Bryan Kohberger flew under the radar for most of his life. Growing up in the rural Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and attending college in the Lehigh Valley region, the 28-year-old DeSales University grad is often described as an awkward, “regular Joe” with a dead stare.
That life of flying under the radar ended for Kohberger in December, when he made national headlines after being named a suspect in the murders of four University of Idaho college students.
“I’m sure there’s statistics out there of [how] many people passed by a murderer or [how] many people know a murder. I don’t, and didn’t, until recently,” said Josh Ferraro, who attended DeSales University with Kohberger. “It’s very concerning. And it’s very eerie and creepy.”
The nation was shocked on November 13 when Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were found stabbed to death in a home near the University of Idaho campus.
Nearly seven weeks later, Kohberger was named a suspect and arrested at his parents’ home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania. He had just driven cross-country with his father to be home for the holidays.
The Law&Crime Network began a weeks-long investigation into his life before the murders, leading our team more than 2,000 miles from the mass murder scene in the mountains of Idaho to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Lurking around college campuses in the Lehigh Valley
To learn more about Kohberger’s life, Law&Crime Network teamed up with local Pennsylvania news outlet LehighValleyLive.com, to walk in his footsteps.
The Kohberger family home in Albrightsville sits safely guarded behind the gates of the Indian Mountain Lake development. The house is about 10 minutes from Mount Pleasant High School, where Kohberger graduated in 2013.
But it was about an hour south, in the Lehigh Valley, where Kohberger spent the bulk of his 20s lurking amongst thousands of college students for years.
“He would have been indistinguishable from any of the other college students, young adults, recent college graduates or graduate students going around the Lehigh Valley,” Steve Novak, a reporter for LehighValleyLive.com, told Law&Crime Network.
Kohberger spent years in the Lehigh Valley area, studying at both Northampton Community College and DeSales University in his early 20s. While studying at DeSales, Kohberger met Ferraro.
“At the time, I would have never said, ‘Oh, yeah. That guy would … do something like this. He may have been a little odd or a little off. But other than that, you’d never expect to be allegedly part of a quadruple homicide,” Ferraro said.
Down a winding, tree-lined road on the outskirts of the Lehigh Valley sits DeSales University, a private Catholic school with less than 5,000 students.
“It’s a small school. It’s not like it’s a Penn State or a Pitt or a Temple. It’s a very small school in a cornfield,” Ferraro said. “So if you go there, you know most of the people within your study, and pretty much everyone that goes to the school. And he was not known.”
As a commuter student, Kohberger came and went from DeSales’ campus during his undergraduate psychology studies. Ferraro said Kohberger kept to himself, and didn’t show any outward signs of something more menacing.
“It’s not always the creepy guy with glasses and oily hair creeping around the corner,” Ferraro explained. “It’s sometimes just that average Joe, that on the inside, you have no idea what he looks like. But on the outside, he may just seem like a normal person. Much like Bryan Kohberger did.”
In 2018, Ferraro teamed up with Kohberger for a biology project on Daphnia, or water fleas. They worked together for an entire semester.
“He was new. And I said, ‘Hey, buddy, do you want to be my lab partner?’” Ferraro recalled. “So I took him and it ended up working out very well.”
Ferraro, who received an undergraduate Criminal Justice degree from DeSales, followed news coverage of the University of Idaho murders from the beginning. It came as a surprise when his former classmate was arrested and charged. After news broke of Kohberger’s arrest, Ferraro recorded his reaction and posted the video to TikTok.
“My reaction was exactly: I know this guy. I definitely remember that name from DeSales, but I couldn’t paint the face in my mind,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Bryan Kohberger, Bryan Kohberger.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, Bryan Kohberger! I did a project with him in biology,’” Ferraro said.
The two worked together while studying for their respective undergraduate degrees. Kohberger received his undergraduate degree in psychology in 2018. After that, he began master’s degree studies in criminal justice, also at DeSales University.
Learning from renowned forensic psychologist
During that time, both Ferraro and Kohberger studied under renowned forensic psychologist and DeSales University professor Dr. Katherine Ramsland.
Law&Crime Network reached out to Ramsland for this story, but were told via email, “I’m making no statements about Bryan Kohberger and will not be interviewed for any stories that feature him.”
But months before Kohberger’s arrest, Ramsland appeared on Law&Crime Network’s podcast Coptales & Cocktails.
“Have I come face to face with psychopaths? Absolutely. The coldness, the lack of remorse. Definitely,” Ramsland said while appearing on the podcast. “Some people call that evil. But we are finding that it might very well be a brain disorder.”
In the interview, given just seven months before the University of Idaho murders, Ramsland explained the workings of a psychopath’s mind.
“The brains of what we call primary psychopaths, who seem to be born with this brain disconnect, are definitely different. It allows them to be better predators, if that’s what they choose to be. Not all psychopaths are criminals. Not all psychopaths are murderers,” Ramsland said. “If they choose that, it allows them to be very effective, better because they really don’t have any remorse over what they’re doing. And they really can be very calculated. They tend to be very reward driven.”
According to forensic psychologist Dr. John Delatorre, Kohberger can’t yet be labeled as a psychopath, or even a serial killer.
“What actually happened was that he was a mass killer,” Delatorre said. “Whoever did this should actually be considered a mass killer. But that doesn’t take away from the possibility that they are also a serial killer.”
Ferraro believes Kohberger “snapped,” saying, “I think he’s just sick. I think that people online want to make this into a fairy tale and make it grandiose and much more than it is. If he had done this, I think he’s a sick individual that finally snapped.”
But, according to Delatorre, that’s not likely.
“No one just snaps. There can be a straw that breaks the camel’s back, if we want to continue to use … idioms,” he said. “That certainly can happen. But that person has been dealing with distressing emotions for a very long time, has been unsuccessful in coping with them in a healthy way.”
What Delatorre and Ramsland separately agree on: a motive may be hard to pin down.
“[Psychopaths] have a variety of motives. But their personalities tend to have that rigidity and that inability to go with life’s hard knocks and to believe that they’re entitled to more and that they need to punish people for them not getting what they think they deserve,” Ramsland said on Coptales & Cocktails.
Ferraro has his own theory about Kohberger’s alleged motive.
“I think he had this compulsion, this need, this necessity to do it, and he’s probably always wanted to do it. And finally said, ‘F– it, I’m going to do it,’” he said.
Kohberger’s creepy shadow hovers over Lehigh Valley
At least part of Ferraro’s theory seems to be accurate: Kohberger had no run-ins with the law while in the Lehigh Valley.
“We had no indication he was here at all. We had no indication he had any interaction with law enforcement at all,” Northampton County District Attorney Terry Hauck told Law&Crime Network. After Kohberger’s arrest, Houck’s team reviewed area cold cases for a possible link to Kohberger.
“When you have somebody who might have serial attached to their name, you’re just going to make a check to see if there’s any connection since he had contact with the county,” he said. “There was none here in Northampton County.”
Similar investigations were also conducted in neighboring Lehigh County. Law&Crime Network reached out to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin, who declined to be interviewed.
According to Hauck, news of Kohberger’s arrest shocked the community.
“Obviously it’s the reaction that everybody has: It’s close to home, because then you’re watching and people are posting Facebook pics of him on campus,” Hauck said.
One such campus is Northampton Community College, or NCC, where Kohberger received an associates of arts and psychology degree in 2018.
“Northampton Community College is a beautiful school. It’s a well respected academic institution,” Hauck said. “I would call it a pillar in the community, there’s a lot of kids that go.”
Kohberger himself commuted about 50 minutes from Albrightsville to the NCC’s Bethlehem campus while studying for the degree.
“Northampton Community College is very centrally located, kind of a modern facility. And it’s established itself very well as a place to get your foot in the door in a lot of different areas. It’s a place that people do come from all over. Lots of commuters,” Novack said.
To learn more about Kohberger’s time at the school, Law&Crime Network reached out to NCC for this story. The senior director of marketing and communications, Megan Reed, replied via email, “This isn’t something we’d like to pursue at the moment, and will be in touch should anything change.”
In an area filled with college-aged students, Kohberger continued to fly under the radar.
“Even if he had a run-in in a bar. That would not have been anything unusual or even really noteworthy. Not until hindsight,” Novak said.
According to multiple reports, Kohberger frequented the Bethlehem brewery Seven Sirens while he attended college in the area. People who have been interviewed said Kohberger allegedly made multiple women uncomfortable, so much so that records of his strange interactions were kept.
Law&Crime Network reached out to the owner of Seven Sirens multiple times, but never received a response.
But to label Kohberger as a killer because of these alleged interactions could be a rush to judgment, according to Delatorre.
Kohberger studied how criminal minds work
Some theorize Kohberger’s connection to criminal justice may have played a role in the murders.
“That he was studying criminology, I think is the most interesting aspect of the entire case,” Novak said. “Without getting into whether or not he actually did it, it’s certainly a compelling angle of the case as it’s developed so far, to know that that’s where someone’s mind could be and then where it could take them.”
DeSales University boasts a robust criminal justice program, promoting “hands on training” and courses taught by renowned professors.
“[DeSales University has] an entire house, they call it the crime scene house, that is used for simulations, for crime scene investigation or collecting evidence or crime scene photography or responding to other emergencies,” Novak said.
According to court documents, Kohberger’s criminal justice studies were important enough for detectives to investigate. While executing a search warrant at Kohberger’s parents’ home, investigators recovered a criminal psychology book and DeSales University documents.
Law&Crime Network reached out to Kohberger’s entire criminal justice graduating class, but all his classmates either did not reply or declined our request for an interview. One classmate wrote via text that DeSales University, “sent a general communication that suggested everything go through the university as to be respectful of the ongoing situation.”
The associate vice president of marketing and communications, Carolyn Steigleman, told Law&Crime Network via phone that the school did not discourage students from speaking with the media. She told students she was available to assist in media requests on a case-by-case basis.
The school’s statement via email recapped Kohberger’s majors, the years he completed each program and confirmed he was always a commuter student.
“DeSales is just such a close knit and heartfelt community. Like I said, everybody knows each other. And the fact that really no one knows about this guy, he went in and out,” Ferraro said.
But it was Kohberger’s time at DeSales University, and the completion of his masters degree in criminal justice, that led him to Washington State University for the next chapter of his life pursuing more education and walking among thousands of college students.
Kohberger’s conversation topics with new neighbors: Military and murders
“Literally, like days after these murders happened, he brought it up when I saw him in the hallway,” Christian Martinez told Law&Crime Network. Martinez lives in Pullman, Washington, in the apartment complex where Kohberger lived when he first moved to the area in 2022.
“Those are the two things he said: They have no leads and they think it was a crime of passion,” Martinez said.
“He just really liked talking to me in the hall. He would talk about his studies, like forensics and stuff and criminology stuff. And at the time, you know, it just seemed like normal times,” Martinez explained.
Martinez, who lives just across the hall from Kohberger’s old apartment, says he remembers the accused killer moving to the area in summer 2022.
“I met his dad in the parking lot. He just stopped and started talking to me,” Martinez said. “His dad was wanting to introduce me to Bryan. And he said something, I don’t remember the exact word he used to describe him, but it was something that was like, ‘He has a hard time making friends,’ or, ‘He’s kind of shy,’” Martinez explained.
“He was like, ‘Oh, did you hear about these murders that happened?’ And it was like so short after they actually happened, there was barely any news articles out, so there wasn’t much that I could have read. So I was like, ‘Yeah, man, it’s crazy. Yeah, of course I’ve heard about them,” Martinez said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, it seems like they don’t have any leads … And then he’s like, ‘Yeah, it seems like they think it was a crime of passion.”
After having these conversations with Kohberger, Martinez believes he may have had a fascination with death or killing.
“It was kind of on the subject of what it would take to take someone’s life. It was kind of like he was trying to see my … perspective on, I guess, taking someone’s life,” Martinez said.
After the pair were first introduced, Martinez invited Kohberger to a pool party. At that party, Zach Cartwright met Kohberger for the first time.
“I did notice him and I noticed that he was kind of standing off the entire time. He wasn’t very social, which I thought was kind of weird, because it was a party and people were interacting. He was just kind of standoffish,” Cartwright told Law&Crime Network.
“He did seem … kind of just socially awkward and kind of hard to carry a conversation with, if I remember correctly,” Cartwright said. “But besides that, he mainly kept to the side and was really observant. So much so that, based on that one small interaction, he knew exactly who I was maybe a month or so later when I saw him on that hike.”
When they crossed paths again, Cartwright said it was strange how quickly Kohberger recognized him.
“It was really weird how he approached me and the people that I was with, because he acted kind of like we were best friends. It was like a reunion or something. And he was really excited to see us and I had no idea really who he was right at that second,” Cartwright explained.
Those two small interactions proved important enough for Cartwright to be interviewed by the FBI after Kohberger’s arrest.
“I did speak to the FBI at one point. I do believe that they spoke to a lot of people that were at that party and maybe because that was one of his very first times, if not his first time, in Moscow,” Cartwright said.
Martinez and his wife were also interviewed by the FBI after Kohberger’s arrest. He says his wife always felt something was off with the now suspected murderer.
“She didn’t have a good feeling about him, because every time I would like to tell her, “I’m going to invite Bryan,’ because he didn’t have any friends and I was trying to bring him out and maybe meet people. But she was always like, ‘No, please don’t,’” he said.
In recalling their conversations after Kohberger’s arrest, Martinez said some key points stick out.
“He was talking about genealogy, because I was talking about 23andMe, because my sister had just did all that. And then he brought up something similar in his studies that had to do with being able to catch criminals because of their relative’s DNA. Which is, I guess, how he got caught up in his mix.”
The probable cause affidavit released after Kohberger’s arrest revealed a knife sheath was left behind at the crime scene, containing a single source of male DNA. When compared with the DNA recovered from the trash at Kohberger’s parents’ house, it proved a near-perfect match. When the FBI interviewed Martinez, officials asked whether he had ever seen Kohberger with a similar weapon.
Investigators determined the knife was a “Ka-Bar” knife, with the United States Marine Corps insignia on it. That also stuck out in past conversations Martinez shared with Kohberger.
“He would talk about the military. He was interested in my military service,” he said.
When Thanksgiving approached less than two weeks after the murders, Moscow Police announced their investigation would continue through the holiday. As local, state and federal officials continued on in the early stages of the investigation, Kohberger texted Martinez on Thanksgiving, saying, “Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.”
“It kind of made me feel bad because … I was like one of the people that he made friends with … Would if it would have made a difference if I had been able to meet up with him the times that I could have? Maybe that would have changed anything,” Martinez said.
According to court documents, investigators believe the murders occurred just 11 days before Kohberger sent Martinez that Thanksgiving text, between 4:00 and 4:25 a.m. on November 13.
A white suspicious vehicle was spotted near the home at the time of the murders and multiple times after. Investigators later determined the suspicious car was a white Hyundai Elantra. Police later put out photos of an Elantra, saying it was a vehicle of interest in the murders.
Weeks later, Kohberger was behind the wheel of his white Hyundai Elantra when he was pulled over by police. Body camera video, released after Kohberger’s arrest, showed him and his father telling police they were traveling from Washington to Pennsylvania.
When a search warrant was executed at Kohberger’s parents’ home on December 30, investigators recovered multiple items from that vehicle, including hiking boots, a shovel, goggles and a wrench.
With the mountain of evidence against him, Kohberger’s former classmate and neighbor both believe he is responsible for the crime.
“I absolutely think they got their guy just because the stars kind of align,” Ferraro said. “It’s almost too good to be true, unless this guy was miraculously set up, which is like a one in a billion chance. No one cares enough about Bryan Kohberger to set him up.”
“They wouldn’t have arrested him if they didn’t have some concrete evidence,” Martinez said. “If everything they’re saying is true in these stories, I think he did it.”
After Kohberger was taken into custody, he appeared in Monroe County, Pennsylvania court on January 3. He waived his right to extradition, and was later flown to Idaho. At his first court appearance in Latah County, Idaho, Kohberger was formally read his charges and appointed a public defender.
The accused murderer is due back in court on June 26 for a preliminary hearing that’s expected to last multiple days.