Despite his designer clothes and BMW, Isla Vista shooting suspect Elliot Rodger was not from a wealthy family.
Rodger’s father, a photographer and film director, was deeply in debt, and his mother made just $40,000 a year as a research assistant for a film company, according to documents from his parents’ divorce.
Santa Barbara County, California, investigators say Rodger, 22, stabbed to death three people in his apartment, shot two women to death outside a sorority house and killed another man inside a deli with gunfire before apparently killing himself near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara on Friday.
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The 107,000-word “story” that Rodger sent to his parents, therapists and several others just before the killings suggested that he was angry that his parents were not wealthy.
“Where’s the justice? I thought. Why couldn’t I have been born into that life?” Rodger wrote. His father’s family in Britain “was once part of the wealthy upper classes before they lost all of their fortune during the Great Depression,” he wrote.
Rodger’s mother and father had rich friends in Los Angeles, which allowed him to sometimes enjoy the benefits of money, such as tickets to a private Katy Perry concert in 2012.
“I tried to pretend as if I was part of a wealthy family,” he wrote about that night. “I should be. That was the life I was meant to live. I WOULD BE!”
He blamed his parents for his lack of wealth.
“If only my damnable mother had married into wealth instead of being selfish,” he wrote. She dated wealthy men after her divorce, giving her son hope and prompting him to “pester” her to marry one, he said. “I will always resent my mother for refusing to do this. If not for her sake, she should have done it for mine. Joining a family of great wealth would have truly saved my life. I would have a high enough status to attract beautiful girlfriends and live above all of my enemies.”
His father also failed him, he wrote. “If only my failure of a father had made better decisions with his directing career instead wasting his money on that stupid documentary.” The documentary — a film about celebrities’ view of God titled “Oh My God” — plunged his father into debt when Rodger was a teenager and caused him to stop paying child support, according to court papers.
“My business has not generated any income in over a year,” Peter Rodger said in a 2009 filing asking the judge to modify his $2,000 a month child support payments for his two children. “As a result, I currently receive no income from any source. I am searching for employment, but have been unable to find a job.”
His mother noted that her former husband used the equity in his home to finance the documentary, but she agreed to a one-year suspension of child support. With her monthly income just $3,200 a month, she said had to “depend in the generosity of family and friends to make ends meet.”
It was his working mother’s generosity to her adult son, including paying his rent and the gift of a used BMW 328i, that allowed Rodger to live in the college community of Isla Vista. He bought his three handguns with money saved from gifts from grandparents and the $500 a month his father sent him, according to Rodger’s writing.
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He became obsessed with gaining wealth as the “only way I could lose my virginity, the only way I could have the beautiful girlfriend I know I deserve.”
“I had no talents, so it was impossible for me to become a professional actor, musician, or athlete; and those were usually the ways that young people acquired such money,” he wrote. “I could invent something, or start a business just like Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook, but the chances of me achieving such a thing were the same chances I had of winning the lottery anyway.”
He played California’s Mega Millions lottery whenever the jackpot rose above $100 million. He drove to Arizona four times to buy Powerball lottery chances. He went into a rage each time he did not win.
“Without the prospect of becoming wealthy at a young age, I had nothing to live for now,” Rodger wrote. “I was going to be a virgin outcast forever. I realized that I had to start planning and preparing for the Day of Retribution, even though I hadn’t yet had any idea of what day that would be.”
The divorce documents also confirmed that Elliot Rodger was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, when he was 7. “Elliot has special needs,” his mother said in a sworn statement. “He is a high functioning autistic child.”
That he was autistic should not lead to a conclusion that autism had any connection to the attacks, according to Scott Badesch, the president of the Autism Society of America. “Reputable study after study has concluded there is no such link.”
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