Affidavit: Natalie Bollinger murder suspect used fake hit man persona, had history of depression

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The bizarre and shocking claim detailed in court documents released Friday regarding the murder of a Broomfield teen has prompted more questions than answers. 

Joseph Michael Lopez, 22, arrested Thursday in the murder of 19-year-old Natalie Bollinger, claims in the affidavit that Bollinger hired him to kill her after he answered the victim’s Craigslist ad titled “I want to put a hit on myself.”

In the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2017, Lopez told investigators he responded to the alleged ad posted by Bollinger while searching the “Woman seeking Men” category on Craigslist, according to the affidavit.

After more than 100 text messages between the two, they allegedly reached an agreement, and Lopez drove to Broomfield, picked the teen up and shot her in the back of the head execution style at her own request, Lopez claims in the affidavit.

Bollinger was found shot to death near Riverdale Road in unincorporated Adams County on December 29, 2017, about 26 hours after she was reported missing.

Denver7 was the first to report the details in the affidavit, and since publishing the article Friday, many questions from Facebook users surrounding the alleged murder-for-hire plot remain unanswered — like how, if true, could someone go through with such a plan?

What police documents reveal about the suspect

The 22-year-old murder suspect lived in Northglenn and worked at Domino's, where investigators initially confronted him Thursday. 

Before his arrest, Lopez told detectives that “he was pretty sure that he knew what we were there for,” and that “he was sure it had to do with the girl he talked to on Craigslist,” according to the affidavit.

He came to the attention of Adams County investigators after a search of the victim’s phone, where they discovered a text conversation made up of 111 messages that the two had the day Bollinger disappeared. 

According to the affidavit, Lopez told detectives he never met Bollinger before the murder and that she gave him her phone number and address after an initial email contact on Craigslist. In a Friday press conference, Adams County Sherriff Michael McIntosh described their relationship as a friendship based on social media interactions.

Lopez would go on to claim he contacted Bollinger using a fake hit man persona, calling himself “Akai.” He said the persona gave him the strength to convince Bollinger he was an actual hit man, according to the document. 

Akai was one of 12 fantasy personas he used on gaming exchanges. He described Akai as “very charismatic and can lure people in and then he turns psycho and he strikes,” the document read.

During questioning, Lopez also opened up about his emotional state. He said had a history of depression and suicidal thoughts. He said he never told his fiancé or anyone else about Bollinger’s murder, and it was "eating away" at him.

He recounted an incident as a senior attending Adams City High School, calling it a “rough” period of his life. He said he left a journal and some personal writings behind in a classroom and the teacher read it, which prompted multiple visits to the school counselor.

Lopez remains behind bars on first-degree murder charges. A bond has not been set.

Legal liability?

If what Lopez claims is true, legal analysts say it won't matter whether Bollinger asked for a hit or not.

"Even if she asked for assistance, if he's the one who pulled the trigger, it's still murder," said David Beller, a Denver7 legal analyst and criminal defense attorney. Beller said attorneys will likely discuss whether a shorter sentence than life without parole would be appropriate. "If this is something that the victim was pursuing and asking for, it doesn't alleviate his legal responsibility, but it certainly mitigates it."

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