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On June 10, 2016, YouTuber and singer Christina Grimmie performed at an intimate concert venue called the Plaza Live Theater in Orlando, Florida.
After the show, the 22-year-old stuck around to meet her fans, as was common for the up-and-coming artist.
“She just genuinely loved the people around her and gave everyone the time of day, no matter what,” Christina’s brother Marcus Grimmie, who is now 28, told Insider in a recent interview.
According to the Orlando Police Department incident report from that night, over 100 people were in the theater where the meet-and-greet took place. She signed autographs and chatted with fans while her brother sat nearby at the merchandise table.
Among the fans waiting in line to meet Christina stood Kevin James Loibl, a 27-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida.
When Loibl approached the singer, he took out a handgun and shot her several times, according to the police report reviewed by Insider.
After Loibl shot his gun, Marcus jumped over the merchandise table and tackled the shooter to the ground, the police report said. But Loibl managed to get out of Marcus’ hold, put the gun to his head, and shot himself.
Loibl died instantly, and Christina was pronounced dead hours later at the hospital. Two nights later, 49 people were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting, four miles from the site of Christina’s murder.
Thursday marks five years since Christina was killed, abruptly ending her rise to mainstream music fame that was just beginning to gain momentum in 2016.
Many people have compared Christina’s killing to the murders of music star Selena Quintanilla and actress Rebecca Schaeffer, both of whom were killed by their fans.
The killer was obsessed with Christina, police said
A friend of Christina’s killer, Cory Dennington, told police that he believed Loibl was obsessed with Christina, according to the report. Dennington told police that Loibl “watched everything having to do with” the late singer.
The obsession became apparent about “six months to a year” before the killing, but it started to become “unhealthy” two months before she was slain, Dennington told police.
“Dennington believed he spent most of his waking hours watching Christina on YouTube as well as constantly monitoring her social media accounts,” the report reads.
Loibl began changing his appearance for her, the Orlando Police Department wrote in the report. Although he had never attended one of Christina’s shows nor met her before the night of the murder, the police report said, he got hair implants, had his teeth whitened, and underwent Lasik eye surgery.
The report also said that Loibl’s co-workers at Best Buy were aware of his infatuation with Christina and would “good-naturedly tease him.”
The police report cited an article written by TMZ, which said that Loibl was enraged after his Best Buy co-workers showed him a picture of Christina with her producer-boyfriend Stephen Rezza.
When Loibl attended Christina’s concert in 2016, he carried in two handguns along with a hunting knife and two loaded magazines, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters the day after her death. Mina also said Loibl traveled to Orlando from St. Petersburg, which is over 100 miles away, and that he had plans to go back home, NBC News reported at the time.
According to CNN, police said Loibl purchased the guns legally before the show.
Six months after her death, the Grimmie family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the concert venue, arguing that security officials only performed “superficial bag checks” and didn’t have body pat-downs or metal detectors that could have stopped attendees from bringing weapons into the venue, Billboard reported.
The suit was resolved in 2019, according to a representative from the Christina Grimmie Foundation, an organization founded in the singer’s honor to support families of gun-violence victims. The representative did not disclose what kind of settlement was reached.
Grimmie’s YouTube song covers catapulted her to stardom
At the beginning of Christina’s YouTube career, her videos were straightforward: She’d sit behind an electric piano against a beige wall with a retro Sonic poster in the background. She posted her first cover in July 2009, singing “Don’t Wanna Be Torn” by Hannah Montana.
She soon gained a large following across social media with roughly three million subscribers on YouTube when she was killed, according to news reports published at the time.
Marcus, Christina’s brother, told Insider that his sister’s friends had encouraged her to post singing videos.
“She had a gift [for singing] from a young age,” Marcus said. “When she put work into something, she was a monster. She could do just about anything.”
One of her most notable covers was a collaboration with singers Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider, singing a stripped-down, piano-heavy version of Nelly’s “Just a Dream.” The cover has since amassed over 220 million combined views on both Christina’s and Schneider’s channels.
“Getting to create the ‘Just a Dream’ video with Christina, which has now reached hundreds of millions of people, will forever be one of the pieces of art I’m proudest of,” Tsui told Insider in an email. “Getting to share that musical moment with the world, and letting that (in addition to her whole body of work) live on and go on inspiring people, is absolutely priceless.”
Schneider told Insider that he wished the group had more opportunities to recreate that magic again.
“Working with Christina always felt so easy, and the time passed so quickly,” he said. “She was just a joy to be around.”
She found fame offline during season 6 of ‘The Voice’
Christina appeared on the sixth season of NBC’s singing competition series “The Voice” in 2014 and wowed the judges with a performance of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”
She got the attention of all four judges and chose to join Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s team. The contestants work with the judges to hone their singing abilities to move forward in the competition, meaning she and Levine worked together closely.
She placed third in the competition, which was ultimately won by Josh Kaufman. During her time on the show, she performed covers of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley.
Levine offered to help pay for Christina’s funeral services, Rolling Stone reported at the time.
“I found out this morning that Adam Levine personally called my mother and said he would pay for her funeral and her plane flight,” Marcus wrote on his Facebook page two days after his sister’s death. “And I was blown away.”
The singer is remembered for her ‘raw talent’ that could ‘awe people’
During an interview with Insider, Mike Tompkins, a singer who had his start on YouTube, remembered her work ethic and said that she differed from other artists he worked with.
“Christina was the type of strong singer that kind of nails it instantly,” he said. “She doesn’t need a lot of takes. She was raw talent.”
Tyler Ward, another YouTube music star, added: “She had a gift and an anointing where she could sing live, and it would awe people.”
Christina’s family and a community of musicians have sought to keep her memory alive.
In April 2017, the Grimmie family created the Christina Grimmie Foundation to support families of victims of gun violence. According to the foundation’s website, it has donated over $100,000 thus far.
The foundation hosted a benefit concert on Wednesday night in honor of the anniversary of Christina’s death to raise money for the foundation’s cause.
Tsui and Schneider performed a reimagining of “Just a Dream” in honor of the cover they made together with Christina in 2010. Tori Kelly, a musician who also got her start on YouTube who was a close friend of Christina’s, performed her song, “Until I Think of You.”
There were performances from artists such as Rachel Platten, whom Grimmie toured with in 2016; Audra McLaughlin and Jacquie Lee; fellow “The Voice” contestants; as well as Ward, Rezza, and YouTube singer Tiffany Alvord.
Her death not only rocked her friends, family, and fans, but the YouTube community as a whole.
Some fans created compilation videos of their favorite Christina clips on YouTube while others performed tributes to honor her legacy.
Cimorelli, a group of sisters who upload videos of themselves singing covers on YouTube, shared their tribute on the platform along with other fans who posted tributes.
Kelly posted a video of herself singing a song she wrote as a tribute to Christina called “Blink of an Eye” a month after her death.
Now, five years since her murder, her brother Marcus remembers how much of an impact she made — not only on YouTube and with her music, but in the lives of people she knew.
“She impacts me every day in different ways,” Marcus told Insider, “and it’s more about what’s been taken out of the equation to realize what kind of daily impact she had.”