8 Idaho Murder Questions: Has Suspect Killed Before?

Experts tackle the biggest questions being asked about the murder of four college students. 

Despite the fact that police believe they have arrested and charged the right suspect, Bryan Kohberger, with the murders of four University of Idaho college students, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and her boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20, there are still so many questions left unanswered surrounding the brutal crime.

While there is significant evidence pointing toward the Washington State University Ph.D. student, including cell phone data, DNA left behind on the scene, physical descriptions by the surviving victim, and his car being spotted fleeing the scene of the crimes, there are some significant holes in the story. Here are eight key questions still left unanswered. 

Did the Accused Murderer Leave the Knife Sheath on Purpose?


When asked on a two-episode Dr. Phil special centering around the crimes, trial attorney Mercedes Colwin speculates that the knife sheath found next to the bodies with the suspect's DNA may have been left at the crime scene on purpose. "It could be, I mean it's almost as if – and we've seen this with other killers, it's their calling card, 'I got this,'" she said.

"Especially if you think you're smarter than everybody else, and he certainly – he had gloves, at least that's what's presumed, that he had gloves. He tried to cover himself, did something to dispose of the clothing, if he in fact is the killer, then of course, this is something that could have just been a calling card and left it there."

Will the Murder Weapon Be Found?


While the sheath is a key piece of evidence, it isn't the smoking gun that the actual murder weapon could be. Former FBI special agent Jonathan Gilliam theorized that it will eventually be found. "I think they'll find that knife. I think the knife could potentially be found, because I think – like the car, and these things, I think these are part of his operational tools. It's no different than a go-bag for me," he said. Added Colwin: "I don't think this investigation is going to continue, indefinitely. I think Jonathan's right, we're going to presumably find the knife."

Was This the Accused Murderer's First Crime?

Bryan Kohberger
Monroe County Correctional Facility

If Kohberger committed the heinous crime, was this his first? Dr. Phil asked forensics expert Joseph Scott Morgan if he believed it was his first murder. "Murder? Possibly. Bad act? No," Morgan answered. Gilliam believes he has killed before in a similar fashion.

"I think he's killed before most likely," he said, "Not four people, but I think he's probably stalked and potentially killed females before." Added Colwin: "If he's the killer, this viciousness, the brutality, and the butchering of these four individuals, I can't imagine this is the first time, if he is indeed the killer."

What Motivated the Murder?


Something that fascinated even Kohberger himself is why people murder. Former FBI agent and security expert Pete Yachmetz told The New York Post that he might suffer from an "incel complex," and the murders might have been "an effort to assert some type of dominance," he said. "I believe a continued stabbing of a victim indicates … an uncontrollable rage and extreme anger," he explained, citing that Kohberger has been described as "socially awkward with a long history of interpersonal problems."

Why Would He Have Returned to the Crime Scene?


Dr. Carole Lieberman, a forensic psychiatrist, agrees that he meets the incel profile. "I've been saying from the beginning that he's an incel," Lieberman told CourtTV, explaining that she was largely convinced due to Kohberger's alleged "choice of victims," targeting primarily female college students.

She also believes this would explain why he returned to the scene of the crime hours later. "Incels like to be known for when they kill people, or when they have a conquest like this," she said. "On the one hand, he wanted to commit the perfect crime and not be caught, but on the other hand, he did want to be caught, and be proud, in a sense, of what he did."

How Did He Choose His Victims?


One of the biggest questions is why the suspect would have targeted his four victims, who he has no known association with. Dr. Joni Johnston, a forensic psychologist, believes that the women could symbolize something great. "My theory is that this is an attack motivated by rage and anger, and almost a need for revenge. I don't mean necessarily that there's this kind of need for anger or revenge against these [victims] specifically … but it could be a murder-by-proxy thing," she told The U.S. Sun. 

Dr. Johnston explained: "The victims he chose may symbolize what he doesn't have and can't get – and so he's angry about that," she said. "These are young, attractive girls living in a college town … in his mind, he needs to take power, take control, and get revenge on these individuals because of who and what they symbolize."

Why Weren't the Victims Sexually Assaulted?


Another aspect of the crime that has left some questions is why he didn't sexually assault the victims, says Johnston. "That's very surprising to me," she said. "I'm trying to think of a series of murders like this, where college girls were targeted, in the dead of night, by a person who was perhaps surveilling them, and there wasn't a sexual component to it. But sexuality is such an interesting thing, and just because there were no signs of penetration or sexual assault, it doesn't mean the killer wasn't in a state of arousal during the murders."

Why Did He Leave Survivors?

Bryan Kohberger
25WPBF News

Another surprising thing? The murderer left behind survivors, including one who saw him. To Johnston, this is the "most puzzling detail" of the whole case."The only thing that makes sense to me is that he didn't see her," she says about the survivor, identified as D.M. in the affidavit.

"I guess another explanation could be that he was so exhausted and felt he had to get out of there, but other than that I can't fathom why he wouldn't have killed her as well. It's baffling to me, I can't make sense of it," she continued. "It was dark, so not seeing her is my best guess. And of course, we don't know what mental state the killer was in. So either he didn't see her or he was in a frenzy to get out."

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