The murder of four University of Idaho students, in the early hours of November 13 2022, was likely a “thrill kill” according to a leading forensic psychiatrist.
Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were all stabbed to death when an intruder broke into a shared student house in the town of Moscow, Idaho.
Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminology Ph.D. student, was arrested on December 30, and has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder along with burglary. Kohberger’s legal team have indicated he will plead not guilty and will seek to clear his name.
Speaking to Newsweek Ian Lamoureux, a forensic psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, said initial evidence suggests the murders could have been a “thrill kill.”
He said: “I have not seen sufficient information to establish a motive at this stage. Currently, this appears to be a ‘thrill kill.’ The thrill could be emotional excitement or sexual. It could also be the thrill of executing the ‘perfect murder.'”
Lamoureux, who emphasized that Kohberger has yet to be convicted of any crime, continued: “It seems as though there is some speculation, given his background in criminal studies, that this could be the motive—the thrill of outsmarting the authorities.
“The adrenaline rush and excitement of the killings is the end goal. His online encounters with the victims, if guilty and accurate, could represent stalking/hunting behavior that killers of this category exhibit as a way of stoking excitement in anticipation of the murders—’the thrill of the hunt.'”
According to the psychiatrist the murderer likely took sadistic pleasure in the suffering inflicted on their victims.
He explained: “Creating fear, terror, and/or pain in their victims will increase the intensity of the pleasure derived from their acts. The intensely personal and unusually violent nature of the murders (a large, fixed blade, such as a Ka-Bar military knife) supports this. This process of hunting/stalking their victims, culminating in violent homicide(s) is intensely pleasurable to these individuals, analogous to the rush of narcotic drugs.”
Lamoureux emphasized that his comments were “speculative” as “information regarding the defendant is extremely limited at this time.”
He added: “The authorities have been uncharacteristically non-forthcoming with information, which suggests that they are very concerned about protecting the integrity of the investigation itself and the subsequent prosecution.”
Police have yet to recover the murder weapon used to kill the four students, though they did recover a knife sheath at the crime scene.
Cara Kernodle, the mother of Xana, has indicated she does not want Kohberger to face the death penalty if convicted.
Speaking to NewsNation she said: “I want to see him pay for what he’s done. I’m not interested in a death penalty; that’s not who I am, I don’t believe in that, but I do believe he should spend the rest of his days in prison.”
The City of Moscow Police Department has been contacted for comment.