the murder of four students from the University of Idaho a year ago it shocked the bucolic university town of Moscow, tormented its small police force, and (due to the nature of the crime and the weeks without an identified suspect) spawned countless conspiracy conspiracies. social media detectives obsessed with finding the murderer.
The mystery of who fatally stabbed housemates Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle and Kernodle’s boyfriend Ethan Chapin was apparently solved nearly seven weeks later with the arrest of a suspect.
But for some detectives, even as suspect Bryan Kohberger awaits trial on four counts of first degree murderThe conversation has not stopped.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” said Deb Aldrich-Bailey, who lives in Ohio and became interested in the case because she has children in college. “Four innocent college kids living their best lives were murdered, and why? It’s the brutality and the shock that makes you want to find out why.”
And so, Aldrich-Bailey connects daily to the largest facebook group dedicated to the case, with more than 227,700 members. Theories about a motif in popular literature are also discussed. reddit TikTok pages and accounts where the hashtag #IdahoMurderMystery It has more than 207.2 million views.
The “University of Idaho Murders” Facebook group is one of nearly a dozen “true crime pages” run by administrators Alina Smith and Kristine Cameron; the others include the disappearance and death of a travel vlogger. Gabby Petito in 2021 and british girl Madeleine McCann, which disappeared in 2007, but is by far the most popular. At its peak, the group saw 32,000 posts in January, after police arrested Kohberger.
Even now, Smith said, there are about 2,000 people waiting to be accepted into the private group.
“Kristine didn’t want to make a page at first. She thought, This is a college party gone wrong. Maybe someone got mad,” said Smith, of Dallas. “But I said, ‘No way. There’s going to be a lot more to this.'”
His instincts were right. And in those initial weeks before a suspect was apprehended, group members delved into details from police statements, news reports and victims’ social media pages.
Given the size the group had grown, Smith said, people within the Moscow community also began sharing ideas with her, prompting her to submit information to the FBI tip line.
“Do we want to solve the case? That’s everyone’s dream,” Smith said. “But our intention was to open a platform for people to discuss.”
And the questions, he added, have only increased.
A ‘very complex’ case
In it Early morning of November 13, 2022.from 4 a.m. to 4:25 a.m., investigators say the four victims: Goncalves and Mogen, both 21, and Kernodle and Chapin, both 20, were killed.
The three students lived in a three-story apartment building off campus with two other roommates, one of whose cell phones was used to call 911 just before noon on Nov. 13 requesting assistance for an “unconscious person.” Authorities at the scene said they discovered the four victims stabbed multiple times with a “bladed weapon,” believed to be a large knife. No weapon was immediately found and the other two roommates were unharmed.
Initially, Moscow police said they did not believe there was an imminent danger to the community, although those at the University of Idaho, where about 11,500 students are enrolled, expressed fear and frustration in a city that hadn’t seen a homicide, much less four, in several years.
The Moscow police then had to walk back He says there was no threat to the largely rural city of almost 26,000 residents.
“We don’t have any suspects at this time, and that individual is still out there,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said at a news conference.
Information from the police came flooding in, including that the victims most likely asleep when they were killed, and some of them had defensive wounds. There were also no signs of sexual assault.
Fry described the investigation as a “very complex and extensive case,” which was further complicated because the crime scene was a house where friends hosted parties and people came and went regularly, in theory. leaving DNA everywhere. Police conducted more than 300 interviews and received 19,000 tips.
He announcement in early December that a carA white Hyundai Elantra with unknown plates, may be linked to the scene only increased online chatter among amateur sleuths determined to piece together the puzzle.
Then, on Dec. 30, police said they had made an arrest. Kohberger, who will turn 29 next week, was a doctoral student at Washington State University at the time of the murders, but was detained at his family’s home in northeastern Pennsylvania.
According to an affidavit, Kohberger was linked to the scene through Male DNA discovered on knife sheath left in the apartment building. The pillowcase was found face down on a bed next to the bodies of Mogen and Gonçalves, and partially under Mogen’s body and a comforter, investigators said.
genetic genealogy was used to create a profile of a familial source of the DNA, and that ultimately led researchers to Kohberger. The police said They also collected trash outside the Kohberger family home in Pennsylvania and determined that the DNA in the trash was a high probability match to the father of the person whose DNA was found on the knife sheath in Moscow. Then, after Kohberger’s arrest, police said they took a cheek swab that confirmed a statistical match.
Additionally, investigators said, they tracked Kohberger in the area of the apartment building through the use of his cell phone and surveillance that detected a Hyundai Elantra they believed he was driving.
More coverage of the Idaho murders
A judge in May pleaded not guilty on behalf of Kohberger on all four counts of murder and robbery. His defense attorneys have said they plan to corroborate that he was not at the house where the murders occurred through expert testimony, but they gave a curious response in a court filing related to the alibi in August that “he has long had “the habit of going to drive alone. He often went to drive at night. He did so late on November 12 and until November 13, 2022.”
A trial expected to begin in October was delayed without a new date as prosecutors hope seek the death penaltyKohberger’s defense tries to have the dismissed case and both sides argue over the DNA evidence.
Kohberger has not spoken publicly and a gag order issued in January prohibits lawyers, police and other officials from speaking in the case. Shortly after his arrest, Kohberger’s family, in a statement, pledged to “let the legal process play out and, as a family, we will love and support our son and brother.”
Questions without answer
Once the suspect was identified, internet snoops went to work trying to trace any connection between Kohberger and the victims, as police first said they believed it was a “targeted attack.”
Prosecutors have not said how Kohberger would have met the victims, although he was studying for his doctorate. and lives in Pullman, Washington, about 10 miles west of the Idaho-Moscow border.
Kohberger’s studies in criminology, including an apparent research project on people who commit crimes, sparked the fascination of online detectives and even famous authors who questioned whether a motive was as simple as trying to commit the “perfect crime.”
Gonçalves’ parents, Steve and Kristi, has said that in the moments after learning Kohberger’s identity, they found an Instagram account that they believe belonged to him and that he had been following his daughter and Mogen. The account has since been deleted and NBC News has not verified that connection.
The Goncalves told NBC News last week that they support law enforcement supporting evidence, including the FBI returning to the apartment building to help recreate a model for the trial.
A year after the murders, “you just miss them, and the more it happens, the more you miss them and the more you realize how badly you’ve been robbed,” Kristi Goncalves said.
But those who have followed the case from the beginning say the families deserve more answers, including knowing exactly what happened and why.
Jennifer Coffindaffer, who spent 25 years as an FBI agent investigating violent crimes, said questions revolve around what happened to the large knife used in the attacks and the clothing the killer wore during such a violent act, presumably leaving other DNA evidence beyond what was recovered from the knife sheath.
Kristin Noll-Marsh, another member of the “Idaho Murders” Facebook group, said there has been a lot of speculation about the actions of one of the surviving roommates who later told investigators she almost came face to face with a man. masked man who was leaving the house that night, which caused her to enter a “frozen shock phase“.
The affidavit describing the encounter only tells part of the narrative, Noll-Marsh said, and with people online “throwing unfounded speculation and calling it ‘theory,'” she is among the detectives trying to debunk the rumors.
On Monday, Smith’s “Idaho Murders” Facebook page was filled with tributes to Gonçalves, Mogen, Kernodle and Chapin.
A vigil is planned at the University of Idaho in his honor and the school is encouraging the community to turn on their porch lights in solidarity.
“This is all about the victims,” Smith said. “For some people, they think this is a little mystery. It’s fun to solve. But I think about the families and how they will have to sit at the Thanksgiving table again without their loved ones.”