to a Fox News report, which cited an unnamed law enforcement source close to the investigation, the parcel was addressed to a psychiatrist on the university faculty and included hand-drawn illustrations of the massacre with pictures of stick figures shooting at other stick figures. The psychiatrist was not identified.
Fox News said the parcel containing the notebook arrived at the school on July 12, more than a week before the shooting, but remained unopened until a search of a university mail room on July 23, three days after the crime.
According to Fox, the mail-room search was prompted when the psychiatrist reported receiving a separate package with Holmes’ name in the return address.
The university confirmed in a written statement on Wednesday that a suspicious package was delivered to the campus by mail on Monday, saying that it was “immediately investigated and handed over to authorities within hours.”
But the school disputed an element of the Fox News account, denying that a package had sat on a loading dock since July 12. Fox News said on Thursday it stood by the accuracy of its source.
The report about the notebook appeared to have spurred the judge overseeing the case to crack down further against unauthorized disclosures related to the investigation.
In an amended gag order made public on Thursday, Arapahoe County District judge William Sylvester reiterated his previous decree barring law enforcement authorities from “disseminating information that presents a danger to the fairness of a trial in this matter.”
“The District Attorney’s Office is hereby ordered to immediately serve all law enforcement agencies involved in this case with this order set forth in the court’s pre-trial publicity order,” Sylvester wrote.
The judge issued a separate order on Thursday, at the request of prosecutors, specifically barring the university from publicly divulging any information about Holmes under Colorado’s open-records law.
Formal charges against the suspect, who dyed his hair bright orange and was said by authorities to have referred to himself as the Joker -- Batman’s comic book arch-enemy -- are expected to be filed on Monday.
He is accused of opening fire inside a midnight screening of the latest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” at a movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 people and wounding 58.
Holmes was arrested moments after the shooting early Friday morning behind the theater, and was ordered at his initial court hearing on Monday to remain held without bail.
‘WE LOVE YOU MICAYLA’
The 1,200-seat New Hope Baptist Church in northeastern Denver was filled to overflowing with mourners attending Medek’s funeral. Medek, 23, a community college student who worked at a local Subway fast-food outlet, had gone to the movie with a group of friends.
Many of the mourners wore pink “Hello Kitty” ribbons pinned to their clothing in remembrance of the popular cartoon and merchandising character that was a favorite of Medek‘s.
At the conclusion of the service, the casket topped with white carnations and pink roses was wheeled out to the front entrance of the church, where family members gathered to greet the coffin. Many wept, crying, “We love you Micayla.”
One police officer wiped tears from his eyes as hundreds of mourners stood in the bright sun until the hearse pulled away, some blowing kisses after the vehicle.
Holmes’ neighbors in the three-story apartment house where he lived were permitted to begin returning to their homes on Wednesday night for the first time since the building was evacuated on Friday, shortly after the shooting.
Residents were ordered out when Holmes’ unit was discovered to have been left booby-trapped with explosives capable of leveling the entire complex had they been detonated.
Writing by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb; editing by Mohammad Zargham