The Idaho murders: A TikTok phenomenon

University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has been a space where users can share, laugh, and create together. From the latest celebrity breakup to a life saving makeup hack, TikTok has been a real game changer in the social media frenzy of the 21st century.

Over the past two months TikTok has developed a new obsession: The Idaho murders.

TikTok users took an immediate interest in this story. There are now hundreds of videos on the platform giving regular updates on the case and even some with audio footage and a full breakdown of the case’s affidavit.

In case you’re not aware of this case, let me briefly recap you.  On November 13, 2022, four Idaho university students Kaylee Goncalves (21), Madison Mogen (21), Xana Kernodle (20), and Ethan Chapin (20), were murdered in their off-campus student residence in the small town of Moscow, Idaho.

What makes this case particularly odd is that the victims roommates, Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke, were both left unharmed in the attack.

According to the cases affidavit, Mortensen reports opening her door and coming face to face with the alleged killer. She reported he was around “5’10” and of an “athletic build” with “bushy eyebrows”. Something else that sparks suspicion in this quadruple homicide is that the police were not called to the scene until nearly 12 o’clock the following afternoon, when the murders reportedly occurred between 4.00am and 4.30am that morning.

The man accused of these murders is 28 year-old Bryan Kohberger. Kohberger has a BA in Psychology and Criminal Justice and is currently studying for a PhD in Criminology. The accused was linked to the case by his car, which was caught on CCTV in the surrounding areas, and also by his cellular data.

Currently there is no clear link between Kohberger and the victims, and no motive for the murders has been confirmed. A gag order has been put in place which prohibits anyone involved in the case from releasing any information to media outlets. Kohberger is due in court again on June 26. He faces four counts of first degree murder.

TikTok’s response to these murders is not really surprising, as most high profile cases seem to make headlines on the social media app these days. Another example of this is the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp defamation case, which also sparked a tidal wave of TikToks intricately analysing the case.

One TikTok creator may have taken it a step too far this time however. Ashley Guillard who calls herself the “internet sleuth” went as far as to link Rebecca Scofield, a professor at the Idaho University, to the murders. The page which is called ‘Ashley Solves Mysteries’ has a host of videos which contain baseless facts linking the professor to the case. The video has been viewed over a million times. The Professor was forced to hire a lawyer to defend herself against these claims.

It’s not just Scofield who has been effected – the two surviving roommates of the attack have not escaped these baseless accusations by these so called “internet sleuths”.

Before the arrest of Kohbereger, there was no suspect or murder weapon, so TikToker’s made up their own theories as to who committed the heinous crime.

Is this a sign that TikTok has crossed a line by interfering with police investigations? Are these true-crime loving TikToker’s taking it to far by ruining peoples reputation for the sake of becoming TikTok famous?

Let’s hope these TikTok investigators don’t go far enough as to derail this case.



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