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Suspect in Idaho killings had made ‘creepy’ comments to brewery staff, customers, owner says

For people who met the suspect in passing, knowing now that he has been accused in the Idaho murders has left them uneasy.
/ Source: NBC News

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho students last month had been known to some employees at a Pennsylvania brewery to make “creepy” and inappropriate comments, the business owner said.

Since Bryan Christopher Kohberger’s arrest Friday in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, some who knew or had exchanges with the 28-year-old are now reflecting on those interactions in light of his arrest on a murder warrant in the Nov. 13 deaths of the students in Moscow, Idaho.

Jordan Serulneck, 34, the owner of Seven Sirens Brewing Company in Bethlehem, said Kohberger had gone by himself to the brewery a few times and would sit at the bar.

The exchanges at the brewery happened months ago, possibly when the suspect was a student at DeSales University in Center Valley, less than 6 miles south of Bethlehem, Serulneck said. Kohberger received his bachelor’s from DeSales in 2020 and completed graduate studies there in June 2022, according to the university.

The brewery sometimes had “unusual characters,” which was not out of the ordinary, Serulneck said, but he remembered Kohberger from some interactions he had with female patrons and staff.

Serulneck said Kohberger didn’t do anything in front of him or management, but he said he would make comments under his breath or if only one person was working at the bar.

In the bar’s system, staff had added notes that would pop up when his ID was scanned, Serulneck said.

“Staff put in there, ‘Hey, this guy makes creepy comments, keep an eye on him. He’ll have two or three beers and then just get a little too comfortable,’” he said.

Serulneck said Kohberger would ask the female staff or customers who they were at the brewery with, where they lived and what their work schedule was. He said if the women blew him off, “he would get upset with them a little bit,” noting that one time he called one of his staff members a disparaging term when she refused to answer his questions.

Kohberger had not returned to the brewery since Serulneck approached him months ago about the complaints from his staff, the owner said.

“I went up to him and I said, ‘Hey Bryan, welcome back. We appreciate you coming back. … I just wanted to talk to you real quick and make sure that you’re going to be respectful this time and we’re not going to have any issues,’” he said. “And he was completely taken aback. He was shocked that I was saying that, and he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. You totally have me confused.’”

Kohberger had one beer and left, he said.

‘I’m still worried about this’

For people who met the suspect in passing, knowing now that he has been accused in the Idaho killings has left them uneasy.

Following a snowstorm in early December, Kohberger needed help removing snow from his car window, said neighbor Angela He, 35, who lives directly below the suspect in a student housing complex in Pullman, Washington, less than 10 miles from Moscow.

“My husband came outside and saw that he needed help,” she said, adding another neighbor ended up assisting Kohberger.

The mother of two said she recognized Kohberger when she saw him in media reports Friday, and that the fear of residing near an alleged killer has weighed on her.

“We still feel like it’s not so safe to live here,” He said Saturday. “I don’t want to go out. I’m still worried about this.”

BK Norton, a Washington State University student who took four courses with Kohberger, a doctoral student there, said he continued to attend classes through the end of the semester.

“When discussed in class, Bryan did not mention or contribute to the conversation of the murders,” Norton said by email. “We were released from class early after the murders to get home when it was still light out, and Bryan was in those classes with us.”

Austin Morrison, a 22-year-old criminal justice major at Washington State, said Kohberger was his teaching assistant in his criminal procedure class this last semester, grading his papers and giving feedback on the proper way to write case briefings.

“He was rather quiet, didn’t talk a lot and sat off to the side,” Morrison said Saturday.

But Morrison cautioned to let the judicial system play out before passing judgment on Kohberger.

“Being a criminal justice major, I am in the mindset that he’s innocent until proven guilty,” Morrison said. “That’s my stance on it.”

Suspect ‘shocked’ by arrest, public defender says

Jason A. LaBar, the chief public defender of Monroe County, said in an interview Saturday that Kohberger is “eager to be exonerated.”

LaBar, who is representing the suspect in the extradition but not the murder case, said he spoke with his client for about an hour Friday following his arrest. “He was very aware, but calm, and really shocked by his arrest,” LaBar said.

He said Kohberger intends to waive his Tuesday extradition hearing to be moved to Idaho, where authorities have said he’ll be charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.

Minyvonne Burke reported from Bethlehem and Deon J. Hampton from Pullman, Washington.

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