Is Bryan Kohberger a serial killer?

There is the impulse to compare suspected murderer Bryan Kohberger to reputed 1970s serial killer Ted Bundy.  As facts bear out, we may find that the murder of four colleges students at the University of Idaho is the work of a serial killer.  But based on what we know so far, Kohberger is no Ted Bundy. 

The comparison arose because Bundy had targeted a sorority house during his history of killing, and Kohberger is suspected of targeting an off-campus house of beautiful blonde girls.  But that's where the similarity ends.

Kohberger is no Ted Bundy

Bundy was handsome and charming and narcissistic.  He was a broad-smiling manipulator and often employed a ruse, faking an injury and asking a woman alone for help.  His tactic was to lure in and isolate his victims and appear disarming before attacking them. 

By contrast, Kohberger is far from charming.  He resounds as awkward — especially with women — and comes across as abrasive and arrogant.  Women appear to pick up on his disjointed manner and are quick to rebuff his gawky social advances.  He has no allure to draw in women, so he is left to skulk from the periphery.

Gawking and Stalking

As the chief suspect in these murders, motives within Kohberger to kill start to emerge.  A persistent inability to fit in — and, more significantly, to connect meaningfully with women he is attracted to — is a constant in his life. 

Already, classmates from his past and happenstance interactions have yielded stories with these common roots.  He endured bullying taunts growing up and was often rebuffed by women through high school and college.  And when he managed to connect through a dating app, Kohberger fumble so awkwardly that his date fled to the bathroom, faking nausea to get him to leave.

All of this — in summation — has left him as a voyeur, left along the edges of everyone else's exchange of adoration.  The continual off-put and stiff-arm left him far from what he desired.  It pairs well with the stalking outside the victims' off-campus house, which his cellphone data had circled and returned to.

Power as Motive

With this history and demeanor, a motive forms as a warped projection of power over what Kohberger is incapable of having but wants most.  It's a twisted outlook that ordinary rejection wouldn't activate.  These murders required targeting, stalking, planning, and the completion of up-close and unspeakable violence.  This was the running out of a long, slow-burn fuse.  

Possible Serial Killing

The way this crime unfolded, as a quadruple-murder, has left experts and the media to consider if the killer has killed before.  This murder scene would have been too ambitious and complex for a first-time killer to have planned.   As is common to serial killers, most are known to start small and escalate more violently — first, usually, with the torture and killing of small animals.  Stalking might be next.  They create a method of killing and disposal — and then perfect it with the next one.

But the murder scene in Idaho was sloppy.  The knife sheath left behind held DNA that investigators linked back to Kohberger.  And cell phone signals from Kohberger's phone pinged around the victims' house before and after the murders.  The killer even came face-to-face with another housemate in the hallway without pursuing or harming her.  This isn't the tradecraft of perfected killing.

Details yet to emerge may speak to a history of escalating behavior.  For now, that's absent.  Evidence and motive point to Kohberger, but these murders are likely to be the first.

Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist and investigative journalist.  He previously served as a police officer and as a DEA special agent.  He is editor-in-chief of Prattlon Digital Media, and his essays appear in American Thinker, Great Pacific Review, Buzzard Digital, and elsewhere.  For more information about Jason, visit his webpage at

Image via Public Domain Pictures.

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