Anderson Lee Aldrich, the accused suspect in the November 2022 shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs that left five people dead, entered a guilty plea Monday and will serve a life sentence in prison.

As the Associated Press reports, families of victims spoke in court Monday after Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary, entered his guilty plea. If Aldrich, 23, has shared some specific motive for the crime with investigators, that has never been made public. And on Monday, Aldrich entered a plea of no contest to the two counts of bias-motivated crime, saying in a statement, "Because of the evidence presented, I believe there is a high probability of being convicted at trial to those counts, and so I am pleading no contest."

Aldrich maintains that they were not motivated by hate for the LGBTQ community, and their defense attorneys have pointed out that Aldrich had frequented Club Q without incident at least a half dozen times in the year prior to the shooting — including one time with their mother in August 2021, in an occasion captured in a smiling photo.

But questions remain about Aldrich's mental state — they were reportedly prescribed medication for schizophrenia, depression and mood disorders, and they claim to have been abusing steroids and a "plethora" of illegal drugs at the time of the shooting. And victims' families continue to reject Aldrich's denials about the hate crime charges — some have even questioned the claim of being nonbinary — saying that their statements have all been calculated to avoid a death sentence.

Aldrich directly contacted the AP prior to their sentencing, and called the hate-crime claims "off-base." But victims' families note that Aldrich also employed passive-voiced, vague statements like "I just can’t believe what happened" and "I wish I could turn back time."

At a preliminary hearing, as the Denver Post previously reported, investigators said that just after committing the shooting, during the struggle with patrons — one of whom subdued them until police arrived — Aldrich said, "My mom will not accept me because I am gay, you’re all the same." And afterward, Aldrich cried and allegedly said, “I really fucked up, I killed all those fucking people."

Detectives also said that Aldrich ran a neo-Nazi website, and "expressed hatred toward police and the LGBTQ community."

Curiously, prosecutors also claimed that Aldrich's mother is nonbinary, and "abused" Aldrich by forcing them to go to LGBTQ clubs like Club Q. Detectives also found a rainbow-colored target in the mother's room in their shared apartment depicting "the dark silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, with rainbow-colored stripes around the silhouette."

As we learned shortly after the crime, Aldrich had been arrested but charges were later dropped in a domestic violence incident in which they allegedly threatened their grandparents and/or their mother, and stated the intention to become "the next mass shooter." Ghost guns were confiscated in that arrest, but the two weapons that Aldrich committed the Club Q shooting with were also homemade ghost guns — and Aldrich had apparently been given $30,000, possibly by a family member, that was "largely" spent on 3D printers and supplies used for making ghost guns.

22 people were injured in the November shooting, and Aldrich took the lives of Daniel Davis Aston, 28; Kelly Loving, 40; Ashley Paugh, 35; Derrick Rump, 38; Raymond Green Vance, 22.

Jessica Fierro, whose daughter was dating Vance, spoke at today's hearing, per the AP, saying, "This thing sitting in this court room is not a human, it is a monster. The devil awaits with open arms."

Sabrina Aston, mother to Daniel Aston, also spoke, according to the Denver Post. She said, "You have to live with this shame in your small cell until you die. Not for one minute do I believe your words of regret and remorse."

"You did not succeed in destroying this community," said Club Q owner Matthew Haynes, per the Denver Post. "Club Q will open, with a memorial to remember those who were killed for generations to come."

The shooting rattled the local LGBTQ community in the Bay Area, coming as it did five and a half years after the much deadlier Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando — which also targeted the community specifically, and led to the deaths of 49 people. Bar managers in the Castro subsequently received active-shooter training prior to New Year's Eve.

At a December House committee hearing on the rise of anti-LGBTQ violence in the U.S., survivors of the shooting spoke, including Michael Anderson, a bartender at Club Q, who said, "To the politicians and activists who accuse LGBTQ people of grooming children and being abusers: Shame on you... Hate speech turns into hate action, and actions based on hate almost took my life from me at 25 years old."

Previously: Shooter at Club Q in Colorado Kills Five, Leaves at Least Another 25 Injured

Top image: Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images