In high school, Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in the slaying of four University of Idaho students in Moscow, was kicked out of his law enforcement training program after a complaint was made about him stemming from an incident involving other students, according to a former administrator at the county’s technical school.
An ensuing investigation took place into the incident, which Tanya Carmella-Beers labeled “pretty serious” in an interview with “The Idaho Massacre” podcast. She declined to elaborate because of federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protections, but the investigation led to Kohberger’s removal his sophomore year from the law enforcement focus at Monroe Career & Technical Institute (MCTI) in eastern Pennsylvania, she confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday with the Idaho Statesman.
Carmella-Beers, who oversaw the technical school’s student mental health and discipline, reiterated that she could not divulge details of the incident. However, she said it was not drug- or alcohol-related, not violent in nature, nor did it involve academic integrity or cheating issues. She declined to identify the number of people involved, but said the complaint about Kohberger was not filed by a group of individuals.
The podcast reported that the complaint involved female students.
Kohberger denied the allegation against him, Carmella-Beers added.
“He was steadfast that he didn’t do it,” she told the Statesman.
Kohberger then switched to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) program at the half-day technical school for his junior year, the Statesman previously reported. There were no additional incidents or complaints filed against Kohberger that next year, Carmella-Beers said.
In February, Carmella-Beers declined to tell the Statesman about her specific interactions with Kohberger, now 28, who is charged with the murders of the four U of I students last fall. Instead, she spoke at that time about the general circumstances that could lead to students’ removal against their preference from the technical school’s law enforcement program, which had heightened requirements.
“Ultimately, what had him removed from the program, when I look back on it now, makes sense,” Carmella-Beers told the podcast in light of the murder allegations. “Not knowing what I know, then yeah, you’d be like, ‘I can’t— I’m so shocked.’ And in that respect I am, but then I know another little piece, which is the piece that occurred at the school. And so then, I’m like, ‘Oh, but see, that makes sense.’ ”
The four U of I students were stabbed to death at an off-campus home on King Road in Moscow in November. They were seniors Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, each 21; and junior Xana Kernodle and freshman Ethan Chapin, each 20.
Kohberger is featured in a photo in Pleasant Valley High School’s yearbook from his sophomore year wearing a police-like uniform and doing a pushup while still enrolled in the law enforcement program. Kohberger aimed to become an Army Ranger, the photo’s caption read, but his primary interest was law enforcement, his former friend, Thomas Arntz, told the Statesman earlier this year.
After being dropped from the law enforcement focus and a year in the HVAC program, Kohberger chose not to attend the technical school for his senior year, Carmella-Beers told the podcast. He instead completed his diploma requirements through Pleasant Valley’s online program, telling Arntz’s sister, Casey Arntz, in March 2013 that he finished high school early, the Statesman previously reported.
But Carmella-Beers recalled that pursuing law enforcement was Kohberger’s dream, she said. And he stood out as an “exceptional applicant” for the highly competitive program, she told the Statesman.
“He appeared to be the total package, and he was,” Carmella-Beers said. “Other than that incident, Bryan was a very strong student, performed well and he took his program very seriously. His uniform was immaculate every day, everything about him was perfect, so to speak — everything.”
She acknowledged in her podcast interview the impact getting kicked out of the program had on Kohberger.
“The reason that I remember his application was because of the way the guidance counselor just really played it up, how it was all he wanted,” Camella-Beers said on the podcast. “So my feeling was that he was defeated, you know, because it’s the only thing he ever wanted in life, and you have it, and now that’s falling through.”
Donna Yozwiak, Kohberger’s guidance counselor for most of high school, confirmed to the Statesman “how excited” he was for the technical school’s law enforcement focus.
“He wanted to explore that line of work as a possible career choice,” Yozwiak said by email. “Many students switch career paths. I was surprised, however, when he left MCTI in his senior year.”
School complaint leads to investigation
Warning signs emerged after Kohberger joined the law enforcement program at the county’s technical program, Carmella-Beers said in the podcast interview.
“There were some circumstances that led us to believe that maybe there were going to be some difficulties in Bryan’s life that weren’t going to … contribute to him having an easy time of it,” she said. “Just, it wasn’t going to be just ending up in the police academy kind of thing for him. It was going to be a little bit more of a challenge for him to get there.”
She described a complaint being made, a teacher bringing it to Carmella-Beers’ attention, and that leading to an investigation of the incident. Kohberger and other students were interviewed in the process, she said, and a decision was made about his future in the law enforcement program — “whether it’s the decision the student wants or not.”
“I don’t think that maybe he necessarily grasped the depth and breadth of the issue at hand,” she said on the podcast. “So I think there was frustration as to not really understanding — ‘I don’t understand what the problem is. This is not a big deal,’ or, you know, ‘This didn’t happen.’ … It was just like, ‘Seriously?’ kind of thing.”
High school also is when Kohberger began using heroin, the Arntzes and another of his former friends, Jack Baylis, previously told the Statesman in interviews. Addiction issues eventually led Kohberger to drug rehab.
In February 2014, at 19 years old, Kohberger was arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft, ABC News reported on the podcast “The King Road Killings.” Kohberger had recently returned from rehab and was living back with his family, his father told police, according to court records obtained by ABC, when he allegedly stole his older sister’s cellphone and sold it at a local mall.
Before ABC’s report, Kohberger had no known criminal record leading up to his December arrest in the student homicide investigation. Kohberger served no jail time, ABC reported, and there is no public record of Kohberger’s arrest or the result of that case.
In May 2018, Kohberger told Baylis in a Facebook message, first reported by The New York Times and since reviewed by the Statesman, that he hadn’t used drugs in two years. By that time, Kohberger was attending Northampton Community College in eastern Pennsylvania and graduated that year as a psychology major. He then transferred to DeSales University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 2020.
From 2016 to 2021, Kohberger also was employed as a weekend security officer at the Pleasant Valley School District, where his parents also worked, the Statesman previously reported. He resigned from the position in June 2021, according to district employment records obtained through a public records request.
George Curcio, a former New York City police officer who was Kohberger’s security supervisor, previously told the Statesman he didn’t remember ever receiving a complaint about Kohberger during his years working at the district.
“Yeah, he seemed a little odd, but nothing I ever picked up on, and didn’t seem like a violent person or anything like that,” Curcio said by phone in April.
When Kohberger resigned from the school district, Curcio said, Kohberger told him he planned to go back to school full time. Kohberger finished his master’s degree at DeSales in June 2022 and eventually left Pennsylvania for a Ph.D. in the criminal justice and criminology department at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, roughly 9 miles away from Moscow.
Kohberger faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary. In an alibi filing earlier this month, Kohberger’s public defender said he was out driving his car alone, as he long had a habit of doing, overnight from Nov. 12 to Nov. 13, at the time of the student slayings.