Bryan Kohberger, the Idaho murder suspect, had been a criminal mind student

Kohberger is a quiet person who likes to work alone but comes across as smart, said Brittany Slaven, who took several classes with him at DeSales. She recalled a case in one of the courses at Ramsland when students were asked to look at photos of a crime scene and figure out what happened. She said Kohberger came up with ideas quickly.

Chief of the Moscow Police Department James Fry.

Chief of the Moscow Police Department James Fry.Credit:AP

He seems to take a particular interest in crime scenes and serial killers, Slaven said.

“At the time, it seemed like he was just a curious student, and if his questions felt weird, we didn’t think much about it because it fit our curriculum,” she said.

In a post on Reddit from about seven months ago, a user identifying himself as Bryan Kohberger searched for people who had served time in prison to take a survey of crimes they had committed. The survey listed Kohberger as a student investigator working with two professors at DeSales and asked respondents to describe their “thoughts, feelings, and actions from the beginning to the end of the criminal investigation process.”

DeSales University said Kohberger earned a bachelor’s degree there in 2020 and a master’s degree in June 2022. A university spokesman said the crime investigation’s principal investigator — Michelle A. Bolger, who is listed on the university’s website as a staff professor — and her colleagues would not grant interviews about their experiences working with Kohberger. Assistant professor Jeffrey E. Clutter, listed as co-leader of the project, did not respond to numerous messages.

Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found dead. stand in a vigil.

Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found dead. stand in a vigil.Credit:AP

Kohberger then moved across the country to Pullman, Washington, where in August he began the fall semester in the criminology graduate program at Washington State University, across state lines from the University of Idaho.

On the morning of November 13, after a Saturday night of partying in college town and a University of Idaho football game, four students were found stabbed to death in the Moscow tenement building where three of them lived.

Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, were attacked in at least two separate bedrooms, likely while they slept, according to investigators. The three women lived in the house; Chapin spent the night with his girlfriend Kernodle.

The brutal nature of the deaths – the coroner said all four were fatally stabbed with a long knife – and the lack of a suspect raised a sense of dread in Moscow, a city that had not recorded a homicide in seven years. The students started running in groups. Local residents checked the locks on their doors and windows.


A DoorDash driver said she noticed more people ordering food to avoid going out after dark. And police received a spate of calls from nervous residents: a suspicious-looking man, a driver revving an engine, noises in the night.

Police at both locations added security measures, added patrols and held self-defense workshops.

In Washington State, Kohberger continued his studies, his classmates said. BK Norton, who was in the same graduate program as Kohberger, said his calm, intense demeanor made some classmates uncomfortable.

Another student said Kohberger seemed interested in the thought processes of criminals while they committed crimes and less interested in the social factors that might prompt people to commit them, saying he believed that some people just obliged to break the law. The fellow student, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared that speaking in public could jeopardize his safety, described Kohberger as the black sheep of the class who often took opposing viewpoints and sometimes got into arguments with his fellow students, particularly women .

The classmate recalled a case where Kohberger began explaining a somewhat elementary criminological concept to a fellow student, who then accused him of “mansplaining.” There was a heated back-and-forth, and the graduate student eventually stormed out of the classroom, leaving her laptop and coffee behind, he said.

Kohberger was also a teaching assistant on a criminal justice course that fall semester, said Hayden Stinchfield, 20, one of the students on that course. He said Kohberger often lowered his eyes when speaking in front of students, rather than looking directly at the class, giving the impression that he was uncomfortable.

The students said Kohberger had a strong understanding of the subject but was a strict grader, criticizing assignments at length and then defending the lower grades when students complained as a group. Later that fall, around the time of the murders, Stinchfield said Kohberger appeared to have given better grades, and the assignments, which once had his feedback scrawled over each paragraph, came back clean.

“Eventually he stopped leaving all the notes,” he said.

After the killings, a growing team of investigators from local and state agencies, as well as more than 60 FBI agents, arrived in Moscow. Forensic investigators combed the home for physical evidence, including DNA, and searched to no avail for a murder weapon.

Officials asked for tips and videos, while thousands of internet sleuths across the country suggested a range of people as likely culprits: a former friend of one of the victims, a man who was with two of the victims when they got a meal from a food truck, two roommates who were in the house when the murders took place but appeared to have overslept.

None of the online discussion groups identified Kohberger. It is not clear how or if he knew the victims.

Police had attempted to quash rumors by ruling out several people as suspects, although allegations circulated so quickly it sometimes seemed they couldn’t do it fast enough. They withheld almost all details of the investigation, which caused frustration and caused some people, including some victims’ relatives, to publicly question whether the police were up to the task.

Still, during the holiday, investigators worked to process thousands of leads and extensive evidence gathered in and around the scene. They later asked the public for help locating a white Hyundai Elantra that had apparently been seen near the crime scene. Moscow Police Chief James Fry said on Friday that investigators had located a car with this description in connection with the arrest in Pennsylvania, but had still not found a murder weapon.

Looking exhausted and almost tearful as he announced the arrest at a press conference, Fry made it clear that investigators were still looking for tips to help clarify the questions they still couldn’t answer with certainty: Was the suspect acting alone? What was the motive?

“Rest assured the work is not done yet,” Fry said. “This is just beginning.”

The arrest stunned members of a Facebook discussion group with more than 166,000 members.

“I’m amazed,” wrote one woman. “Literally everything we know doesn’t make sense.”

But it has also brought a sense of relief to many in Idaho.

Goncalves’ family members said through a lawyer they were “relieved that the authorities have taken someone into custody and the journey through the criminal justice system is now beginning”.

Katie Blomgren, a psychology major at the University of Idaho, has known Goncalves and Mogen since they were 11 years old. She spent her 12th birthday with the two girls in a hotel and she thinks of them every time she looks down at their shins. where she has two scars from trying to jump out of a bathtub onto a bed that night. She said she struggled to feel closed even after Kohberger’s arrest.

“There’s relief to feel like maybe living here isn’t that scary anymore,” said Blomgren, 21. But while an arrest in the case has brought a sense of relief to many of her fellow students, she said , they have trouble finding any peace. “For me, it doesn’t erase what happened.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. Bryan Kohberger, the Idaho murder suspect, had been a criminal mind student

Callan Tansill

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