The Idaho Murder Case, Explained

Isabella Lagarto, Design Editor

On the dawn of Nov. 13, 2022, four University of Idaho students were found dead in their off-campus home. These murders shook the town of Moscow, Idaho — a town that had not seen a murder since 2015 — as citizens claimed that their sense of safety had faltered after the fatal stabbings. For weeks, the people of Moscow lived in anticipation, knowing that the killer could possibly strike again. 

“I think you tend to live in fear, because [murder is] not something that you expect to happen. So then you’re kind of, on an alert. For a period of time, you would be that way. But, also, you start to pay attention to the people around you, to see if there is someone in that situation that you overlooked. Things that they do, or the way that they behave,” Miami Palmetto Senior High Trust Counselor Patricia Mills said. 

During these weeks, law enforcement suffered criticism for withholding information about the case, furthering the sentiment of danger and uncertainty in the city. Initially, the police claimed that the attack appeared to be targeted, but they later withdrew that statement, with Police Chief Jason Fry stating that there may be a threat to the community

In the midst of the murders, many Idaho students took an early leave for their fall recess and professors canceled classes. The university began providing support in the form of counseling, therapy dogs, and supplemental security on campus.  

The four victims were 21-year-old Kaylee Gonclaves and Madison Mogen, and 20-year-old Xana Kornodle and Ethan Chapin. The morning following the attack, two other uninjured women in the residence discovered the victims unconscious in rooms on the second and third floor of the home. According to authorities, at least one victim appeared to have defensive stab wounds on their hands. 

On the night of the murders, Gonclaves and Mogen went to a downtown bar and stopped by a food truck before returning home. Meanwhile, Kornedle and Chapin attended a party. At 4:00 a.m., two people in the house were awake. A survivor reported hearing crying from Kernodle’s room around then, which was the time the murders were speculated to have happened. The same roommate later told authorities that she opened her bedroom door and saw the suspect dressed in all black before she shut the door and locked it for several hours. 

After nearly two months of a rigorous search for the unidentified killer, authorities zeroed in on Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminology student at Washington State University. On Dec. 30, 2022, Kohberger was arrested and charged with murder. Following Kohberger’s arrest, authorities released an affidavit indicating the crucial details that led them to discover the criminal. Kohberger may be charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary. 

The suspect, a Ph.D. student in criminology, was reported to have an alarming interest in the psychology of serial killers and criminals. He studied criminology with Katherine Ramsland as his professor, known for her works “How to Catch a Killer” and “The Mind of a Murderer.” 

 “…it depends on why you’re looking into [violent crimes]. If it’s interesting because, “oh, that sounds cool,” then [that] definitely would be something to worry about. So if it’s something that you’re looking into because it’s exciting to you, that would be a concern. But just wanting to know the facts, some people like that,” Mills said. 

Further investigation revealed that Kohberger had mental health struggles as a teen, discussing his suicidal ideation on online forums. Interviews with friends also disclosed that Kohberger turned to heroin as a coping method before becoming clean. On a website called Tapatalk, Kohberger posted about his “constant thought of suicide,” feeling like “an organic sack of meat with no self-worth,” and viewing his life as a “video game”.

“Lack of empathy [is a concern] for sure, just like not being remorseful for things that have happened or a lot of interest in people being injured or killed, or something – what we would consider to be dark,” Mills said. 

Kohberger’s struggles with mental health in the past show how important it is to watch out for warning signs. Whether you see someone struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal ideation, speak up. Speaking up could immensely help someone and even save a life. 

“Usually mass murderers, serial killers and stuff, it’s not like that’s the first time they did something like that. There’s usually a history of something. It’s pretty scary,” Mills said.