Reddit to the rescue; Bryan Kohberger case


November 13, Bryan Kohberger stabbed four university students in bedrooms on the second and third floor of a home in Moscow, Idaho. The killing shocked the campus of the University of Idaho, where all four victims attended, and the nation— especially as the case began with no suspects or apparent motive. Over a month after the stabbing took place, Kohberger faced prosecution in Pennsylvania in connection with the murders.

Lauren Lee, News editor

The killings of four University of Idaho students in mid-November at an off-campus residence stunned the community of Moscow, Idaho, where investigators grappled with what the town’s police chief would later describe as a complex case. Authorities found the students stabbed to death in their off-campus home November 13. This sent shockwaves across the college town and left the community fearful as a suspect in the case remained a mystery for almost two months. The intense scrutiny of the unsolved slayings sparked thousands of tips to the FBI. Nearly seven weeks later, police announced an arrest in Pennsylvania on Friday, December 27 of a doctoral student in criminal justice: Bryan Kohberger.

Court records show that authorities booked Kohberger into custody on an arrest warrant out of Moscow, Idaho, charging him with first-degree murder. They engaged in a national effort to find and arrest a suspect in the case. In the meantime, police say Kohberger left Idaho for his Pennsylvania family home. The Pennsylvania State Police SWAT team broke down the door and windows to his home December 30, formally arresting and charging him with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. He stayed at the Monroe County Correctional Facility.

“These tragic murders took four young, vibrant members from our community. This has been a difficult time for the families, the university, the Moscow community, and the people of Idaho. However, it has also proven that communities come together in tough times,”Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Wills said.

Speculation mounts that Kohberger participated behind a pair of accounts that discussed the case in detail on Facebook and Reddit. The case attracted considerable attention from amateur detectives online, intensified by the gap between the killings and the police making an arrest. Two of those who commented on the case; a Facebook user by the name Pappa Rodgers and Reddit poster InsideLooking, appeared to possess detailed knowledge of the case and made claims that later turned out truthful. This led to speculation that the suspected killer could have operated on one or both accounts. The user correctly identified the importance of a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene, and the shoe prints at the scene that likely belonged to the suspect, before the police confirmed the information. InsideLooking’s Reddit profile picture initially showed a masked man dressed in black, holding a flashlight. Authorities have not formally made any links between the Pappa Rodgers and InsideLooking social media accounts to Kohberger. 

The court unsealed an affidavit that outlined how authorities tracked down Kohberger and linked him to the slayings. Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall issued a nondissemination order in the case that prohibits law enforcement, attorneys and others from communicating with the public or media about the case. In the days leading up to Kohberger’s arrest, law enforcement sources say a surveillance team watched the suspect’s movements and found an object with DNA that could connect Kohberger to the crime scene. Investigators previously found a leather knife sheath on the bed next to Mogen and Goncalves with Kohberger’s DNA. Police narrowed in on Kohberger after they broadened the search for the white Elantra spotted in surveillance footage. Police found one matching the description at Washington State University, registered to Kohberger. A surviving roommate said that Kohberger matched the description of who they had seen in the home on November 13. Phone records also placed Kohberger in Moscow at 4:48 A.M.

Agents say that prior to his arrest, they saw Kohberger wearing surgical gloves outside multiple times, and deep cleaned the inside and outside of his car. Kohberger also went on a cross-country road trip with his father and arrived home by the end of December. Authorities obtained DNA from garbage outside the home and identified that a sample collected belonged to the father of the person whose DNA had remained on the knife sheath found at the murder scene. The community commemorated the victims with a vigil held at the University of Idaho on November 30. 

Two scholarships have risen in the victims’ honor: Sigma Chi Foundation’s Ethan Chapin Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Xana Kernodle Scholarship Endowment, created by her family. The Kernodle family has vouched to match dollar-for-dollar contributions to the fund, up to $10,000.

“The Idaho case makes me question college safety and regulations with dorm rooms. It truly does make me uncertain of living on or off campus. Going to college doesn’t make me as nervous, but the idea of knowing my life could be at risk just by being at home,” magnet senior Alex Currier said.