One of the four University of Idaho students who survived told investigators that she almost came face-to-face with a masked man that night and had a “frozen shock phase,” a reaction that medical professionals say is normal in potentially dangerous situations.
Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke, the remaining roommates, were initially said to have been sleeping when the stabbings occurred, but court records that were unsealed on Thursday showed otherwise. They showed that Mortensen, who was given the affidavit initials D.M., ran into the suspect as he fled the Moscow, Idaho, home.
Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin, all 20 years old when they died in November, were all Ph.D. students in criminology at the nearby Washington State University at the time. Brian Kohberger has been charged with four charges of murder in connection with their deaths.
The document states that Mortensen “identified the figure as 5’10” or taller, male, athletically built but not overly muscular, with bushy eyebrows. D.M. was standing there in a “frozen shock phase” when the man passed her. The man moved in the direction of the back sliding glass door. After noticing the male, D.M. closed herself in her room.
According to court records, authorities were contacted by one of the roommates’ cell phone over eight hours later, around midday. Who had placed the call wasn’t obvious.
The “frozen shock phase” may be one of several acute trauma reactions, including dissociation and tonic immobility, which are frequently triggered by stressful situations, specialists warned on Friday.
When people feel threatened, their basic human instinct is to fight, flee, or freeze, according to Dr. Judith F. Joseph, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine at NYU Langone Health.
“Adrenaline surges your sympathetic nervous system and takes off when your body is in shock and you think you’re going to die or you think you’re in a threatening situation, and you may experience a frozen state where consciously you know what’s happening but then a coping mechanism is for you to dissociate,” Joseph said.
According to many who have experienced it, the traumatic shock causes them to feel as though they are not a part of their bodies. According to Joseph, “people may dissociate in and out for hours, especially if they’ve had extreme trauma,” adding that their brains wander to a different location to escape the trauma or terror.
In remarks, Mortensen and Funke spoke of their sorrow over losing their housemates and friends.
The four lovely individuals Mortensen described as “my folks who altered my life in so many ways and made me so happy” had a significant impact on his life.
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