plaiceholder

It’s seriously time to stop using the Idaho murders case for TikTok clout

One uni lecturer has already sued an online detective for incorrectly linking her to the case


Students at the University of Idaho were left shaken and horrified in November when the bodies of four fellow students were found stabbed to death in a house near their campus. Six weeks later, 28-year-old criminology PhD student Bryan Christoper Kohberger, was arrested under the accusation that he’d murdered Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20, as they slept in their off-campus home. He has now been charged.

In the six weeks it took for Kohberger to be identified as the key suspect, rumours circulated – not just within the Moscow, Idaho community – but ferociously across TikTok For You Pages, too. According to reports, Ethan and Xana had been at a frat party until 1.45AM on the night of the attack. Meanwhile, Madison and Kaylee got back from the uni town’s best bar and late night food truck around the same time. Just like normal students.

But the fascination with the Idaho murders has spawned an invasiveness similar to that generated by so-called TikTok detectives after Gabby Petito went missing last September. Every armchair investigator has a different theory, gleamed mostly from Kaylee, Madison, Xana and Ethan’s Instagram accounts, which are still active.

“This is my theory of what happened that night,” says one of the top-liked videos soundtracked by eerie music. “The two survivors were on the first floor, Xana and Ethan on the second, and Madison and Kaylee on the third. I think the killer entered through the glass door on the second floor and up the stairs to where Madison and Kaylee were – they were his first victims. While all this was happening Xana and Ethan surely heard something and got up and the murderer went down the stairs to leave the house and found them.”

@withrespectt

#kayleegoncalves #idahokiller #fyp #4idahostudents #idahomurdercase #idahomurdertheory #idahostudents #idahomurdervictim #idahocase

♬ sonido original – With Respect

♬ sonido original – With Respect

Other videos go beyond logistics and start positing theories. One woman even claims in her video, now with over 11 thousand likes, that the roommates from the house who survived the homicide, Dylan Mortenson and Bethany Funke, “just don’t sit right with me” because their “body language is off”.

https://www.tiktok.com/@samanthafryy/video/7175297216880364843?_t=8YiyJNulf66&_r=1

Unfounded public accusations have gotten so out of hand that one University of Idaho professor Rebecca Scofield has already sued a TikTok psychic, Ashley Guillard, for defamation after they accused her of the murders. In videos that have been viewed millions of times, Ashley claimed Rebecca had a relationship with one of the victims and plotted the stabbing. “Rebecca Scofield is going to prison for the murder of the 4 University of Idaho Students whether you like it or not,” she wrote.

“Professor Scofield did not participate in the murders, and she had never met any of the victims, let alone entered a romantic relationship with them,” Rebecca’s attorney stated in the lawsuit. “Ashley Guillard – a purported internet sleuth – decided to use the community’s pain for her online self-promotion.”

Views and likes are what this content comes down to— and the videos happily peddle misinformation. One of the latest, by user @ambernicolebee, claims Bryan Kohberger was following Kaylee on Instagram before the attack. But people in the comments clarify this isn’t actually Kohberger: “these are ‘fake’ accounts set up after his name was released. Just some sick people adding to the trauma,” one user explained.

@ambernicolebee

#universityofidahoslayings #idahomurdervictims #idahouniversity #idaho4 #idahouniversity

♬ original sound – Amber Nicole

It’s addictive to obsess over a killing as senseless, gruesome and tragic as the Idaho murders after we’ve been fed a diet of Netflix true crime documentaries and endless podcasts. But watching these videos, seeing the comments and likes flood in, is sinister— and fabrications of social media “evidence” are certainly not helpful for the investigation or public understanding of the case.

When Bryan Kohberger was arrested, his defence Jason LaBar, said the suspect was “shocked” to be in custody. Meanwhile, Kohberger’s former classmate at Washington State told the Times that Kohberger had been “highly engaged” in criminology class during discussions about forensics, DNA and other evidence two weeks before the murders. Idaho’s chief of police has confirmed they’re unlikely to arrest anyone else.

After these developments, speculation about the Idaho murders is at best a hunt for clues and at worst a hunt for likes. This clout chasing on TikTok at the expense of traumatised friends and families of the victims, Kaylee, Madison, Xana, Ethan, should never be rewarded by the algorithm— or the users that digest it.

Featured image credit via TikTok

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Meet Ripper Jack: The ‘armcair detective from Tiger King 2 on Netflix 

TikTok discovers true crime doc used an actor’s picture instead of Jeffery Dahmer’s