Reports that the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students repeatedly messaged one of the victims indicated he “honed in” on them and made them his target, a former CIA officer has said.

Bryan Kohberger, 28, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary in connection with the stabbing deaths in Moscow, Idaho. Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20 and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found dead in a rental home near the University of Idaho campus on November 13.

In late December, police arrested Kohberger at his parents’ home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania.

Kohberger, a Ph.D. student of criminology at Washington State University, has not yet entered a plea, but an attorney who represented him in Pennsylvania earlier said he was “eager to be exonerated” of the charges.

Bryan Kohberger, left, sits with his attorney
Bryan Kohberger, left, sits with his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor, right, during a hearing in Latah County District Court in Moscow, Idaho on January 5, 2023. Reports that Kohberger repeatedly messaged one of four murdered University of Idaho students indicated he “honed in” on them and made them his target, a former CIA officer has said.
Ted S. Warren/Pool-Getty Images

On January 17, People magazine reported that Kohberger’s now-deleted Instagram account had followed Goncalves, Mogen and Kernodle.

According to the magazine, he allegedly sent a series of messages to one of the women on Instagram but never received any response.

Citing an investigator familiar with the case, the magazine reported that the account that authorities believe belonged to Kohberger sent a greeting to the woman in late October. When there was no response, Kohberger allegedly sent several more messages.

“Basically, it was just him saying, ‘Hey, how are you?’ But he did it again and again,” the source said.

Tracy Walder, a former CIA officer, said it “falls in line” with the theory that Kohberger may have targeted one victim in particular.

“Him following them, I think it could really explain the fact that he did run into them at that Mad Greek restaurant,” Walder said on NewsNation.

People also reported that Kohberger allegedly ate at the Mad Greek restaurant where Mogen and Kernodle worked as servers, citing a former employee.

“It wouldn’t have surprised me. Obviously we know Xana and Maddie worked there, but Kaylee could have been there at the same time. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he followed them,” said Walter. “But him messaging one of them in particular tells me that he had really honed in on one of those those victims and decided to make them his target.”

The Mad Greek’s owner has denied the report that a former employee had spoken to the press, writing in a post on Facebook: “This will be my only response to this story from People… It is not true.

The owner added: “I also have not forbidden employees from speaking to reporters. We all decided collectively to support the families and not share anything that could potentially harm the investigation or cause the families more stress.”

Walder said the owner may be denying the report because of a gag order issued in Kohberger’s case.

“I think the biggest reason that the owner is denying it is really because of the gag order,” she said. “They do not want to have penalties for someone having violated that gag order and they don’t want to be responsible for anything that really impedes the prosecution of the case.”

Early in January, Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall issued an order barring attorneys, law enforcement agencies and others associated with the case from talking about it.

On Thursday, she broadened it to also prohibit any attorneys representing survivors, witnesses or the victims’ family members from talking or writing about the case.

A five-day preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin June 26.

newsweek