Did internet sleuths help Idaho murder mystery?


Siara Santos

TikTok users are taking to the platform to investigate crimes, but is it helpful?

Siara Santos, The Delphi Staff

The murder of the four college students at the University of Idaho has been talked about globally by many users of all types of social media apps.

Social media users have been inspired to try to solve the murder along with the Moscow police department and the parents of the victims.

“I first heard about it [the murders] from TikTok,” said sophomore Sarah Behm.

TikTok is the world’s largest social media app, with one billion active users. TikTok was originally designed to bring creativity to others, but many people use the app to not only share creativity but to also share news, opinions, interests and similarities between different users.

TikTok users were captivated by the mysterious, ongoing investigation of the Idaho murder case, which occurred in an off-campus home shared by five college students: Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, Bethany Funke, and Dylan Mortensen. Ethan Chapin, Kernodle’s boyfriend, didn’t live in the house but frequently visited due to his girlfriend living there.

This off-campus house was a party house for most students at the university, and each of the residents in this house were a part of a sorority house. This led to the house and the residents in the house to be well known at the university.

Why are TikTok users so fascinated with this case? Posts have been going on since the day of the horrendous event, Nov. 13, with a possible primary suspect finally being found on Dec. 30. This is a questionable and mysterious case that has many loose ends, and TikTok users crave to get to the bottom of it.

Once I heard about the case, I thought it was upsetting,” said sophomore Gwen Dreessen. “But I know as soon as I heard about it, I got very involved in the case and researched everything on it.”

Other members of the Del Val community are hoping for justice to be served.

“This case is very sad and devastating for friends and family,” said ASL teacher Kara Trunk. “I’m interested to learn what the motive was in this case. I hope the families get justice and the suspect faces the maximum sentence.”

The primary suspect, Brian Kohberger, majored in psychology and criminal justice at DeSales University until he earned his PhD and continued his studies at Washington State University. Although he is being held accountable, he hasn’t been found guilty and is waiting for his hearing on June 26.

The loose ends that still have followers confused include that the police confirmed there was no forced entry or property damage, Chapin and Kernodle both had defensive wounds and there were no targets, yet Steve Goncalves stated Kaylee Goncalves’ wounds were much more brutal than the others’.

With the world grasping at this investigation for months, there have been many hashtags trending on TikTok that include each of the TikTok communities’ speculations. These hashtags include #idahomurders, which has 402.6 million views, #idahomurder with 115.6 million views and  #idahomurdervictims with 187.1 million views. 

People love solving a mystery. Prior to finding a possible suspect, there were recurring comments and rumors on this case, most of them in the videos of these hashtags. 

“Everyone’s all over the place with this,” commented user_w1246 on TikTok. “The waters been muddied so much now I can’t keep up.”

Based on Gabby Petito’s case, it was the internet’s doing that helped give a lead, which helped in solving her murder. But there are negatives to having the internet “participating” in an ongoing investigation. 

If the killer isn’t one of the people being highly accused, it would be hurtful to these people who lost their loved one. Currently, the three TikTok “suspects” have now gone private on all their socials due to trolls on comments.

Another negative impact is the amount of tips the police received. It doesn’t help the investigation when there are so many tips to go through, especially when most tips are repetitive. 

Social media users are also hardly keeping the families of the victims in mind; many people have most of the popular social media platforms. Clearly, the victims’ families have seen these posts and rumors that have been circulating the internet, which reminds them of the horrifying night they found out they lost the people they once shared so many memories with.

This case has also grown popular because of the fact this is Idaho’s first gruesome event in over seven years. This leaves the case with people from TikTok, TV broadcasters and the entire world quickly taking notice of this story and trying to get involved in it regardless of the families privacy or respect.

Currently there are podcasts that talk about the gruesome event. True crime documentaries like 20/20, 48 Hours, and Dateline throughly explain and act out the horrifying event that took place. Hulu is also currently in the process of making a film titled “Horror in Idaho: The Student Murders.”

Overall, the popularity that grew from this case grew unanimously and unexpectedly. However, this popularity does not help the investigation nor does it help the families situation through their grief. We all just want peace to be brought to these families as well as justice to be served to the monster that committed this horrific crime.