On May 19, NBC’s Dateline aired a two-hour special on the case many call the “Idaho Four,” “Moscow Murders,” or “Kings Road Killings.”
The four – Madison Mogen (21), Kaylee Goncalves (21), Xana Kernodle (20), and Ethan Chapin (20) – were University of Idaho students stabbed to death in their off-campus housing. With no clear initial suspects, this bizarre case sounded like something straight from a Netflix limited series.
Brian Kohberger Indicted for Murder
The special comes after last week’s indictment of Brian Kohberger for the quadruple murder of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin.
The four were murdered in the early hours of November 13, 2022. The previous night, they had all been together at a party nearby. Goncalves even uploaded pictures of the group to Instagram with the caption, “One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl every day.” She didn’t know that this would end up being her last social media post ever.
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Pictures also include Bethany Funke and Dylan Mortenson, who were inexplicably left alive that night. According to a timeline of the case constructed by NBC, not only were they left alive, but calls weren’t placed to the police for eight hours after the murders happened.
With so many questions swirling around this case, Dateline did what it does best: let Kieth Morrison ask experts to make sense of this case.
Idaho 4 Roommates Left Alive
Early in the case’s investigation, many wondered if the surviving roommates had a role in the murders of Mogen, Goncalves, Kernodle, and Chapin.
In court documents released in January, police records show Mortenson even came face to face with the killer that night. She told police she heard noises upstairs and thought her friends were either still partying or playing with Goncalves’ dog, who was also left unharmed in the attacks.
Mortenson also told police she heard crying and a strange man’s voice coming from Kernodle’s room, which was on the second floor with Mortenson.
After opening her bedroom door to try and understand what she was hearing, Mortenson told police she saw a man dressed in black, wearing a black mask, “walking towards her” but kept walking right past her to exit the house from a sliding glass door. Mortenson told police she hadn’t been able to move and had been in a “frozen shock phase.”
Funke, however, was located on the first floor and was even awake at the time of the murders.
According to Jennifer Coffindaffer, a retired FBI agent, Mortenson’s behavior was completely understandable. During the Dateline special, Coffindaffer reiterated the theory about Mortenson’s behavior she tweeted in January: Mortenseon’s response was appropriate for someone in freeze mode.
Let's talk DM:
-Possibly under the influence
-Face to Face with stranger in black feet away
-Froze due to Fear
-Locked herself in BR
-I believe DM passed out from trauma/fear/stress
-To think you could be killed is gripping; I know#idahosuspecthttps://t.co/uIWPFWnVcx
— Jennifer Coffindaffer (@CoffindafferFBI) January 6, 2023
Brian Kohberger May Have More Crimes in His Past
One of the new pieces of information Dateline uncovered in their investigation into this case was about Brian Kohberger.
When he was a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington in nearby Pullman, Kohberger was asked by a friend to help her install security cameras in her home. The request came after the woman’s home was broken into. According to Dateline, the woman said nothing was missing – things were just moved around – so she never called the police.
Some theorize Kohberger staged the break-in to provoke the woman to ask him for help. The security cameras he helped install in her home may have been accessible when connected to the home’s wifi – something he would access by just being outside the woman’s house.
This woman wasn’t the only one to experience a bizarre break-in leading up to the quadruple murder. Dateline also reported that in March 2022, a University of Idaho student made a police report about a stolen suitcase.
The woman said she woke up one morning to find her suitcase, which had been her car, sitting in the middle of the road in front of her house. Nothing, thankfully, was stolen from her suitcase. However, items from her car were put into the bag, and a pair of her underwear were “stuffed” into the cupholder.
Former FBI criminal behavior profiler Greg Cooper told Dateline these incidents – if Kohberger committed them – are signs that his behavior was beginning to escalate.
Social Media and Open Door Policies
Many wonder how Kohberger was able to plan out his murders. But sources told Dateline that there were many parties at the house – sometimes even when none of the residents were actually there.
Cooper theorized that Kohberger could have learned the house’s layout during any of these multiple parties. He believes Kohberger would have gone into the house, blending in with a bigger group of people, but instead of interacting, he’d “watch, monitor, and imagine.”
The special also warned of the dangers of geotagging social media posts and posting your current location, which some believe may have helped Kohberger stalk his victims.
Where The Case Goes From Here
On Monday, May 22, Kohberger will be arraigned, though no one is sure what plea he will enter.
If he pleads not guilty, the case will go to what’s expected to be a lengthy trial that many believe won’t begin until 2024.
No matter what he pleads on May 22, Kohberger can face the death penalty. According to Neama Rahmani, a trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor, this crime is “one of the most gruesome murders in Idaho state history.”
When combined with the number of victims and premeditation, many would be shocked if prosecutors didn’t seek the death penalty in this case.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Nicole Tommasulo is Boston-based and Buffalo-born writer and editor. Typically covering all things lifestyle, her beat spans from food, to breaking news, to travel, mental health, and everything in between. She has an MFA in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design and has been previously published by The List, Heels Down Magazine, Hello Giggles, and several now-dead but not forgotten websites like xoJane and Femsplain. When she's not writing or editing, she's nerding out over books, prestige TV, plants, food, and frisbee golf.