University of Idaho Murders Tragically Has All “True Crime” Fascination

by Maggie Reese ‘24

The murder of four college students at the University of Idaho grabbed the attention of the country for nearly two months last November and December. The killings have already resulted in multiple podcasts covering the case, as well as lengthy segments on Dateline, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours. In a time when “true crime” stories have been highly popular on social media and in the form of books, shows, and films, the actual timeline and details of the murder are shocking and require no embellishment. Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21 were all students at the University of Idaho until they were brutally stabbed to death. On the night of Saturday, November 12, Goncalves and Mogen went out to the Corner Club in the town of Moscow, and Chapin and Kernodle, who were dating, went to Sigma Chi house off campus. Two other roommates–who survived that night and were never considered suspects–also went out in Moscow that night. In the early morning of November 13, at 1:40 a.m. Goncalves and Mogen were seen on a Grub Truck, a local food vendor, and got a ride back home around 1:45 a.m. Around the same time, Kernodle returned with Chapin who was spending the night.

 Police believe the murders unfolded around 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. Kernodle got a doordash order at the house at around 4 a.m and phone records show she was on Tiktok until 4:12 a.m. One of the surviving roommates said she woke up around 4 a.m. from what sounded like Goncalves possibly playing with her dog. A short time later, the roommate said “she heard someone she thought was Goncalves say something to the effect of ‘there’s someone here.’” The roommate looked out of her bedroom window with nothing in sight. She opened her bedroom door to what she thought was Kernodle crying, then she heard a male voice say something to the effect of “it’s ok, I’m going to help you,” according to the court documents. The roommate said she opened her door again when she heard the crying, and she saw a man in black clothes and a mask walking past her. She stood “frozen” and in “shock.” 

The man appeared to be around 5-foot-10 or taller, and “not very muscular but athletically built with bushy eyebrows,” according to the affidavit. Disregarding it, the two roommates woke up in the morning to one of the victims on the second floor unconscious, and called 911. Responding officers then found the four victims dead. Authorities received surveillance video and saw the suspects white Hyundai Elantra go by the victims’ house multiple times before entering the area around 4:04 a.m. Police then traced the car’s travel that night back to Pullman, Washington. Over a month later on Friday, December 30, Bryan Kohlberger was arrested for four counts of first-degree murder and burglary. 

Kohlberger was getting a PhD in criminology at Washington State University as well as was a teaching assistant, and he received a masters degree in criminal justice from DeSales University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology at a local community college near his eastern Pennsylvania hometown. According to documents, authorities had begun to suspect Kohlberger for the murders less than two weeks after November 13. slayings.  Connecting him to the murders, Kohlbergers DNA was found on a sheath on a knife left at the crime scene, as well as cell phone pings. Kohlberger followed all three female victims on Instagram, and even messaged one, as none of them followed him back. Kohlberger’s attorney asked to delay preliminary hearing until late June, and the judge has set it for June 26 at 9 a.m. expecting it to last for five days, or possibly more. Kohlberger will remain in custody without bond until his hearing in late June.