ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Natalie Bollinger died from a single gunshot wound to the head and the man investigators believe pulled the trigger is behind bars, Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh announced during a Friday news conference.
Joseph Michael Lopez, 22, was arrested Thursday evening and booked into the Adams County Jail on first-degree murder charges.
McIntosh said Lopez is the sole suspect in the case, conceding Shawn Schwartz, a 42-year-old man identified by Broomfield authorities early on in the investigation as a person of interest had nothing to do with the teen's murder.
Bollinger, 19, was found dead Dec. 29, 2017, off Riverdale Road in unincorporated Adams County about 26 hours after she was reported missing out of Broomfield.
The Adams County Sheriff said Lopez was identified as the suspect after his office conducted several interviews, served numerous warrants and combed through Bollinger’s social media and cell phone accounts.
“We found a lot of people we interviewed, and ultimately got us on to Joseph,” said McIntosh. “He came to sheriff’s office on own his accord and agreed to talk with investigators.”
McIntosh declined to reveal a motive in the shooting. He said Lopez knew Bollinger for only a short period of time and described their relationship as a friendship based social media interactions and was not one of a romantic nature.
While the sheriff revealed Bollinger's cause of death Friday, he could not comment on the specifics of the just-released coroner’s report. However, Denver7 obtained a copy of the autopsy, which noted Bollinger had "a potentially lethal level of heroin" in her system at the time of her death.
“We just started looking at the autopsy report ourselves,” said McIntosh. “We haven’t really had an opportunity to get into [the toxicology findings] and see how it applies to the current case.”
Under a heading tilted the "Circumstances of Death," the coroner noted in the autopsy that Bollinger had a "history of heroin and methamphetamine use."
Despite the toxicology findings, her death is still listed as a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of her death was classified as a homicide.
Investigators have located a weapon, but McIntosh said it’s too early in the investigation to tie it to Bollinger’s murder.
No bond in the case has been set.