Aiden von Grabow’s mother knew he suffered from psychological issues. But she didn’t know his “death list” was very, very real.
As CBS Denver reports, 15-year-old von Grabow is charged with murdering 20-year-old aspiring race car driver Makayla Grote. Prosecutors are currently seeking to have von Grabow tried as an adult.Screenshot/CBS Denver
According to 9 News, even before Grote was stabbed to death in her apartment in Longmont, Colorado, von Grabow’s family was concerned about his strange behavior.
In October 2017, von Grabow told Grote’s younger sister about his “death list,” threatening to add a friend of hers to the list. She begged him not to do so, then reported the conversation. Police confronted von Grabow in front of his parents the next day and even searched his room, but found no evidence of the death list.
Von Grabow told police that he’d made up the list during his conversation and that he was “stressed” and self-harming. He also told police that he was taking Accutane for his acne, which was “messing with his head.”
On November 17, von Grabow’s mother reported her son to the police after he threatened her with a knife. She had also found an assortment of weapons — including Molotov cocktails and a machete — in her son’s room. A police officer came to the home and photographed the weapons, but did not confiscate them, as the family did not want to press charges.
On November 18, von Grabow went to Grote’s apartment and stabbed her to death. According to the Times Call, Grote’s younger sister was in the shower at the time and was able to lock herself in another room.
Grote was not on von Grabow’s “kill list,” but her younger sister was.
After Grote’s death, detectives found the list in von Grabow’s room. The red notebook included a list of people (some of them longtime friends) with notes on how to murder them. A police detective testified that the note about Grote’s sister read:
“Torture till she begs for mercy. Make her fight, then take hostage.”
The notebook also contained a list of supplies (including ingredients for Molotov cocktails) and the beginning of an apology letter to Grote’s sister.
Few dispute that von Grabow was a troubled young man. Records from the family’s health insurance company indicate his parents had made an effort to get him help. He had been approved for mental health services on three occasions prior to the crime — October 25, November 4, and November 8.
However, von Grabow’s attorneys indicate that his defense may revolve around a simple explanation for his mental instability — his acne medicine. As defense lawyer Michael Rafik told the court in a recent hearing that the teen’s mental health issues didn’t begin until he started taking the drug:
“[Von Grabow had] no prior mental health diagnosis, until October of 2017, [when] he became erratic, aggressive, violent, suicidal, homicidal.”
The defense told the court they plan to call an expert witness who has studied the effects of the acne drug Accutane, in part to explain how it is possible to rehabilitate someone who had stopped using the drug.
This is not the first time that Accutane has been cited as the cause of mental health issues. In 2002, the maker of the drug was sued by a mother who claimed Accutane caused her son’s depression and eventual suicide.
However, other experts contest the idea that the drug could be responsible for von Grabow’s mental state, especially as there has not yet been a conclusive study linking Accutane to suicide and depression.
Dr. Robert Valuck, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy, told CBS Denver there is no evidence that Accutane can drive someone to murder:
“We can’t tell if it is the depression, the medication or something else in the person’s life and there’s not just enough evidence to point to one of those and say that’s it.”
Von Grabow is charged with first degree murder as well as 10 other counts, including three counts of attempted murder related to Grote’s sister and others on his death list.