(NewsNation) — New information is raising questions regarding whether Bryan Kohberger, suspect in the November killings of four Idaho college students, had communicated with imprisoned serial killers.
Kohberger previously studied under a serial killer expert connected to “BTK Killer” Dennis Rader. Forensic expert and former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole said he may have also paid attention to past serial killers’ crimes.
NewsNation spoke with O’Toole about what this new information might tells us about the suspect. This conversation is edited for length and clarity.
NewsNation: The daughter of the serial killer known as “BTK,” Dennis Rader, said she’s fearing that Kohberger may have been in contact with her father. If that turns out to be true, how does that change this investigation?
O’Toole: It’s too early to say. But it would reinforce that this person had an interest in serial killers. If he did reach out to BTK, it’s very likely that he reached out to other infamous serial killers or serious, high-profile offenders.
Criminology psychology students and forensic science students — it is not unusual to want to go to a prison and talk to one of these people or communicate by letter, because they want to hear what they have to say, how they committed the crime, the planning that went into it.
NewsNation: We know investigators are still working to try to determine a motive. How much do you think Kohberger studies his apparent fascination with serial killers? How will that play into determining a motive?
O’Toole: There could be multiple motives in a case like this. Right now, he’s a suspect; he’s not been found guilty.
But there may be two faces here: Someone that is academically very well educated and prepared those questions in a survey, (and) then the personal violent ideation that would have preceded the academic pursuit as a Ph.D. student.
NewsNation: Why do you think there are so many examples of murderers — or alleged murderers in this case — who also had a fascination or studied criminology?
O’Toole: We know from past experience how much planning can go into these crimes based on the study that serial killers or mass murderers do of other cases. They’re interested in how it was done, why it was done, how did they prepare?
But, in a small number of cases, there are people that follow those crimes so that they can do it better; they can do it the same way; they can learn by their mistakes.