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  • This undated photo released by Multnomah County Sheriff's Office shows Kevin Purfield. Police say they have arrested a Portland man for harassing the families of victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., last July. Kevin Purfield is accused of emailing, calling and using social media to contact the victims' relatives. Investigators say the communications weren't threatening, but were annoying and included "vile language." (AP Photo/Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)

Thursday, April 11, 2013 7:39 pm

Police: Colo. theater victims' families harassed


An Oregon man has been accused of harassing at least a dozen families of the victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., telling them the killings didn't happen or the caskets of victims were empty.

Kevin Purfield, 45, of Portland pleaded not guilty at Thursday's arraignment on charges of telephone harassment and stalking counts, both misdemeanors. Multnomah County Judge Adrienne Nelson increased Purfield's bail from $10,000 to $100,000 at the prosecution's request and appointed Cate Wollam as his attorney.

Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania said Purfield was adept online at finding ways to make contact with the family members, and used email, social media and phone calls to get to them.

Then Purfield spun fantastic theories, Fania said.

"It starts out that the shootings didn't really happen," Fania said. "It goes into things such as that at the funeral your relative's body wasn't in the casket."

Sometimes, if he didn't get a rise out of a relative, he dropped the communication, Fania said. In other cases, and particularly if the relative responded, Purfield launched into vile, obscene "flat-out attacks," Fania said.

The attacks changed the communications into harassment, he said.

Fania said the family members were in several states, and Oregon authorities were brought into an investigation in February.

Portland police said they'd had previous contacts with Purfield, including one instance Sgt. Pete Simpson described as a "mental health hold." Public defender Audra Kaleta, who represented Purfield at the arraignment, told the judge that Purfield has had mental health issues.

Purfield was arrested and booked Wednesday. His next court date is May 17.

James Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 at an Aurora movie theater on July 20. A judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.