Matt McQuinn’s mother breathed a sigh of relief and sobbed after a jury found Colorado theater shooter James Holmes guilty of murder on Thursday, rejecting claims that insanity drove him to kill 12 moviegoers, including her son, and wound dozens of others.
“We got the conviction and now in a way justice has been served for my son,” said Jerri Jackson of Springfield.
McQuinn, a Springfield native and Vandalia-Butler High School graduate, was killed in 2012 while watching a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her brother, Nick, when Holmes came into the theater and opened fire.
They were sitting in the first row of the second section in the theater, Jackson has said.
The two first thought it was a prank when Holmes, wearing a mask similar to the Joker character in the Batman film, rolled a gas canister into the theater.
McQuinn was shot shortly afterward. He shielded Yowler, a St. Paris native, from gunfire, Jackson has said. Yowler was hit once in the leg and McQuinn was shot nine times, according to police.
The Jacksons were surrounded by friends and family members Thursday who wore T-shirts that called McQuinn a hero.
“He made his momma proud,” Jerri Jackson said. “I’ve heard that in death there is a defining moment. And he thought of his loved one and he thought about protecting her before he thought about protecting himself. It makes my heart smile that that’s what he did.”
Since the shooting, Jackson and her husband, David, have been placed on disability because of post traumatic stress disorder.
Jerri Jackson cries “way too much.”
Their lives, as well as the families of the other victims, will never be the same, David Jackson said.
“Maybe now we can start healing. There’s a lot of people that need to heal and I think today’s the first day of healing,” David Jackson said.
But Jerri Jackson said hearing details of the massacre reopened wounds and caused her to relive the night she was awakened by a 4 a.m. phone call and learned her son had been murdered.
“Some days it seems like it was just yesterday and sometimes it seems like it was 20 years ago. To me I think that getting the verdict now, I think it’s going to make (the anniversary of the shooting on) Monday better. Not that anything is going to take away the loss of Matt. (But) knowing that his killer is going to be punished, I think it will make Monday not as bad,” Jackson said.
The planning Holmes put into the mass shooting likely sealed his fate, the Jacksons said.
They said they learned he brought bandages and took painkillers prior to leaving his apartment to dull the pain in the event he was shot in the melee. He also brought equipment to throw out of his car to flatten tires in case of a police pursuit.
“I knew that this was going to be the outcome because of all the planning he did, all the prevention he took to keep from getting hurt. There was no way they could say he did not know right from wrong,” David Jackson said. “When they went into deliberations, she told me it could take a couple months, I said it shouldn’t take two minutes. He planned so much and made so many preparations for if he got hurt or how to get away, there was just no way it could come out any other way.”
The family is planning to travel to Colorado to give a victim impact statement and confront their son’s killer during the sentencing phase. The jury must decide whether 27-year-old Holmes should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty.
Both agree they will be pleased as long as he will never “walks the streets.” David Jackson said he leans toward wanting Holmes to be sentenced to life in prison.
“I would want the rest of his days to be the worst that he could imagine. I want it to be hell on Earth. And I think if he gets prison, then I think that’s what it will be. I think he will pay for his crime everyday … Not an easy out with a quick death sentence. I think he deserves to suffer with what he did to people,” David Jackson said.
Matt was as unpredictable and a caring person. “He would do things to co-workers to brighten their day. He was just a caring person and whatever he could do for somebody else he did,” his mother said.
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