“I was terrified for my life, and I couldn’t wait to move out of that state to get away from him.”
That’s the main takeaway from my nearly hour-long chat with Melissa* the woman who was the girlfriend of Lyndon McLeod from 2009–2012. The Colorado Times Recorder was able to confirm their connection via multiple sources. According to law enforcement, McLeod murdered five people and wounded two others across the Denver Metro area on Dec. 27 in a spree that targeted several specific individuals he had previously identified by name in a serial novel he self-published to Amazon.com titled Sanction in 2018. Lakewood police officer Ashley Ferris brought McLeod’s spree to an end; she was wounded in her abdomen exchanging gunfire with McLeod and is recovering in the hospital.
The spree started around 5:25 p.m. at Sol Tribe Tattoo near 1st and Broadway in Denver, where police say McLeod killed shop owner Alicia Cardenas and Alyssa Maldonado, and wounded Alyssa’s husband Jimmy, an employee at the shop. He then traveled to another home nearby where he shot and killed Michael Swinyard. From there, he traveled west to Lakewood and killed tattoo artist Danny Schofield inside the Lucky 13 Tattoo shop. He fled from there on foot into a nearby Hyatt Hotel and killed the desk clerk, Sarah Steck. Outside the hotel, he encountered Officer Ferris who finally brought him down.
In the days since his alleged murder spree, an image of the killer has come into focus based on his fictional writing and online interactions, including the Twitter account he kept under the pen name he used to author his work: Roman McClay. That image is one of a deeply misogynistic white nationalist who was an ardent accelerationist, enchanted with hyper-masculinty and fascist philosophy, punctuated repeatedly with notes of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.
In one example, McLeod/McClay tweeted out an image of a page from a book titled Bronze Age Mindset, written by the pseudonymous Bronze Age Pervert. On the page, it appears that McLeod had underlined a portion of a particularly antisemitic passage that read, “The motivation for this is the nerdishness and also somewhat the Jewish way of thinking, or the Judaizing tendency that promotes facility with words and number, but approaches mental deficiency and even retardation when it comes to anything visual. The Jewish hatred of matter, an ancient prejudice that precedes the Bible and the hatred also for beauty that they share with other Semitic peoples — and many others besides— all of this comes together to promote this kind of aggressive nerdishness.”
“He was fully a con artist,” says Melissa, who lives in another state. Over the course of our conversation, she reveals the portrait of a man who was a paint-by-numbers malignant narcissist and abusive boyfriend.
“It took me a minute to get out of there though, because I was completely enmeshed financially. I’ve learned about abused women, and abusive patterns, after that — that I wasn’t aware of at the time. The financial entanglement, and making sure that I was kind of put in a place where I was not able to just leave very easily, it was really difficult, I think was on purpose. And the cycle of abuse, the love bombing, and then the terror, and the love bombing, and then the terror. I look at it now from far away, and it’s so obvious. But one of my closest friends actually dated him for a short amount of time after me, and she just got her doctorate in psychology, so she’s like, ‘I was working with abused women at the jail and I still fell for his crap.’”
Melissa tells about meeting McLeod online and the beginning of their relationship, during which he showed no signs of the monster he eventually revealed himself to be later on. She tells how after only 6 months, the couple purchased a home together and started a marijuna cloning business, all on her credit cards and income, since McLeod had already failed in an upstart automobile customization business. All of which she simply walked away from in 2012 in order to protect her own life.
“It was kind of terrible because I don’t own a home, and I wish I had. And I had moments where I was like, ‘Man, if I would have fought him and kept that home, I could have that right now, and I’d have a place. I did all the work and I put the money in.’ But I knew that he would torture me for the rest of my life if I did that.”
Melissa managed to stay hidden from McLeod for years until he finally found her business email and sent her a photo of himself and his book, trying to get her to read it. “There was also a piece of paper from a notebook (in the picture). I’m guessing (it was) a journal, whatever, and it said my name, and on the bottom it said, ‘moral murder,’ and it was a bunch of scribbles. I was again terrified for my life, because it’s so easy to find people on the internet, where they live. Friends of mine were like, “You need to report this.” I’m like, “Who do I report it to, and what are they going to say?”
Melissa recalls how McLeod seemed blessed with a golden tongue when it came to dealing with authorities.
“He was a master manipulator, but he couldn’t hold his anger in at some points. Within the first year of us dating, he was… he had terrible road rage attacks, and he would scream at people. He had a big truck that was covered in Rhino Liner. This woman was trying to turn left, and he passed her, and he scraped down the whole side of her car, taking her mirror off, screaming at her like a raging lunatic. I wasn’t there but I know that’s what he did, because that’s what he told me, and that’s how he is… Was.
“The police came to our house that evening and he said, ‘Can you come back tomorrow? I’m in bed.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, okay, sure.’ They came back the next day… he says, ‘Sir,’ and, ‘Sir, yes sir.’ He has this weird thing where he patronizes them at the same time as being really respectful, in a way that… Just makes them go away. They just went away. I was like, ‘How…?’ I do not know one human being, especially… There are especially no (People Of Color) that would get away with what he could get away with, and did, over and over again.”
Over the course of their time together, his behavior became increasingly erratic, Melissa says, to the point where she began to fear for her life.
“When he started to show his true self, which definitely was angry and violent, misogynistic, just awful, an awful person. I was terrified for my life, and I couldn’t wait to move out of that state to get away from him. I did not want to press charges or anything because I felt like that would just make him angry, and I already knew how much he was into revenge. I didn’t trust that I would be kept safe if I tried to report him in any way, so I didn’t. The thing that makes me the most upset is that women who are involved in domestic abuse don’t feel safe to go to authorities at any point, because really no one’s protecting you.”
From the Global Network of Extremism and Technology: “Evidence suggests McLeod was deeply influenced by the misogynistic pro-masculinity culture which pervades the alt-right’s so-called manosphere – particularly the views of Paul Waggener, a co-founder of the Wolves of Vinland, a “Neo-Volkisch hate group” ; Jack Donovan, author of The Way of Men and a former member of the Wolves of Vinland; and Jack Murphy, Claremont Institute fellow and founder of the “international men’s organization” Liminal Order. On Donovan’s podcast, McLeod expressed the belief that his natural masculine traits were actually stumbling blocks in modernity and that Sanction became a post-mortem of why his life was always so contentious and he didn’t ‘fit in.’”
Ultimately, and perhaps most tragically of all — there’s little here that’s unexpected. The portrait painted by both Melissa and McCleod’s own writing and rants is a familiar one, shared by myriad American mass murderers. It’s a portrait of a white male with such deep, impotent insecurities that they wrap themselves in a cloak of entitled victimhood, bemoaning the loss of a sense of masculinity due to some external force. It’s a portrait of a white nationalist, fearful of an evolving American populace whose faces, skin tones, religions, and ethnic ancestries don’t mirror his own. It’s a portrait of a humiliated man-child with no mechanism to channel and diffuse his own rage, given to murderous tantrums simply because he isn’t getting his way.
It’s a portrait of a growing base of far-right terrorism that this nation needs to confront sooner than later, because they live to inflict violence upon the rest of us.
*Name changed to protect her identity.