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Will ‘The Kill Jar’ finally bring the Idaho murder to the Oscars stage?

When something horrifying unfolds in a small town, the shockwaves spread far and wide. But what happens when those ripples touch the heart of a seasoned investigator and author?

Reuben Appelman, known for his deep dive into the Oakland County Child Killer case, found himself inexplicably drawn to Moscow, Idaho.

The quaint college town had erupted into the global limelight after the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students—Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin. These weren’t just names to the world; they represented bright futures snuffed out in their prime.

Appelman’s heartstrings were tugged not just because of his background but because Idaho was home. He’s been a Boise resident for over twenty years, with a daughter who once roamed the halls of the University of Idaho.

From Curiosity to Commitment

The gruesome case wasn’t just another story for Appelman; it was personal. “It’s not about chasing the next big headline,” he commented. “This tragedy happened right in the heart of a community I love.” His emotional connection to the place led him to spend six months meticulously researching and crafting “While Idaho Slept: The Hunt for Answers in the Murders of Four Idaho Students,” set to hit shelves on October 3.

But as Appelman was penning down his proposal, news broke that an arrest had been made miles away in Pennsylvania. Bryan Kohberger, a former criminology grad student from Washington State University, found himself facing four murder charges.

Beyond the Headlines

Appelman’s narrative uniquely steers clear of the gory details. Instead, he dedicates page after page to illuminating who Goncalves, Mogen, Kernodle, and Chapin were. “Their lives meant so much more than their final moments,” Appelman shared. His objective? To ensure that the victims and their vibrant lives take center stage, not just the grim end they met.

It’s clear he poured heart and soul into the project. Approaching grieving families was, understandably, the toughest part. “It’s still so fresh for them,” he reflected, emphasizing his aim to strike a delicate balance between respecting their pain and sharing their loved ones’ stories.

A Story for All

“While Idaho Slept” promises to cater to both those unfamiliar with the tragedy and the dedicated online community that tracked every twist and turn. True crime enthusiasts might find themselves nodding at some revelations, but Appelman’s perspective ensures fresh insights for even the most well-versed.

The overarching question of Kohberger’s guilt looms large, but Appelman chooses not to speculate. “It’s not my place,” he insists. Instead, he paints a picture of a young man who’s had challenges since his younger days.

Kohberger’s recent court appearance only thickened the plot. Although he remained silent, letting the judge take the lead, his defense, Anne Taylor, hinted at a deep desire for exoneration. With Kohberger potentially facing life imprisonment or even the death penalty, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Connecting the Dots

The countdown to the trial has begun. As October 2 draws closer, the world watches with bated breath. But as Appelman’s book reminds us, while seeking justice is paramount, remembering the vibrant lives lost is equally essential. 

After all, isn’t that the crux of any true crime tale – understanding the souls behind the headlines? And as readers flip through the pages of “While Idaho Slept,” they might just find themselves asking: How well do we truly know our neighbors?

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