Bryan Kohberger has surprising links to serial killers

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Bryan Kohberger has surprising links to serial killers

Accused Idaho slasher Bryan Kohberger has eerie connections to several infamous serial murderers, including the BTK Killer, the Grim Sleeper and the Golden State Killer.

Criminal Justice Ph.D student Kohberger, 28, was arrested in Pennsylvania on Dec. 30 in connection to the Nov. 13 stabbing deaths of University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20.

At the time of his arrest, Kohberger was studying at Washington State University just nine miles from the scene of the murders. However he had recently graduated from DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., where he was a star student of Dr. Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist focused on “extreme offenders.”

The author of 69 books, Ramsland made headlines when she collaborated with infamous serial killer Dennis Rader– a.k.a. the “Bind, Torture, Kill [BTK]” murderer – on “Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer.”

Bryan Kohberger, 28, was arrested on Dec. 30 in connection with the Nov. 13 murders of four University of Idaho students.
Bryan Kohberger, 28, was arrested on Dec. 30 in connection with the Nov. 13 murders of four University of Idaho students.
Monroe County Correctional Facil/AFP via Getty Images

Published in 2016, the book combs Rader’s early years and seemingly mundane adult family life in an attempt to pinpoint his evolution into a serial murderer who killed 10 people over three decades. Rader taunted police through letters and newspaper clips for several years before finally being apprehended in 2005.

Speaking to NewsNation’s Brian Entin this week, Rader’s daughter, Kerri Rawson, said she was haunted by the idea her father’s crimes might have inspired Kohberger’s alleged acts.

“It’s hard to be the kid of this guy and live with this,” she lamented. 

BTK killer Dennis Rader was arrested in 2005.
BTK killer Dennis Rader was arrested in 2005.
Getty Images

“You know? And then see somebody else go do this and wonder, did your dad influence this? Did your dad talk to him? Was he studying my father outside of academics?” 

Although investigators have remained tight-lipped about the specifics of the Moscow case, sources close to the investigation have told multiple news outlets police identified Kohberger by using “genetic genealogy” – a process where authorities identify the DNA of their suspect then run it through a public database to trace potential relatives.

The process is more exhaustive than police criminal databases, as the genealogy databases contain samples from ordinary people who have voluntarily submitted DNA for testing.

Kohberger reportedly studied under Dr. Katherine Ramsland at DeSales University.
Kohberger reportedly studied under Dr. Katherine Ramsland at DeSales University.
katherineramsland.net

Still, it is a long process according to CeCe Moore, Chief Genetic Genealogist at Parabon & Founder of DNA Detectives, who told the Daily Mail about how detectives narrow down their results.

“You’re really hoping for a second cousin, but probably in this case they were working with third, fourth and fifth cousins… he most likely has never met the people whose DNA were on the list,”

Genetic genealogy has already helped law enforcement solve other high-profile investigations. In 2010, the technique helped investigators in California identify Lonnie David Franklin Jr. as the Grim Sleeper, a serial killer who murdered Black women in Los Angeles from 1984 through 2007.

Unable to identify the killer through the DNA found on victims, police zeroed in on Franklin Jr. thanks to a genetic similarity to a DNA sample provided by his son, Christopher, who was convicted on a felony weapons charge in 2008.

Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was identified as the Grim Sleeper through DNA genealogy.
Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was identified as the Grim Sleeper through DNA genealogy.
AP

Franklin Jr. was sentenced to death on 10 counts of murder and one of attempted murder in 2016. He was found dead in his cell at San Quentin in 2020.

Two years after Franklin Jr.’s conviction, genetic genealogy enabled investigators to make another triumphant arrest, this time of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., a former police officer eventually identified as the Golden State Killer. 

In addition to committing at least 13 murders between 1974 and 1986, the Golden State Killer also terrorized California suburbs with repeated home invasions and rapes. He was known for making husbands witness their wives’ sexual assaults, and would often taunt his victims over the phone for weeks after the crime.

DeAngelo, who was 72 at the time of his arrest, accepted a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced in 2020 to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

But while genetic genealogy has helped serve justice in major cases, it is still controversial. Due to concerns about member privacy, some major companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com do not allow police to search through their databases. 

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2020.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2020.
AP

The method is also not foolproof. In 2014, police falsely accused New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry of the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge based on a genetic match to DNA found at the crime scene. Usry maintained his innocence, and further examination revealed the initial result was a false positive.

“There’s a long and documented history of the misuse of forensic evidence and criminal justice,” Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University, told PBS in 2019.

“It’s an important point to remember because DNA, too, can be misused.”

Final photo of the victims, pictured just hours before their untimely deaths.
Final photo of the victims, pictured just hours before their untimely deaths.

The nature of the DNA evidence which may link Bryan Kohberger to the Moscow crime scene has not yet been revealed. He arrived in court in Monroe County, Pa., Tuesday afternoon for an extradition hearing on his pending transport to Idaho, where he faces four counts of homicide and one count of felony burglary.

Kohberger will be extradited to Idaho as early as Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, where he has indicated he will plead not guilty to the crimes he has been charged with.

“Mr. Kohberger has been accused of very serious crimes, but the American justice system cloaks him in a veil of innocence,” Kohberger’s public defender Jason LaBar reminded the public this week.

His family have also released a statement, saying: “We have fully cooperated with law enforcement agencies in an attempt to seek the truth and promote his presumption of innocence rather than judge unknown facts and make erroneous assumptions.”

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