It’s June 2016, and rising star Christina Grimmie is holding a meet-and-greet session in Orlando, Florida. Yet as the singer patiently poses for photographs with fans, she’s unaware of someone with sinister intentions lurking in the crowd. So when Kevin Loibl steps forward, Grimmie prepares simply to embrace another one of her admirers. But then things take a terrifying turn.
No one could have previously imagined such a nightmare scenario for the young star to face. Grimmie had, after all, led a relatively normal life. Born on March 12, 1994, Grimmie was in fact raised alongside older sibling Marcus in the Philadelphia suburb of Marlton, New Jersey. Yet it wasn’t long before her childhood passion for music made an impression on those around her. In fact, Grimmie’s dad first spotted her vocal talents when his daughter was the tender age of six.
And four years later, Grimmie began learning to play the piano. So as the soon-to-be star grew older, she relished the opportunities to perform at venues around Marlton. Grimmie was educated locally, too, eventually becoming a student at her hometown’s Cherokee High School – where she joined the choir, of course.
Yet despite the singer’s obvious talents, there was still nothing particularly unusual about Grimmie’s life. But that all changed in 2009, when Grimmie was just 15. That was the year, after all, Grimmie was encouraged to share her music with the world via a dedicated YouTube channel. “My friend convinced me to put a video up, when originally I did not want to,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2011.
So in July 2009 Grimmie uploaded a clip of herself singing a cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Don’t Wanna Be Torn.” And almost instantly, the 15-year-old’s voice and charisma began to win her fans. And Grimmie was soon regularly posting videos under the name zeldaxlove64 – a reference to the famous video game.
Then, in August 2009, Grimmie added another Miley Cyrus retread – “Party In The U.S.A.” – to her channel. And this time, things really took off for her. The video has had almost 13 million views to date, in fact. “More and more, I made it a routine to post videos,” Grimmie explained. “And now I’m doing pretty well for myself.”
The following year, Grimmie left high school in order to be tutored from home and continued uploading music to her YouTube channel. Soon she was collaborating with other social media stars, too, further boosting her visibility online. And her big break then came when the family of the actress and singer Selena Gomez came across Grimmie’s videos online.
“I was 16 and in school at the time,” Grimmie told Seventeen in 2011. “My brother was in my Miley Cyrus video for only a second, so I put his link in the description. [Selena’s stepdad] tried to contact me, but it’s very hard to do that because of all the messages. So he contacted my brother instead. So then my brother texted me in the middle of school, like, ‘I really think Selena Gomez’s stepdad is trying to get a hold of you.’”
Despite Grimmie’s initial disbelief, however, the enquiry turned out to be genuine. And the veteran showbiz dad subsequently worked his magic on the young singer’s career. In 2011, for instance, Grimmie put out her first EP – Find Me. The singer then supported Gomez’s band on the star’s North and South American tours.
And even though Grimmie was still young, she was still involved in writing many of the tracks herself. The singer felt her tunes should reflect her own experiences too. “I didn’t want any songs about dancing and partying, because to be honest, there are way too many about that,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m a 17-year-old girl, and I want to sing about things that I care about, not just dancing and getting drunk and blah blah blah. I wanted to write with feeling and emotion.”
So, with Gomez as her guide, Grimmie was well on her way to becoming a star. In 2012, then, she relocated to Los Angeles in order to further her career. She also released the album With Love the following year. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the young singer really became a household name.
That year, you see, Grimmie’s talent secured her a place on The Voice – the TV contest in which a number of hopefuls compete to land a record deal. And even though Grimmie didn’t win in the end, her third place in the final standings was enough to swell her fan base to encompass a far wider audience.
The singer Adam Levine, who mentored Grimmie during the competition, also offered the young musician a contract with his record label regardless of the results. And he wasn’t the only one. The rapper Lil Wayne was apparently keen to take the musician on as well. Eventually, however, Grimmie decided to join Island Records.
In March 2015, though, Grimmie parted ways with Island Records and continued with her music career. And in September 2015, she joined other artists in a collaboration with Paul McCartney on Love Song to the Earth – a track that aimed to increase public understanding of environmental issues. Then, early in February 2016, Grimmie put out another EP, entitled Side A.
Away from the stage, though, Grimmie was passionate about her Christian beliefs and animal rights. In fact, she joined forces with the charity PETA in 2014 to encourage people to take in unwanted pets. The star also apparently drew strength from her mother, Tina, who had fought to overcome breast cancer on three separate occasions.
And although Grimmie’s star was on the rise, she still remained thankful to the viewers who’d helped her to realize her dreams. “She would call them her ‘frands’ – friends and fans combined,” Ashly Nicole, a friend of the singer, told E! News in 2016. “And all of her fans kind of knew each other. Christina would regularly engage with her fans. She was so generous.”
Sadly, though, it was this close relationship with her fans that would ultimately seal Grimmie’s fate. In June 2016, you see, the singer was performing alongside U.S. group Before You Exit in Orlando, Florida. And before the gig, she posted on social media encouraging fans to come along to the historic venue where it was being staged: The Plaza Live.
Around 10:00 p.m., then, the show drew to a close.But then the ever-friendly Grimmie decided to stick around so that she could meet some of the crowd. “Christina was hanging out by the merchandise table, near the sound desk,” concert-goer Destiny Rivera told the Daily Mail in 2016. “She was talking to fans and taking pictures.”
Things were about to go terribly wrong, however. While waiting to meet Grimmie, Rivera watched the man ahead of her step forward – and the singer prepare to embrace him. “Her arms were open, waiting to greet him with a hug,” Rivera recalled. But instead of the usual cries of glee from a starstruck fan, the noise of gunfire soon pierced the air.
“There was a sound of three pops, like balloons,” Rivera explained. “People had brought balloons to the show, and the security guards were popping them, so at first I thought it was that. Then I saw the yellow barricade fall, and the two people who had just met [Grimmie] started running away.”
Grimmie had been shot. Then, while the crowd dispersed in panic, her brother, Marcus, was able to force the assailant to the ground. After a brief scuffle, however, Marcus lost his grip on the shooter – who then used the gun to take his own life. The young singer was subsequently whisked to hospital, fighting for her life.
Apparently, the gunman had fired multiple times – with two bullets striking Grimmie’s chest and another injuring her head. Sadly, then, the singer died of her wounds at 11:00 p.m. that same evening. And as a homicide investigation attempted to get to the bottom of the singer’s murder, it wasn’t long before the face of her killer was splashed all over the world’s media.
A 27-year-old man from St. Petersburg in Florida, Kevin Loibl had apparently endured a traumatic past. According to Cory Dennington, one of the loner’s few friends, Loibl had suffered at the hands of his mother, a violent woman who had also allegedly been responsible for breaking the arm of Loibl’s brother. But when his mom had passed away in 2010, Loibl had seemingly been consumed by guilt.
Apparently, Loibl had not taken his mother’s threats of suicide seriously. So when she had been found dead of an overdose, he had seemingly felt that he was to blame. His father, Paul, later reportedly began seeing another woman, and a series of aggressive altercations supposedly ensued between the pair. These exchanges became so violent that the police would allegedly frequently attend the scene.
Loibl then apparently descended into a reclusive existence in his father’s home, confining himself to his bedroom playing video games. Paul also later stated that his son had liked to sit in complete darkness. The troubled young man had even reportedly plastered foil to the windows to block out all external light sources. But despite this concerning behavior, Paul said, Loibl had never received a formal diagnosis for any psychological disorders.
Yet Loibl had allegedly discovered Grimmie’s videos on YouTube and developed an obsession with the singer. “He made it clear he watched everything having to do with her,” Loibl’s friend Dennington informed investigating officers, according to the Daily Mirror. And even though the loner was uneasy around most people, Loibl apparently came to believe that he and the singer were meant to be together.
So, reportedly infatuated with Grimmie, Loibl initially embarked on a period of self-improvement, according to Dennington. As well as undergoing laser-eye procedures, Loibl also apparently shed weight, whitened his teeth and paid for implants to give him a fuller head of hair. And, again according to Dennington, Loibl even found himself drawn to the singer’s religiousness.
“He was impressed that she was a Christian. And he told me that she changed him, like she helped him see the world in a different way and that… if there is a God, he sees it in her,” Dennington explained to investigators. However, Loibl’s supposed obsession would soon take a far darker turn.
After purchasing a ticket to Grimmie’s Orlando show, you see, Loibl also acquired a couple of firearms – both procured legally. Then, while bidding farewell to his friend Dennington, he reportedly made a chilling statement. The killer apparently told his pal that he was “tired and ready to ascend.” Afterwards, then, Loibl collected his weapons and some ammunition before leaving town.
So, on June 9, Loibl caught a taxi to a Marriott hotel in downtown Orlando, where he spent the night. And the next day, the so-called fan went to see Grimmie at The Plaza Live. Shockingly, too, Loibl was able to enter the venue with his weapons strapped to his body – despite the fact that security had searched other concert-goers’ belongings. One witness would even later claim that those in charge were more concerned about people smuggling in refreshments from outside than the possible presence of weapons.
After watching the concert from the back of the crowd, then, Loibl subsequently joined the line to meet Grimmie. And at 10:24 p.m., he shot the object of his affections dead – in front of her shocked brother and fans. Afterwards, witnesses would praise Marcus’ swift reaction to the shooting, sure that he had prevented an even bigger tragedy from occurring.
“Mark, if by some chance you could possibly be reading this, I wanted to say thank you for saving the lives of my friends, a handful of other concert goers, and myself,” Rivera wrote in a Facebook post after the incident. “If you had not been as brave as you were to tackle the shooter, God only knows what could have happened to us.”
After Grimmie’s death, both her family and investigators searched for a motive to explain Loibl’s violent attack. Forensic psychologist Dr. K. Mohandie, for instance, told the Orlando Sentinel in 2018 that lonely people are often drawn to celebrities such as Grimmie. And on this occasion, the obsession took a deadly turn.
“That’s their gift to humanity and unfortunately, with unstable people, that kind of gets rolled into their way of thinking as more of a relationship than actually exists,” Dr. Mohandie explained. “The fantasy can very quickly morph into… a cure, if you will, for their sense of isolation and desperation and hopelessness.”
But if Loibl viewed Grimmie as a way of escaping his isolation, then why did he kill her? According to Mohandie, these violent crimes happen when people like Loibl experience a break in their fantasies – perhaps realizing how unrealistic their expectations really are. Mohandie described the mindset: “If I can’t have you then nobody else can – and I’m going to possess you by taking your life.”
There’s some evidence that suggests that Loibl expected to get away with the horrific crime too. For example, he’d gone to the effort of sabotaging his hard drive and encrypting his phone – preventing investigators from being able to infiltrate them. And the killer also appeared to have made arrangements to travel back to St. Petersberg after the shooting.
As news of Grimmie’s death spread, though, tributes subsequently poured in from celebrities who’d known her during her short yet colorful life. “My heart is absolutely broken,” her one-time mentor Gomez tweeted. “I miss you Christina.” And when the singer was buried on June 16, her former The Voice coach Levine offered to foot the bill.
Music venues across the country ramped up security measures in order to protect their performers in the wake of Grimmie’s death too. Some celebrities, however – such as members of the metal band Damageplan, whose guitarist was killed during a gig in 2004 – still claimed that not enough was being done. And just one day after the shooting, Orlando was plunged into mourning once again.
In the early hours of June 12, 2016, you see, security guard Omar Mateen opened fire in the city’s Pulse nightclub – just a few miles from where Grimmie had been shot. In the ensuing bloodbath, 49 people lost their lives. And although the authorities were quick to point out that the two crimes weren’t linked, the music magazine Billboard published an open letter connecting both incidents to dangerously lax gun laws in the United States.
Despite the tragedy of Grimmie’s death, then, her family has taken comfort in the fact that her music will live on. In fact, they’ve released some of her work posthumously, including two albums: Side B and All Is Vanity. “I feel very blessed, because tragedies happen every day and people are left with nothing,” Marcus told the Orlando Sentinel. “Christina left behind video, pictures, records, so we have so much to hold on to. And it helps us cope, because it feels like she’s still here with us.”