Bryan Kohberger's Disturbing Serial Killer Ties Explained

After the arrest of Bryan Kohberger in Pennsylvania in connection with the stabbing murders of four University of Idaho college students, disturbing details emerged about the 28-year-old suspect's personal interests and past behavior, according to The New York Times. In November 2022, four University of Idaho students were killed in their off-campus home while they slept. In the aftermath, and with few leads and not much to go on, authorities gave little detail about the nature of their investigation. Meanwhile, the unsolved case gripped the nation, and the crimes haunted the small college town of Moscow in rural northwestern Idaho, where the U of I campus is located (per The New York Times).

Based on a lead using a commercial genealogical service that matched DNA samples found at the crime scene with Kohberger's relatives, as well as confirmation that Kohberger's car — a white Hyundai Elantra — was spotted in the area on the night the coeds died, a warrant was issued for Kohberger's arrest, and the suspect was tracked to his family home in Pennsylvania, as CNN reports. With a suspect in the quadruple stabbing finally in custody, intimate aspects about Kohberger soon came to light, as The Washington Post explains. Those included an alleged connection to an infamous serial killer, who, as of this writing, is sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms in prison (via Britannica).

Kohberger studied criminal science at Washington State University

As The New York Times notes, Bryan Kohberger wasn't a resident of Moscow, Idaho, nor was he a student at U of I. Instead, he lived and was enrolled in a doctorate program in criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University. WSU is in Pullman, Washington, just across the state line. Beyond academics, Kohberger was described by those close to him as a loner and difficult to get along with. He also had a history of substance use issues, according to The New York Times. Speaking with the outlet, a one-time Kohberger friend, Thomas Arntz, said, "Over time it just got so, so bad that I just shut down when I was around him."

Prior to moving to Pullman, Kohberger finished a master's degree in criminal science from DeSales University in Pennsylvania. While there, Kohberger studied under renowned forensic psychologist and author Dr. Katherine Ramsland, an expert on serial killers and mass murder, according to NewsNation. In her career, Ramsland — who in 2016 wrote "Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer" — also  interacted with Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK Killer for his method of murdering his victims: "bind, torture, kill." As of this report, Rader is sentenced to life behind bars for the murder 10 people in the Wichita, Kansas area over a 30-year period (per Britannica).

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He might have studied the BTK Killer closely

As Britannica goes on to note, Dennis Rader often wrote taunting letters to the authorities about the crimes he committed and referred to himself as the BTK Killer. Of the possibility that Bryan Kohberger may have been inspired by or even in contact with her father while studying under Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Rader's daughter, Kerri Rawson, told NewsNation, "It's hard to be the kid of this guy and live with this. ... And then see somebody else go do this and wonder did your dad influence this?"

Speaking with NewsNation, Rawson went on to add that she wondered, "Did your dad talk to him? Was he studying my father outside of academics? Am I ever going to get answers to that, I don't know." In an unsettling coincidence, Rader also studied criminal justice in the midst of his own murder spree. Speaking with Fox News, Rawson said, "It's really common for criminology students in general to write my father. ... Ramsland would know, but she's not talking." Rawson also added the knowledge that Kohberger and Rader might have had contact through Ramsland made her "stomach turn."

Few other details are known about Kohberger

As of this writing, much about Bryan Kohberger is uncertain. Given his academic career with Dr. Katherine Ramsland at DeSales University, it's likely that Kohberger was well-informed about the crimes of the BTK Killer. Still, Kerri Rawson could not confirm that Kohberger had corresponded with her father, though she could not rule it out. In a tweet after Kohberger's arrest was announced, Rawson wrote, "I have ongoing concerns, knowing how common it is for criminology students, true crime fans, and others to correspond regularly with my father." 

In early January 2023, Kohberger agreed to be extradited to Idaho from Pennsylvania to face four counts of first-degree murder charges and one charge of burglary relating to the U of I murder spree. Per Fox News, Kohberger's defense attorney says the accused believes he will be exonerated. As of this writing, Kohberger's connection to the U of I stabbing victims and his motive to commit the crimes are unknown.