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Families Of Theater Victims Plan Public Statement

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Marla Williams with the Community First Foundation talks to CBS4's Rick Sallinger (credit: CBS)

Marla Williams with the Community First Foundation talks to CBS4’s Rick Sallinger (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4/AP) – Relatives of some of the people killed in the Colorado movie theater shootings plan to speak publicly Tuesday about unspecified events that they say need to be addressed.

They have scheduled a news conference to discuss behind-the-scenes developments and will “speak with one voice” for the benefit of all the victims, they said in a news release.

The release did not elaborate on the events they plan to discuss. Anita Busch, a spokeswoman for the group, declined to comment on the topics.

Busch said she expects the families of most of the 12 people killed in the shootings to be represented.

A news release stated, “Events have occurred which the families who lost loved ones need to address for the benefit of all victims.”

4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger with CBS4 learned there is great concern over how the donations raised on behalf of the victims are being distributed.

The largest fund was established by a foundation called Community First in Arvada. It has raised $5 million so far, but only 10 percent has been distributed. Marla Williams is the president and executive director of the fundraising organization.

“What we’re really looking at, before this money is spent, to make sure we are spending it wisely, to make sure we are looking at how it fits in with other resources that are available in the community to try to align need with resource in the most effective way,” Williams told Sallinger.

The money is sent there through checks and a website called GivingFirst.org. Then what’s called the 7/20 Relief Committee comprised of numerous organizations decides where that money goes.

The money then goes to the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, or COVA. But it has only received $350,000 to give out to 70 people so far.

Some family members of the victims have told CBS4 they are in need and have only received a minimal amount of assistance.

“I’m sure if you are need it seems like a really long time, but I do think it’s important that, you know, donors entrust these dollars to us and want us to use them with thought and with planning, and with care,” Williams said.

A heavily armed gunman wearing body armor and a gas mask opened fire on July 20 in a packed theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie.

In addition to the 12 killed, 58 were injured.

Charges against the suspect, James Eagan Holmes, 24, include murder and attempted murder. He is being held without bail and has not entered a plea.

Holmes was a first-year Ph.D. student in a neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver, but told university officials about six weeks before the shootings that he was withdrawing.

Prosecutors have said Holmes failed an oral board exam June 7, at about the same time he began buying weapons and ammunition.

Prosecutors are seeking the university’s records on Holmes and also want to see a notebook that Holmes reportedly sent to university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton.

His defense lawyers have said he is mentally ill. They are fighting prosecution attempts to see his school records and the notebook.

Fenton is expected to testify at a hearing Thursday.

The families’ announcement added to the sense of mystery that has surrounded the case since its early days.

Investigators, attorneys on both sides and the university have said little outside court hearings, citing a gag order imposed by Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester.

Many court documents have been kept secret as well.

Only a handful of family members of the slain victims have spoken publicly, and most of their comments came in the first few days after the shooting. A joint appearance by multiple families would be a first in the case.

- By Dan Elliott, AP Writer

CBS4 staff contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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