The suspect in the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado had a tumultuous upbringing in which he was bullied as a teenager and raised for a time by his grandmother, according to an emerging portrait of the alleged gunman pieced together by CNN.
Anderson Lee Aldrich ended up in the care of his grandmother as his mother struggled with a string of arrests and related mental health evaluations, according to court records and an interview with a family member.
The suspect’s grandmother, who a relative described as his primary caretaker, declined to be interviewed by CNN.
Aldrich’s relationship with his mother appeared volatile last year when she called police on her son and said he threatened to harm her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
No charges were filed, and the case has since been sealed, leaving unanswered questions about how Aldrich avoided prosecution in a matter that may ultimately have prohibited him from legally possessing a weapon if convicted.
A little over a year after the bomb threat incident, Aldrich allegedly opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs, killing five people and leaving more than a dozen injured. Aldrich, 22, faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, according to an online docket in the El Paso County Court. The 6’4”, 260-pound suspect had been in the hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries after he was subdued by club patrons during the attack.
Aldrich was born in May of 2000 under the name Nicholas Brink, and is the son of Laura Voepel and Aaron Brink, who married in 1999. Neither parent could be reached for comment. His father filed for divorce in September 2001 in Orange County, California, citing irreconcilable differences. In his initial petition, he requested legal custody and visitation rights but asked that the court grant full physical custody to Voepel. Voepel stated in a 2007 filing that her son had had no contact with his father.
Aldrich’s father was a mixed martial arts fighter and a porn actor who spent time in federal prison for illegally importing marijuana, according to court documents, interviews, and an entertainment website.
About a year before Aldrich was born, Brink pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge and received a suspended sentence, according to the San Diego County Superior Court. Federal court records state that the victim in that case was Voepel, who was described as his girlfriend.
Voepel, the daughter of California Assemblyman Randy Voepel, was granted sole legal and physical custody of her son in 2007. In May of that year, Voepel stated in court records that she was unemployed and engaged with a new baby on the way, in addition to Aldrich, who was six years old at the time.
In 2009, Aldrich’s mother received three years of probation for convictions of public intoxication and falsely reporting a crime to police. The false report conviction stemmed from a 2008 incident in Murrieta, California in which police responded to a reported home invasion and found Voepel lying on her bed with her hands and legs bound with duct tape. Voepel initially told police a man had put string around her neck, bound her with tape and placed a knife on her chest. She admitted the following day, however, that she had been under the influence of narcotics and fabricated the incident because “she was lonely and wanted attention,” a police report states.
In 2010, Voepel underwent court-ordered mental health treatment in Riverside County, California that stemmed from those cases, according to court records obtained by CNN.
The records show Voepel sought custody of her then-10-year-old son – the age Aldrich would have been at the time. A document filed later noted that Voepel said her son had begun living with her and that she planned to seek medical, welfare and food stamp assistance.
It was unclear during what periods Aldrich lived with his grandmother who, according to public records, maintained residences in the same areas where her daughter and grandson lived in California, Texas and Colorado.
While in Texas, Aldrich’s mother continued to struggle with the law and mental health issues. A relative who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity described Voepel as “sweet” but also as having a “tumultuous life.”
In 2012, she allegedly used a lighter to start a fire in her room at the Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio, according to a police report. Voepel, who was rescued by a hospital staffer, initially denied setting the fire, but…