Classmates: Normally Chatty Kohberger ‘Completely Silent’ on Idaho Student Murders

Ted S. Warren/Getty Images
Ted S. Warren/Getty Images

Ordinarily confident in the classroom, Bryan Kohberger seemed to have no problem sharing his opinion as he and his graduate school peers discussed the ins and outs of the criminal mind. No problem, that is, except when one particular grisly topic was brought up: the recent slayings of four undergraduates at a school just a few miles away.

Then, Kohberger fell “completely silent,” one master’s student told the Idaho Statesman.

Kohberger, 28, was pursuing a PhD in criminology at Washington State University. A passionate student fascinated by his studies, he navigated academic spaces with ease, unafraid of challenging his classmates as they discussed cases, courts, and convictions.

“He sat front and center, and was not hiding or tucking back in the back,” Ben Roberts, a WSU graduate student in criminal justice studies, recalled to the Statesman. “He was right there in the middle of it.”

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Which is why Kohberger’s taciturnity the day that the Moscow homicides came up in class stood out in retrospect to Roberts and the unnamed master’s student. Arrested late last month after a seven-week investigation, Kohberger now faces four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20.

“I’m shocked,” the master’s student said. “I can’t believe this person was around me after they allegedly committed such a horrible crime.”

Kohberger seemed to enjoy socializing with his colleagues, too, making an impression as a “gregarious and outgoing” guy at the program’s orientation. “He was making the rounds,” Roberts said. “He definitely seemed a little more eager than some of the others that were present to go around and introduce himself.”

Roberts and Kohberger swapped some small talk outside of classes during the semester, chatting about music and sports. The only thing that gave Roberts pause, he said, was the way his classmate would sometimes bulldoze over other students—especially women—in their seminars.

“It’s hard to see a pattern emerging while you’re in the classroom, but he would tend to push back when a female was talking, more than a male talking,” Roberts said. “He was more keen on asking probing questions and things like that.”

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The master’s student said that Kohberger “talked down” to women, as well as LGBTQ+ and disabled people. Once, according to them, Kohberger announced that he believed in “traditional” marriages.

Just a few years earlier, Kohberger had been studying criminal justice at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where he came across as quiet but smart, a graduate student who shared classes with him there told The New York Times earlier this month. At DeSales, Kohberger studied in part under Katherine Ramsland, the author of dozens of books on forensic psychology, including one penned in collaboration with Dennis Rader, the serial killer known as BTK.

Kohberger’s peers at WSU knew little about his time with Ramsland, though, or what the 28-year-old planned to do after graduation. Ramsland has not commented on the case beyond confirming Kohberger was a former student of hers to a local outlet in Pennsylvania.

After agreeing to waive extradition, Kohberger made his first court appearance in Idaho on Tuesday. He was not asked to submit a plea, but his public defender, Jason LaBar, has indicated that Kohberger plans to plead not guilty to the murder and burglary charges he faces.

“He looks forward to being exonerated, is what he said,” LaBar explained earlier this month.

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