While Idaho Slept: The Hunt for Answers in the Murders of Four College Students (Paperback)
The author of the acclaimed true-crime memoir, The Kill Jar, tells the inside story of the “University of Idaho Murders,” offering a memorable, thoughtful dive into our societal fascination with true crime, the media’s seeming blood-frenzy, and the future of homicide investigations, while cultivating an intimate look into the minds and hearts of the victims and their suspected killer alike.
Just after 4:00 am on November 13, 2022, four University of Idaho students were viciously stabbed to death in an off-campus house. The killings would shake the small blue-collar college town of Moscow, Idaho, dominate mainstream news coverage, and become a social media obsession, drawing millions of clicks and views. While a reticent Moscow Police Department, the FBI, and the Idaho State Police searched for the killer, unending conjecture and countless theories blazed online, in chatrooms and platforms from Reddit and YouTube to Facebook and TikTok. For more than a month, the clash of armchair investigators and law enforcement professionals raged, until a suspect—a 28-year-old Ph.D. candidate studying criminology—was arrested at his family home 2,500 miles away in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania on the day before New Year’s Eve.
While Idaho Slept is a thought-provoking, literary chronicle of a small-town murder investigation blistering beneath the unceasing light of international interest, as traditional investigators, citizen sleuths, and the true-crime media acted—sometimes together, often in conflict—to uncover the truth. As J. Reuben Appelman brings this terrible crime into focus, he humanizes the four victims, examining the richness of their lives, dissects the mind and motivations of their presumed killer, and explores the world of northern Idaho, a rugged, deeply conservative stronghold steeped in Christian values and American patriotism.
Going deep inside the case, Appelman addresses a crucial question: With so many millions of citizens armed by access and hungry to take part in a true crime hunt of their own, has the nature of homicide investigations permanently changed? Rising above the sensational, While Idaho Slept illuminates the intrinsic connection between today’s media, citizen sleuths, our societal mania for murder tales, and an impatient public’s insatiable appetite for spectacle as never before. Running beneath, the pulse of the story is a heartbreaking narrative of the people we love, the dreams we all share, and the uncertain time left for sharing them.
About the Author
J. Reuben Appelman’s true-crime memoir, The Kill Jar, inspired the popular Hulu docuseries, “Children of the Snow” (2020), with Appelman serving as an on-camera investigator and Executive Producer. He received an MFA in poetry from Boise State University and has published across all genres. Appelman currently works as a private investigator in the state of Idaho, where he has lived for nearly twenty-five years.
This is an extremely rigorous book. Appelman uses first-hand sources (police files and interviews with people involved in the case) whenever possible, and, while he rightly gives credit where credit is due, he also doesn’t shy away from revealing the investigation’s weaknesses, including the fact that the prosecution’s ongoing case isn’t airtight. A chilling, haunting work of crime nonfiction. — Booklist on While Idaho Slept
Appelman’s fastidious attention to detail here is admirable, but what really sets this apart is his examination of the tension between Moscow police and the self-appointed investigators who descended on the town. The result is a propulsive real-life thriller with a conscience. — Publishers Weekly on While Idaho Slept
"J. Reuben Appelman has successfully captured the strained relationships between police, media and victim's families during the investigation into the deaths of four Idaho students and how the forensic sciences identified the perpetrator." — Michael Baden, M.D., Former Chief Medical Examiner, NYC and author of American Autopsy, on While Idaho Slept