Professor sues TikTok accuser for linking her to Idaho students’ murders

Rebecca Scofield said a TikTok user spread baseless and false claims linking her to the November slayings of four students

A University of Idaho professor has filed a defamation lawsuit against a self-proclaimed psychic on TikTok after the tarot card reader accused her of killing four of the school’s students, whose murders shocked the US last month.

The federal lawsuit filed by the university’s history department chair Rebecca Scofield on Wednesday alleges that TikTok user Ashley Guillard spread baseless claims which falsely linked the professor to the 13 November slayings of Xana Kernodle, 20; Ethan Chapin, 20; Maddie Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, in Moscow, Idaho.

“Ashley Guillard – a purported internet sleuth – decided to use the community’s pain for her online self-promotion,” the lawsuit seeking damages said of Guillard, whom Scofield has never met before. Guillard has sought to take credit for solving other high-profile murders, including that of musician Takeoff, the third member of the rap group Migos.

“She has posted many videos on TikTok falsely stating plaintiff Rebecca Scofield … participated in the murders because she was romantically involved with one of the victims,” the lawsuit added. “Guillard’s statements are false. Professor Scofield did not participate in the murders, and she had never met any of the victims, let alone entered a romantic relationship with them.”

Guillard’s TikTok account – which states “Ashley is God” in the bio – features dozens of videos in which she hypothesizes over the killings, often through tarot card readings. Guillard claims that Scofield had been romantically involved with one of the students and ordered their murders in attempts to hide the relationship, according to the lawsuit.

In one of the videos, Guillard wrote: “I don’t care what y’all say … REBECCA WAS THE ONE TO INITIATE THE PLAN.” In another video, Guillard said: “Rebecca Scofield is going to prison for the murder of the 4 University of Idaho Students whether you like it or not.”

The lawsuit recounts how Scofield was with her husband in Portland, Oregon, visiting friends when the students were murdered.

“Guillard’s videos have been viewed millions of times, amplifying Guillard’s online persona at the expense of professor Scofield’s reputation,” said the lawsuit, which states that none of the victims ever took a class with Scofield.

“She does not recall ever meeting any one of these students,” the lawsuit said. It added: “She does not know why Guillard picked her to repeatedly falsely accuse of ordering the tragic murders and being involved with one of the victims. Professor Scofield does know that she has been harmed by the false TikToks and false statements.”

On 29 November, a lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to Guillard on behalf of Scofield. Guillard continued to post videos accusing Scofield of the murders in Moscow.

On 8 December, a second cease and desist letter was sent, asking Guillard to take down her “defamatory posts”, the lawsuit said.

“Rather than change her conduct, Guillard made a TikTok showing the cease-and-desist letter … and explaining that if professor Scofield, through counsel, believed that Guillard was making false statements, counsel would need to ‘file actual legal documents in a federal court … asking me to remove it’.”

Scofield’s lawsuit describes how she fears that she and her family could be targeted with physical violence. Guillard has since released several TikToks in response to the lawsuit, including one in which Guillard taunts Scofield by stating: “I’m ON FIRE with excitement! SEE YOU IN COURT REBECCA SCOFIELD!!”

In another video, Guillard writes: “You sure you want to do this Rebecca SCOFIELD? This isn’t going to end well for you.”

So far, no suspects have been arrested or even publicly identified in the case, leaving the university community on edge. A Moscow police statement from earlier this month warned against “speculation, without factual backing, [that is] stoking community fears and spreading false facts”.

“We encourage referencing official releases for accurate information,” it said.

The relative of one person who was considered a person of interest in the case – but has since been cleared as a suspect – spoke about how difficult the rampant speculation has been.

The aunt of Jack DuCoeur, the ex-boyfriend of Kaylee Goncalves, told the New York Post her nephew “not only lost the love of his life, and what we all thought and he probably thought as well, would be his future wife – you know, get married and have kids and all of that”.

But also, the aunt – Brooke Miller – said, “half of America” thinks DuCoeur could “be responsible” for the murders, particularly online users.

Guillard has been among those to insist on calling DuCoeur a potential suspect and that he somehow may have been involved in the murders despite the police clearing him.

• This article was amended on 26 December 2022. An earlier version incorrectly referred to Scofield instead of Guillard in relation to the second cease and desist letter and in the attribution of a video quote.


Maya Yang

The GuardianTramp

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