A group of true crime sleuths on TikTok sift through clues, explore leads, and try to unravel the brutal murders of four students at the University of Idaho. The case has gripped public attention since they were found stabbed and slashed to death in a blood-soaked off-campus house on November 13th, 2022. Struggling to solve its first homicide case in nearly a decade, the small-town police department of Moscow, Idaho has shared very few details of its investigation as media from around the world packed its press conferences. It created an information vacuum that the TikTok sleuths are only too happy to fill, serving up a stew of fact and rumor to a curious and even ravenous public. Not obliged to act as official investigators accruing evidence for a criminal prosecution, these amateur detectives do digital deep dives seeking out unfound video and audio, point fingers at potential suspects, and speculate about inconsistencies the police won’t or can’t discuss. They visit the crime scene, interview victims' families, and dig up potential witnesses.
And as weeks pass without a suspect, the TikTok community explodes with theories. Everyone has their own. Was it a roommate? Was it a jealous ex-boyfriend? Was it a stranger? Was there more than one killer? And if it wasn’t a crime of passion, can the frenzy of stab wounds be explained?
Some of these TikTok sleuths have millions of followers. The Idaho killer may be one of them. As the speculation goes into overdrive and potential suspects are rumored and then discarded, innocent lives are upended. No matter, for many, TikTokers are a trusted news source. Do the TikTokkers do more harm than good? Either way, they are here to stay, a digital army ready to deploy and spin headline-grabbing crimes in whatever way intrigues them and their fans.
#CyberSleuths: The Idaho Murders takes a deep dive into this new trend and its impact on crime, justice, and public opinion.