How internet sleuths posting viral, misleading Idaho murders theories are posing safety concerns

ByGary Tuchman, CNN
Saturday, January 14, 2023
Viral, misleading TikToks on Idaho killings are now posing safety concerns
Would-be internet sleuths are filling social media with theories and misinformation surrounding the University of Idaho killings.

Would-be internet sleuths are filling social media with theories and misinformation surrounding the University of Idaho student killings.

Police and prosecutors are being required to stay quiet outside the courtroom about the Idaho murder case, but on the internet, there is no such prohibition.

Most of it on TikTok, Facebook and other places is speculation and hypothesizing.

RELATED: Idaho college murders timeline

How prevalent is internet sleuthing? Consider this: this Facebook group, "University of Idaho murders-case discussion" has more than a quarter million followers and this is just one of many groups discussing and hypothesizing about this case online.

Prior to Kohberger's arrest, a user who goes by "Pappa Rodger," was a prolific contributor on the site -- with many creepy and insensitive posts -- and what turned out to be incorrect speculation, such as "the white Elantra is a red herring." However, he also declared, "of the evidence released, the murder weapon has been consistent as a fixed blade knife. This leads me to believe they found the sheath."

The fact that he got the detail correct about the sheath, despite getting so much else wrong, is one of several reasons many on social media think "Pappa Rodger" was Kohberger.

There is no indication Facebook or the police believe the "Pappa Rodger" account, who is no longer in the group, is Kohberger.

RELATED: Key takeaways from court documents in case against Bryan Kohberger and some questions that remain

Then, there is the video taken at an Idaho prayer vigil for the four murder victims prior to Kohberger's arrest, with many people hypothesizing online that the suspect attended the vigil.

But a TV crew from the newsmagazine "Inside Edition" was at the vigil, and has videotape of the man close-up. It is definitely not Kohberger and the man's face in the video has been blurred to protect his identity.

And then, there is the woman on TikTok, who calls herself "Ashley Solves Mysteries," who posted scores of videos accusing University of Idaho professor of participating in the killings -- never mind that police said the professor was never a suspect.

The TikTocker, whose real name is Ashley Guillard, posted this video about two weeks before Kohberger's arrest.

"We need to dig deeper into her personality so we can understand her beliefs and who she is so that we can further understand her motives for the murders," Guillard said in one of her videos.

RELATED: Who is Bryan Kohberger? What we know about the Idaho college murders suspect

CNN reached out to Guillard, who did not respond.

However, that professor, Rebecca Scofield, did respond. Her attorney has filed a defamation lawsuit against Guillard.

"The statements made about Professor Scofield are false, plain and simple. What's even worse is that these untrue statements create safety issues for the professor and her family. They also further compound the trauma that the families of the victims are experiencing. Professor Scofield twice sent cease and desist letters to Ms. Guillard, but Ms. Guillard has continued to make false statements, knowing they are false. Thus, this lawsuit became necessary to protect professor Scofield's safety and her reputation," her attorney Wendy Olson said.