'Full of rage': What the method of murder may tell us about the University of Idaho butcher

'When you are stabbing someone, it's close and in your face. The experience is more visceral and more graphic,' a forensic psychologist said

'Full of rage': What the method of murder may tell us about the University of Idaho butcher
The victims were stabbed multiple times between 3 and 4 am on Sunday, November 13 (Instagram/Autumn Goncalves, Xana Kernodle)
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MOSCOW, IDAHO: The savage murders of four University of Idaho students in their off-campus home has left the close-knit town of Moscow traumatized. Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Kaylee Goncalves were found dead at a house near the University of Idaho campus on Sunday, mere hours after posting smiling and happy photographs on Instagram.

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While the culprit is still at large, investigators have been close-lipped about the massacre. The authorities only revealed that the four students were sleeping when they were stabbed multiple times between 3 and 4 am on Sunday, November 13. At least one of the victims had defensive wounds on her hands. Reportedly, investigators are looking for a Rambo-style knife in connection to the grisly slayings.

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One of the questions investigators have to consider is what made the murderer choose a knife over a gun. Apparently, murders by strangulation tend to be more personal as they involve close physical contact with the victim. "Anytime somebody commits a murder or assault, either by choking, stabbing or making bodily contact, it always speaks to a level of rage and perhaps a personal connection to the victim that shooting with a gun does not," Naftali Berrill, a forensic psychologist in New York City, told Seeker.

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4 University of Idaho students- Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, & Kaylee Goncalves, 21- were brutally murdered. (@xanakernodle and @kayleegoncalves/Instagram and Screenshot Good Morning America)
4 University of Idaho students - Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, & Kaylee Goncalves, 21 - were brutally murdered.(@xanakernodle and @kayleegoncalves/Instagram and Screenshot Good Morning America)

"When you are stabbing someone, it's close and in your face. The experience is more visceral and more graphic, more provocative. It speaks emotionality, whether rage or paranoia." Berrill added.

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Backing Berrill’s claim, Eric Beauregard, PhD, a professor at the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, told A&E True Crime that some killers prefer strangulation with the option of keeping their victims alive a bit longer. “The majority [of these types of murderers] enjoy the personal contact and the fact that they’re the one causing death,” Beauregard said. “It’s bringing them a feeling of power and control.”

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“I’ve interviewed offenders that were using strangulation to make the victim pass out, not necessarily to kill her right away,” says Beauregard. “In cases of several homicides, you have offenders that will present a sadistic approach to their killings. For them, it’s not just a matter of causing death; it’s the process that’s important.”

Mad Greek pays tribute to Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle killed in Idaho university attack (Mad Greek/Gacebook)
Mad Greek paid tribute to Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle, who were killed in the University of Idaho attack (Mad Greek/Facebook)

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Other psychologists say that little research has been done on the differences between murders that involve knives versus guns, or the criminals who resort to each method. "People are going to be looking at what's available at the moment. If someone had a choice between a semiautomatic weapon and a butcher knife. I'd like to ask them why did you choose that. I would get a personal response related to the situation rather than something that describes the attitude of the perpetrator," Kimberly Gorgens, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver and a neuropsychologist in private practice, said.

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Another aspect that could factor into a killer's choice of weapon is the laws governing the state. Stabbing is the preferred method of murder in countries where strict gun laws exist, prompting some governments to ramp up anti-knife campaigns.

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