A man has been arrested in connection with the murder of 19-year-old Natalie Bollinger who was reported missing by her boyfriend in December and was found dead a day later in a wooded area not far from a dirt road in Adams County, Colorado.
Joseph Michael Lopez, 22, was arrested earlier this month and booked on suspicion of first-degree murder. He claims that Bollinger hired him to kill her. According to court records, Bollinger put up a Craigslist ad titled “I want to put a hit on myself.” Lopez said he answered that ad.
According to those court records, Lopez told police that he and Bollinger talked over text before he picked her up at her apartment, not far from Denver. Lopez claimed he tried to change the teen’s mind, CBS News reports. Bollinger allegedly provided the gun -- a Glock 9mm pistol --- used in her death. Her boyfriend reported the same gun missing when he couldn’t find Bollinger.
Lopez told investigators that before he killed Bollinger, she "knelt down on the ground and that he knelt down along her left side and slightly in front of her," according to court records said. He said they said a prayer together before he closed his eyes and shot her. Lopez allegedly took the gun after the murder and kept it in his car. He reportedly never discarded it.
An autopsy shows that Bollinger died from a gunshot wound to the head but also that she had a "potentially lethal level of heroin in the blood” at the time of her death, KDVR reports.
It’s unclear if Lopez has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf at this time. A court date has been set for him yet.
"Even if she asked for assistance, if he's the one who pulled the trigger, it's still murder," David Beller, a legal analyst and criminal defense attorney for Denver7 said about the case. "If this is something that the victim was pursuing and asking for, it doesn't alleviate his legal responsibility, but it certainly mitigates it."
Originally, friends and internet sleuths alike believed the teen may have been killed by a former stalker. In the weeks leading up to her death, Bollinger vented on social media, claiming she was being stalked by a man whom she had once tried to help, a man she had known for a long time. Bollinger posted on Facebook that the man was stalking her, even sleeping behind her workplace, and that he had threatened to commit suicide in front of her, CBS Denver reported. Lopez does not appear to be that man.
[Photo: Broomfield Police Department, Adams County Sheriff’s Office]
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