- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2023

Accused killer Bryan C. Kohberger could have acted months before the butchering of four college students in Moscow, Idaho, regardless of the motive, a former FBI profiler said.

Clint Van Zandt, a former profiler, was intrigued that police said location data from Mr. Kohberger’s cellphone showed he had driven past the victims’ residence at least a dozen times from late June to the night of the killings in November.

“If he had started driving by their house six months ago, what happened six months and one day ago that caused him to do that? What happened on the night of the crime and why that night? Why not the night before or the night after?” he told The Washington Times.

Methodical killers often tie their crimes to anniversaries or historical events that mean something to them. Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, the second anniversary of the FBI’s raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

Mr. Kohberger, 28, was a Ph.D. student of criminology at Washington State University, just 8 miles from the crime scene at a small apartment complex near the University of Idaho. He was arrested on Dec. 30 and now faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary.

Authorities haven’t disclosed a possible motive or said whether Mr. Kohberger had any ties to the victims: Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin. The four were killed on Nov. 13.

SEE ALSO: Moscow police kept quiet about murder investigation to not alert suspect Bryan Kohberger

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said detectives don’t have a motive but have evidence that the attack was targeted and Mr. Kohberger is the only suspect.

Gregory Vecchi, a former FBI profiler who teaches threat assessment, said killers fall into three categories: serial killers, those who want to gain resources such as money or property, and those who want to settle a grievance.

At this point in the case, only a resource killing can be ruled out because nothing was stolen from the residence, Mr. Vecchi said, but the case doesn’t fit neatly into either of the other two categories.

“It’s very unusual for a serial killer to do this much damage on their first kill,” he said. “But without knowing if there was a relationship between the killer and the victims, it’s impossible to label it a grievance killing.”

The profilers were quick to point out the brutality of the crime scene. Grisly photos leaked to media outlets last month showed blood seeping from the walls and dripping down an exterior wall of a first-floor bedroom. Each of the victims was stabbed multiple times, police said.

“There was a lot of emotion reflected in the stabbings. It’s someone with a bad history with their victims and taking out all of their anger, frustration and rage at this particular time,” Mr. Van Zandt said.

According to court documents, Mr. Kohberger’s DNA was found on a knife sheath. The DNA excludes at least 99.9998% of the male population from being at the crime scene, according to a police affidavit.

The weapon, which police say is likely a fixed-blade knife, is missing.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Kohberger was a Ph.D. criminology student and teaching assistant at Washington State. He completed a bachelor’s degree at DeSales University in 2020 and did graduate studies until June 2022, DeSales said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania public defender who represented Mr. Kohberger for his extradition to Idaho described the suspect as “an ordinary guy” who was eager to be exonerated.

Mr. Vecchi said it is common for criminology students to become fascinated by certain crimes or even become groupies for serial killers. In some cases, killers take criminology courses to learn police methods to evade capture, he said.

If Mr. Kohberger did carry out the brutal slayings, he made a surprising number of mistakes for a student of crime. He used his own car, did not turn off location data on his smartphone, left DNA at the crime scene and frequented the crime scene before and after the attack.

“All killers have a big ego and don’t want to get caught, but there were a lot of mistakes here,” Mr. Vecchi said.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Mr. Kohberger returned to the crime scene after the killings.

The killer also left an eyewitness alive in the apartment.

One of the two roommates who survived the brutal attack told investigators that she saw a masked man leaving the house about 4 a.m., which would have been after the fatal stabbings.

According to court documents, the surviving roommate, Dylan Mortensen, told police that she opened her bedroom door three times after waking up. The third time she opened the door, she “saw a figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her.” She described the person as a man roughly 5 feet, 10 inches, or taller who was “not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows.”

Ms. Mortensen told police that the man walked past her while she stood in a “frozen shocked phase” and exited the home through a sliding glass door. She said she locked herself inside her room.

The family of Ms. Goncalves has told media that Ms. Mortensen was likely “scared to death” and insisted she is “still a victim in this case.”

It remains unclear why police weren’t notified until sometime in the afternoon, nearly eight hours after Ms. Mortensen saw the masked figure. It is also unclear what happened in the intervening hours.

Another mystery is why Ms. Mortensen and another roommate, Bethany Funke, were spared. The profilers say the killer may have targeted one of his victims but killed the others when they tried to stop him.

“We don’t know if the killer was looking to be a mass murderer or if he only planned to take out one victim and ended up with a wealth of victims,” Mr. Van Zandt said.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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