The Chilling Story Of Christine Paolilla, The Teen Who Murdered Her Friends

The following article includes allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Just as midday was turning into afternoon on July 18, 2003, a series of gunshots rang out on the 3700 block of Millbridge Drive in Houston, Texas' Clear Lake neighborhood. Though their identities would not be discovered for years, the sounds were emanating from the guns of 17-year-old Christine Paolilla and her boyfriend at the time Christopher Lee Snider, and they were in the process of murdering several people. Their victims were four friends, Tiffany Rowell, Rachael Koloroutis, Marcus Precella, and Adelbert Sanchez, who were between the ages of 18 and 20 years old.

Their bodies would not be found for hours, and when police walked into the house the crime scene they discovered was exceedingly grisly. The TV was still playing cartoons as investigators carefully stepped around the four dead kids and blood-soaked scene, desperately hunting to find any clues that could tell them what had happened. When Rachael's father George Koloroutis arrived at the scene officers had to restrain him because he was so distraught, and the other families were also devastated.

Answers would not come quickly. It would take more than three years until any arrests were made. In the end, Snider would wind up dead and Paolilla was given a life sentence in prison, but all six families were shattered by the events that Friday night. Looking back 20 years later, this is the chilling story of Christine Paolilla, the teen who murdered her friends.

Paolilla's tumultuous upbringing

While Christine Paolilla appeared to be a relatively popular and well-adjusted high schooler when she carried out the Clear Lake Murders in 2003, there is no denying she had a very tumultuous upbringing. Both of her parents were known to be drug users when she was growing up in Long Island, New York, and her father was allegedly addicted to heroin. He died when Paolilla was only two years old, and her mother would later lose custody of her to her grandparents due to drugs, and they would also pass away. It was not until Paolilla was 15 that she began living with her mother again, who was sober and out of rehab. Shortly after, they moved to Clear Lake, Texas (pictured).

Besides not having the most stable childhood, Paolilla also had health problems, too. In kindergarten, she started to develop alopecia and soon lost a lot of her hair, and she also had to wear thick glasses. Both of these made her stand out from all of the other kids and led to her getting teased and made fun of, which hurt her self-esteem.

While her unfortunate childhood does not excuse or explain the murders she would later commit, they do reflect a turbulent adolescence with an absence of support and security. One of the few things that Paolilla had to look forward to from her family was an insurance policy on her father worth as much as $360,000. She couldn't access it until she turned 18, but by then she would already have blood on her hands.

She was best friends with some of the victims

As police would later find out through their investigations, the killings at 3706 Millbridge Drive in Clear Lake, Texas, were not done completely at random. One of the killers, Christine Paolilla, was good friends with two of the four murder victims, Tiffany Rowell and Rachael Koloroutis. The three had met years prior when they were all attending Clear Lake High School together, and Rowell and Koloroutis were both one year ahead of Paolilla. By the time Paolilla had moved to Clear Lake, she was living with her mother again following her stint in rehab, but she was still dealing with alopecia.

Originally, Paolilla was from Long Island, New York, but she later moved to Texas, and once she started attending high school she met both Koloroutis and Rowell. The three eventually became extremely good friends with each other, which was aided by the fact that both Koloroutis and Rowell helped Paolilla with her appearance. They helped her with both her makeup and choosing wigs, and Koloroutis actually had a photo of Paolilla in her wallet that she occasionally kept with her, an indication of their close bond.

Somewhat with the help of both Koloroutis and Rowell, Paolilla was named "Miss Irresistible" when she was in her junior year, coincidentally the same year that Koloroutis and Paolilla graduated. The other two victims in the house were Marcus Ray Precella and Adelbert Nicholas Sanchez, who were Rowell's boyfriend and his cousin.

[Featured image by EricEnfermero via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0]

Paolilla began dating an abusive boyfriend in high school

In early 2003, Christine Paolilla reconnected with an old friend, Christopher Snider, in what turned out to be an extremely life-changing relationship. Paolilla and Snider had already known each other from middle school, but they had fallen out of touch for some time before seeing each other again at a 2003 party. By that point in his life, Snider already had a criminal record, and he was also allegedly a heavy drug user.

The two of them had used marijuana when they first got together in middle school, but by 2003 he had branched out to even heavier substances, something he started to push on Paolilla once they became reacquainted. Paolilla felt bad for Snider over his depression and a bad accident he had suffered as a kid, but she was also wary of him, too. One of the reasons they had stopped hanging out was due to Paolilla's perception of Snider as being violent, and that still seemed to be an issue when they got back together.

One time, after becoming angry, he pushed Paolilla, who hit her head on a marble surface, and he may have also hit her on other occasions. Both Paolilla's friends (who would later become her victims) and her parents tried to get her to stay away from him, but she refused to listen. The relationship was clearly troubled, but soon it would take a much darker turn, and some of Paolilla's friends would literally be caught in the crossfire.

Paolilla shot and beat one of the victims to death

To call the crime scene from the Clear Lake Murders gruesome, would most surely have been an understatement. The carnage included four dead bodies, all of them riddled with gunshot wounds, and there was blood everywhere. The corpse of Adelbert Nicholas Sanchez had bullet holes in the head, neck, torso, and left arm, and Marcus Precella had been shot in multiple places, too. Between Christine Paolilla and Christopher Snider, the two fired almost 40 rounds at the four victims, and there were casing everywhere — indicating erratic and heavy fire.

Of all the victims, Rachael Koloroutis' death appears to have been the most violent and personal. In addition to being shot at least a dozen times, including once in the genitals, authorities suspect that she survived the initial barrage of gunfire, only to be savagely beaten to death by pistol-whipping. Apparently, Paolilla and Snider left the residence after the initial shooting, but Paolilla insisted they return to verify everyone was dead. Once they did, she found Koloroutis barely alive but in the process of dialing 911, prompting Paolilla to viciously murder her.

Initially, Paolilla and Snider had only planned on robbing the four people in the house at gunpoint for drugs and money, but for whatever reason it devolved into a massacre. Snider may have been the first one to pull the trigger, but both he and Paolilla were responsible for the shootings.

Paolilla clocked in at work an hour after the murders

Fresh off participating in the commission of a quadruple murder, Christine Paolilla seemingly went about the rest of her day as if nothing happened. Authorities believe that the killings occurred between 3:00 p.m. and 3:25 p.m., and barely an hour later Paolilla was clocking in for her job at Walgreens. It's already pretty horrific that someone could commit such a heinous and revolting set of murders in the first place, but to then pretty much go directly from the murder scene to work is almost inconceivable.

After the murders, Paolilla continued to work at Walgreens and returned to high school for her senior year, but she struggled socially due to the absence of both of her friends. Eventually, she walked with her graduating class in 2004, even though she was behind academically, but she never ended up getting her diploma. Part of the reason was that in October 2003, Christopher Snider and her were arrested for shoplifting. Despite the arrest, she was still incredibly drawn to Snider, and the two may have begun using cocaine together around the same time, too.

Instead of graduating high school, Paolilla spent her time in a drug rehabilitation center near San Antonio. However, that would not be the saving grace she and her family might have hoped it would be.

Police had few leads

When the news of the July 2003 Clear Lake Murders reached the public, Millbridge residents were understandably pretty shocked. The gruesome killings seemed to be at random, and the normally calm and peaceful neighborhood was flooded with police officers and detectives all scrambling to figure out what had just happened. Eerily, police announced that they did not have any suspects or any idea about a potential motive.

There were no surviving eyewitnesses to the murders, and the only people who even saw the killers were a couple, the Lackners, who lived near the house. The couple saw both Christine Paolilla and Christopher Snider as they were leaving and noted that they looked suspicious wearing all black in the midday heat. However, neither of them knew who they were and could not identify them to authorities, though they did give details to a police sketch artist. Complicating matters was the fact that both of the male victims were drug dealers, and one of them had familial ties with the highly dangerous and ruthless Mexican Mafia.

There was no shortage of tips that came in to the local Crime Stoppers, but not many of them were that useful. Some of the callers even placed the blame on one of the victims' fathers, even though police had already ruled him out as a suspect. As time passed, the leads began to dry up, and police were at a complete loss as to what had transpired that Friday afternoon.

[Featured image by EricEnfermero via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0]

Paolilla's husband turned her in

It was not until more than two years after the Clear Lake Murders that investigators first got put on the right track toward finding the perpetrators, even if they did not realize it. In July 2005, an anonymous tip came in that identified Christopher Snider and Christine Paolilla as the killers and gave them Paolilla's phone number, though the tipster did now know her last name. However, when investigators searched for Snider's name and phone number they did not come up with anything, so they did not follow up any further.

During that time, Paolilla and Snider stopped seeing each other, and Paolilla later began a relationship with another man, Justin Rott, whom she met while attending a 12-step meeting in late 2004. Rott was a former Marine and a recovering heroin addict, and the two got married the following March. However, at the same time as the anonymous tipster was calling in, Rott also began to become suspicious that Paolilla was involved in the murders after seeing her reaction to a news report about the anniversary of the killings. Paolilla later confessed her involvement to Rott, who was horrified by the revelations.

In July 2006, a year after first learning about it, Rott finally decided to turn in his wife to the police for her involvement in the Clear Lake Murders. He called the police and told them everything he knew, and soon the authorities were in hot pursuit of the killers.

Paolilla was addicted to heroin when police arrested her

By the time authorities took Christine Paolilla into custody on July 19, 2006 — exactly three years and one day after the killings — her life had devolved pretty considerably since high school. In August 2005, just a few months after getting married to Justin Rott, they had to flee their new condo near Houston because of Hurricane Rita. They made their way to Rott's parents' home in Arlington, but while there they began using heroin intravenously, and soon they left to go to San Antonio where Rott knew they could find even more potent drugs.

At the same time, Paolilla was becoming haunted by the murders she had helped carry out two summers prior, and she was having flashbacks. She was also checking out a website dedicated to solving the murders run by one of the victims' fathers, another sign of her guilty conscience. Her and Rott's drug use took off considerably after getting to San Antonio, fueled largely by the insurance fund that Paolilla received when she turned 18, and they were using hundreds of dollars worth of heroin and cocaine every day together.

Paolilla was 20 years old when she was finally arrested in 2006, and authorities found hundreds of spent syringes in their hotel room. Considering the amount of drugs she was using, the police may have saved her life by arresting her, but her new home would become a solemn jail cell.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Paolilla claimed she was forced to pull the trigger

Sadly, the public will probably never know the true way that events played out on July 18, 2003, when Christine Paolilla and Christopher Snider murdered four innocent victims in Clear Lake, Texas. There were no surviving eyewitnesses to the murders except the killers, and Snider would die before being interrogated. When talking to investigators, Paolilla repeatedly lied and gave several different versions of the incident, which also varied from the tale she had previously told her husband Justin Rott, putting into doubt which rendition is actually the truth.

When the police were first interrogating Paolilla, who was withdrawing from heroin at the time, she told them that Snider had gone into the house but did not say anything about a massacre. A few hours later, she admitted that Snider had in fact killed the inhabitants of the house, but denied any involvement. Finally, that night she acknowledged that she too had played a part in the murders, but somewhat implausibly claimed that Snider had pulled the trigger while she was holding the gun, denying responsibility for actually firing the shots.

She would later tell detectives that she only participated in the shootings because of Snider's repeated domestic violence against her, which made her frightened for her life. She also claimed that as soon as Snider started shooting she got onto the ground in the fetal position, and Snider picked her up and forced her to help carry out the killings.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Her accomplice died before he could be arrested

As the investigation of the Clear Lake Murders was starting to heat up, Christopher Snider was living in Greenville, South Carolina, (pictured) with his new girlfriend. The two had started dating in March after meeting online, and Snider was violating his probation by moving to South Carolina from Kentucky to be with her. 

On July 20, 2006, the day after his co-conspirator Christine Paolilla was picked up, police in Kentucky raided Snider's parents' house looking for him, and they found both of the murder weapons stashed inside his bedroom. Snider's family called him in Greenville to let him know police were looking for him and that he was implicated in a murder rap, and soon Snider was on the run by himself. 

Before leaving his new girlfriend, however, he stole around 200 prescription medication pills from her, including ones he knew he was allergic to. A few days later, on August 5, 2006, police found his decomposing body in the woods near his residence in Greenville. Snider is thought to have died by suicide, and he was 21 years old at the time of his death.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

Paolilla received life in prison after being convicted

When Christine Paolilla finally went on trial for the Clear Lake Murders it was in September 2008 when she was 22 years old. By that point, she had been behind bars for more than two years since her July 2006 arrest, and she had even started a new relationship with one of her fellow inmates. She officially pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges, and the trial was followed throughout the media as it went along.

On October 13, 2008, a jury officially found Paolilla guilty of the murders of Tiffany Rowell, Rachael Koloroutis, Marcus Precella, and Adelbert Sanchez. During the trial, her attorney had tried to place sole blame for the murders on her accomplice Christopher Snider, but it was to no avail. Though Paolilla was a 22-year-old adult when she was finally convicted, the killings took place when she was only 17, so the death penalty was not on the table. Paolilla reportedly wept after hearing her sentencing, and her attorney vowed to appeal the case. 

Her final chance at freedom was exhausted on May 26, 2011, when the Houston Court of Appeals affirmed her guilty verdict. As of December 2023, Paolilla was 37 years old and still serving her sentence at the Christina Melton Crain unit in Gatesville, Texas (pictured). She is eligible for parole in 2046, at which point she will almost be a senior citizen.