Alanna Zabel defends Idaho roommate who saw masked man

Idaho College Killings

(NewsNation) — Alanna Zabel has a message for internet sleuths and true crime fans: You don’t know how’d you react until it happens to you.

As more details are released in the investigation into the killing of four University of Idaho students, many are asking why a surviving roommate, who said she heard noises and witnessed a masked man, didn’t alert police right away.

That revelation came by way of the probable cause affidavit that was released last week when suspect Bryan Kohberger appeared in court for the first time to face four charges of first-degree murder. A status hearing is set for Thursday.

In the affidavit, police say a roommate heard noises inside the house and opened her door to find a man “clad in black clothing and a mask” with bushy eyebrows. As the witness stood in a “frozen shock phase,” the man walked toward the back sliding glass door, and she locked herself in her room. She said she did not recognize him, according to the affidavit.

Experts have suggested the roommate, identified by police only as D.M., could have entered a “frozen” state of shock or, having consumed alcohol that night, fallen back asleep.

Zabel experienced a similar incident 30 years ago as a student at the University of Buffalo when she found her sorority sister nearly dead, soaked in blood from a brutal attack. She told the Daily Mail she, too, had a delayed response to the attack and spoke Monday on “CUOMO” to defend the Idaho roommate.

“Unless you’ve been in those shoes, you don’t know what it’s like,” Zabel said. “Not many people really get to experience something this horrific and (be in) this heightened state of fight or flight.”

Both Zabel and the Idaho roommate experienced the trauma when they were young and in college, which Zabel said could have been a contributing factor to the roommate’s actions that night.

“When you live with five people and let’s say the screen is out of place, you don’t think the worst. You just think, ‘Oh, who moved the screen?'” Zabel said. “When you’re in that total frozen state of not knowing the reality, you really want to lean that toward it not being something awful and horrific.”

Social media and the internet have buzzed with activity during the investigation as amateur sleuths tried to piece together the case. The speculation has spawned negative side effects for the victims’ families, survivors and innocent bystanders.

“It’s sad that in today’s age of social media, everyone just wants to tear her down and say, ‘Well, I would have done this’ or ‘I would have done that,'” Zabel said. “Just because you watch true crimes movies or just because you know how Lionel Messi should be acting on the playing field does not give you the right to tell someone what to do in a situation like this.”

Moving forward, Zabel hopes that people can stop judging the surviving roommates and give them the support they need to move on from the tragedy. She also offered insight into how she healed from her experience and how the surviving roommates might be able to, as well.

“I hope these girls can take this experience and try and shine light and do more good in this world, because we need more people that can have this experience and be able to turn it around and help other people,” Zabel said. “It’s not (your) fault, take no blame and do your best to help others because it’s not going to go away.”

Zabel told NewsNation’s “Banfield” on Tuesday night that she has reached out to the Idaho victims to offer her support.

“If they need anything I am absolutely here, however I can help,” Zabel said.

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