Trio found fatally shot in ‘suicide pact’ left notes
As for why it happened, “detectives continue to investigate to further understand the circumstances leading up to their deaths,” a police spokesman said in a statement.
Aliaga, 26, who authorities said killed the two women with a rifle before turning the weapon on himself, was “always smiling, always happy, always in a good mood,” according to the restaurant-bar owner who employed him as a part-time doorman.
McIntosh, also 26, a preschool teacher adored by children and their parents, “was very loving, very creative” and “very optimistic about the future,” her boss said, adding, “She just lit up a room.”
Lollar, 31, who had moved back in with Aliaga and McIntosh this spring after a months-long separation, was an orthodontal assistant whom one friend called “incredibly bubbly” and “the sweetest, kindest person you’d ever meet.”
Now those who knew them are left to reconcile the image of three bodies with memories of an outwardly cheerful trio — a “throuple,” as one acquaintance put it — who seemed to be always up for a boisterous evening out, for the karaoke nights they enjoyed at Fairfax bars, at Fat Tuesday’s and the Auld Shebeen.
As rumors, theories and recriminations about the deaths spread at digital speed last week among relatives and acquaintances of the three, friends of Lollar spoke bitterly in interviews about Aliaga, who went by Gale, his middle name. Portraying Aliaga as manipulative and psychologically abusive toward Lollar, they blamed him for what they described as a toxic dynamic in the polyamorous relationship.
But others adamantly defended Aliaga. “I also know Gale NEVER could or would do this,” one friend, Keara Xander, 27, wrote of the shootings. Responding to a reporter’s questions via Facebook, she added: “He. Is. Not. A. Murderer. He deserves to be remembered the way he was. A kind, Caring, gentle soul.”
On Facebook, Aliaga called himself “Reverend Gale Aliaga,” and another acquaintance described him as “amazingly charismatic,” especially with emotionally vulnerable women.
Authorities said the tragedy came to light late Tuesday morning, June 7, after a relative of one of the three called Fairfax police to request a welfare check at the second-story apartment, in the Camden Fair Lakes complex in the Fair Oaks area. Aliaga, McIntosh and Lollar, all of whom grew up in the county, were found dead of gunshot wounds in a barricaded bedroom, according to police.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, a person familiar with the case said detectives watched video from a camera just outside the bedroom that shows the trio moving around late Monday night and early Tuesday, shortly before the “consensual” double murder-suicide.
“You see them setting up their notes and leaving things out, their belongings, for their loved ones, and then walking into the bedroom together,” this person said. The person did not specify the type of rifle used in the shootings or what evidence led investigators to conclude that only Aliaga pulled the trigger.
Lollar’s brother, Nicholas Lollar, 34, said his family was told by detectives that the three expressed their intentions to die in individual handwriting, but none explained why.
He said his sister was not a leaseholder on the apartment. A few days after the bodies were found, Nicolas Lollar said, he and family members were allowed into the residence. “It looked like a dump,” he said. “Clothes strewn everywhere. The kitchen had dishes piled up. There were alcohol, liquor bottles all over the place.” He said the family found delinquent bills addressed to Aliaga, which already had been opened, and several letters to Aliaga from the Camden Fair Lakes management company, threatening eviction.
Aliaga used the last name of his stepfather, Bruno Aliaga, who said in an interview, “As far as I know, there was no eviction.” He said his stepson had not renewed the apartment lease, which expires in a few weeks. As for his stepson’s finances, “I tell you, he could not be in any hardship,” Bruno Aliaga said. “He could always turn to me for help, all the time.”
An official at the Camden company’s Houston headquarters did not respond to a message seeking comment. There is no record of eviction proceedings against Jose Aliaga in Fairfax County General District Court. A police spokesman declined to comment on the letters in the apartment.
For Facebook friends of Aliaga, the first indication of trouble came at 11:58 p.m. Monday, June 6, when an ominous post appeared on his page: It was the French-language part of the chorus of an old rock song, “Á Tout Le Monde,” by the heavy metal band Megadeth. Translated, it goes: “To everyone/To all my friends/I love you/I have to leave.” MTV banned a music video of the song after its 1994 release, saying the lyrics resembled a suicide note, which the band has disputed.
“No bro,” was the first comment that the post elicited on Facebook, more than 12 hours later. By then, the bodies had been discovered. Scores of anguished comments have since followed.
“We’re shocked; we’re devastated,” said Bruno Aliaga, who lives in Fairfax with Jose Aliaga’s mother, Maria Ampuero. “Honestly, we don’t have any explanation” for the deaths, he said. “We have no idea why.”
Jose Aliaga, who was born in Spain and raised in Fairfax’s Burke area, aspired to a career in the mental health field when he graduated from George Mason University in 2018 with a degree in psychology, said his friend Elle Koehler, 27, who was a classmate of his at George Mason and, earlier, at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke.
“He’s done a lot of jobs,” said another friend, Audrey Sydnor, 26. “He was a critical-care counselor for end-of-life patients; he was a young-adult mental health specialist for people with autism.” At the time of his death, one acquaintance said, Aliaga was a self-employed “mobile therapist,” providing house-call mental health counseling. He and Lollar also moonlighted at Revolution Darts and Billiards in Centreville — Lollar as a barback and dishwasher, the beefy Aliaga as a doorman and, when necessary, a bouncer.
“Their co-workers really loved them,” said owner Katherine Martell. Referring to the deaths, she said: “We saw no sign of this at all. None. We’re just as shocked as everybody else.”
Friends of Aliaga said he first met McIntosh several years ago when she was working in a Michael’s store. They said the two soon fell in love and moved in together. McIntosh, who grew up in the Oakton area, described herself on Facebook as “Married to Gale Aliaga,” although they were not officially wed, Bruno Aliaga said. Most recently, McIntosh was a teacher and administrative assistant at Kids World in Falls Church, where children and parents are devastated by the loss of “Miss Angelica,” said Maria Potts, the preschool’s director.
McIntosh, who hoped to someday get a college degree and teach in public schools, was hired by the county school system last month to be a teacher aide starting in the fall, Potts said. “She was so excited, so happy,” said Potts, adding that McIntosh had recently met with the school system’s human resources staff. Asked about McIntosh, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ media office said, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”
In hindsight, Potts said, she finds it curious that McIntosh missed five straight days of work before being found dead. She said McIntosh called her May 31 to say she had a stomach virus. After that, Potts said, she received only daily texts from McIntosh’s number, saying she was still sick. Potts said it was “very” out of character for McIntosh to text about missing work instead of calling. When she tried to reach McIntosh by phone several times over the five days, Potts said, the calls went to voice mail.
On June 3, the Friday before the shootings, Potts said, she was so worried about McIntosh that she called Aliaga, who “was really nonchalant about it,” saying McIntosh was asleep in bed and hadn’t recovered from the virus.
“No one can understand this,” Potts said last week. “It’s so odd.”
Relatives of McIntosh could not be reached for comment at phone numbers listed to them in public records.
As for Lollar, who was raised in Alexandria and Fairfax City, she liked being an orthodontal assistant because she enjoyed working with children, according to several of her friends. Some of them said they think Lollar first met Aliaga and McIntosh in one of the Fairfax bars that the two frequented. The friends said Lollar initially moved in with Aliaga and McIntosh a few years ago, and, in time, it became common knowledge among their acquaintances that the three were a “throuple.”
But after Lollar had a falling out with Aliaga, friends said, she left the Camden Fair Lakes apartment and moved in with a boyfriend, Dylan Thornton, in Springfield last summer. In February, she took up residence with a female friend, Devon Smith, in Chantilly. Then last month, she resumed her relationship with Aliaga and McIntosh, according to Thornton and Smith, who said Lollar’s return to the Camden Fair Lakes apartment, in the 4200 block of Mazarin Place, worried and angered them.
Echoing other friends of Lollar, Thornton and Smith described her as overly trusting and susceptible to influence. They said Aliaga was possessive and controlling and exerted a destructive sway over Lollar. “She once told me she was talking about Dylan on the phone and Gale heard her, and Gale did not like Dylan,” Smith, 27, recalled. Aliaga “took her phone and locked her in the apartment and physically did not allow her to leave until she swore she would never see Dylan again.”
Bruno Aliaga scoffed at negative depictions of his stepson, saying: “He was not a manipulative person. No way. He only wanted to help people.” He said his stepson “was a great kid with a great heart.”
Friends of his, including Xander and Sydnor, agreed, with Xander writing, “He put himself between the bullied and the bully and defended and protected the ones he loved and cared about no matter what.” Sydnor, who called McIntosh “the brightest personality ever, with the biggest smile,” said she can’t imagine Aliaga harming “his wife Angelica” or anyone else.
“He loved her so much,” Sydnor said, choking back tears. “That’s the thing I keep thinking about over and over. I don’t care what anyone says. He could never have looked in the eyes of someone he loved that much — looked her in the face — and pulled the trigger.”
She asked plaintively, rhetorically, “Why?”
Those French lyrics from Megadeth that appeared like a final farewell on Aliaga’s Facebook page — “Á tout le monde/Á tout mes amis/Je vous aime/Je dois partir” — were mystifying and “incredibly surreal,” Sydnor said.
The rest of the chorus, sung in English, was left out:
“These are the last words/I’ll ever speak/And they’ll set me free.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they text to 741741.
Magda Jean-Louis and Monika Mathur contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with comments from Bruno Aliaga, who called a reporter back to provide additional information after it was first published.