ADAMS COUNTY, CO — Natalie Bollinger gave no indication that she planned on taking her own life, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by CrimeFeed at the Adams County Judicial Center in Colorado. But the affidavit reveals that her alleged killer shared disturbing details with detectives about his past homicidal fantasies.
Authorities announced Friday they arrested 22-year-old Joseph Lopez on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of Natalie Bollinger. Since then, Lopez has changed his story multiple times when telling detectives what happened on the day Bollinger was killed.
The autopsy report states that Bollinger had a history of heroin and methamphetamine use — but, according to the arrest affidavit “to this point in the investigation there have been no suicide notes, messages (either text or otherwise), or any communication with anyone that she planned on taking her life.” In fact, family members, including her grandmother Mary Bollinger, “indicated a very happy individual looking forward to her recent acceptance to school.”
Friends and family told investigators that she had also put in several job applications, and the affidavit states that on the day of her disappearance, one of the companies that she had applied to called her back.
On December 28, Natalie was reported missing by her boyfriend Joseph Marino. Her cell phone had been left behind, and Marino told detectives that his Glock 9 mm pistol was missing.
On December 28, according to the court paperwork, “Natalie Bollinger either sent or received approximately 111 texts [sic] messages to/from the unknown phone number.” Detectives were able to trace the number to Lopez, and confirm that it was his after speaking to his boss at Domino’s Pizza.
They approached him on Thursday as he arrived for work and asked if he was willing to answer some questions. The suspect told detectives that “he was pretty sure he knew what they were there for” and that “he was sure it had to with the girl he talked to on Craigslist,” according the arrest affidavit.
Lopez claimed that he had come across a bizarre post on the classified ads website while he was combing through the “Women seeking Men” section, that was titled “I want to put a hit on myself.”
He confirmed that he got in contact with Natalie via email “sometime between 0200 and probably 0300 hours” on December 28. Lopez said that later that morning they exchanged cell phone numbers and began texting each other.
The suspect told detectives that he “struggled with depression and suicide attempts in the past” and, because of this, “was using a fake persona of a hitman he had created for himself.”
“Joseph Lopez went into detail about an app on his cell phone called ‘Amino’ that allows him to create these fantasy personas, and then they use them in gaming exchanges on the back story for his ‘Akai’ personality, and that he is very ‘Charismatic’ and can lure people in, but then he turns ‘Psycho’ and he ‘strikes,’” the affidavit says.
Lopez also told detectives that during his senior year at Adams County High School, he was going through a rough time, and that one day he accidentally left his journal in a classroom. A teacher found the journal and ended up having to talk to the school counselor about it.
“Joseph Lopez said his teacher found the journal and read it and saw that he had been writing stories about kidnapping people, torturing them, and then executing them,” the affidavit reads.
Lopez said that on the day Bollinger was killed, she gave him her address and had him come and pick her up, he said, sometime between 11 and 12. Lopez stated that she “wanted to get on her knees and be executed from behind because she did not want to see the gun.”
“Lopez told us that Natalie Bollinger asked him how much it would cost for him to kill her, and he said he just told her ‘From hundreds to thousands. It just depends’,” the affidavit reads. He stated that he was “only talking to her about it until he gained her trust, and then he would try to convince her that it was a bad idea and that she shouldn’t do it.”
At first, he told detectives that they stopped off at a few places where he would help her commit suicide, but said that she didn’t like those places, so he eventually drove her back to her house and dropped her off at a gas station.
Detectives gave Lopez a smoke break, and after he ate some cookies and drank a can of Mountain Dew, detectives revealed to him that they had “obtained his cell phone records which included GPS and tower locations.” At that point, Lopez changed his story and claimed he had been in that area because he made a wrong turn. Later, Lopez told the detectives that he had driven down the dirt road to the cul-de-sac where Natalie was found and parked the car. He said he was “still trying to talk Natalie Bollinger out of killing herself but she was set on doing it.”
Lopez said Natalie told him that she “needed to get away from her boyfriend because he was bad for her,” but also kept saying that she “loved her boyfriend (Joey Marino) and did not want to leave him or hurt him.”
He said that Natalie shot herself in the head. But detectives told Lopez that they knew from the autopsy that the gun was “between one and three feet away” and that she had been killed by someone else. That’s when he told police yet another story — this time saying that he and Natalie “said a prayer together” and then he shot her in the head. He said he did “panic” and grab her purse off the ground, which he put in his white Nissan along with the gun.
Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh stated that Natalie had a brief, “social media” relationship with her alleged killer and declined to discuss a motive. “It’s very difficult in these cases, even if there is a stated motive, to really determine long-term what that motive truly is,” he said. “The motive will truly come out in court.”
As Bollinger’s family continues to seek justice, family members have posted on social media there is no way that she would have chosen to end her life this way.
Lopez’s next court date is set for February 14.
Main photo: Natalie Bollinger [[Ted Bollinger/GoFundMe]