A professor at the University of Idaho has filed a defamation lawsuit last week against the internet personality Ashley Guillard, who alleged to have solved the prominent murder cases and whose TikTok videos have repeatedly alleged that the school's history department chair was involved in thelast month.
Rebecca Scofield is an author and assistant professor of history at the university focusing on gender, sexuality and the American West, among other topics, according to her website. Last week, she filed the federal complaint in Idaho's district court seeking a jury trial along with reimbursement for all applicable legal fees, while accusing Guillard of spreading false narratives about Scofield's connection to the deceased college students and the unsolved quadruple murder.
Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were killed on the second and third floors of the women's rental home near campus in Moscow, Idaho, during the early hours of Nov. 13, as two surviving roommates apparently slept downstairs, officers at the Moscow Police Department have said. Although the local police force, in coordination with state and federal law enforcement agencies, have identified and shared some details about the events directly preceding the gruesome crime, none ofhave proven substantive so far.
Without an identified suspect or an arrest made, the ongoing national spotlight on the mysterious homicide case has given rise to, theories and rumors about how and why the murders happened, as well as who might be responsible. Most of the conjecture has emerged and spiraled on social media — something that, Scofield alleges, Guillard used for her own advantage to the detriment of the professor and her reputation.
"Defendant Ashley Guillard—a purported internet sleuth—decided to use the community's pain for her online self-promotion," the lawsuit states, noting that Guillard, while operating the relatively popular account @ashleyisinthebookoflife, "posted many videos on TikTok falsely stating that Plaintiff Rebecca Scofield (a professor at the University) participated in the murders because she was romantically involved with one of the victims."
Wendy Olson, one of the attorneys representing Scofield, called Guillard's claims about her client "false, plain and simple," in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday.
"What's even worse is that these untrue statements create safety issues for the Professor and her family," the statement continued. "They also further compound the trauma that the families of the victims are experiencing and undermine law enforcement efforts to find the people responsible in order to provide answers to the families and the public. Professor Scofield twice sent cease and desist letters to Ms. Guillard, but Ms. Guillard has continued to make false statements, knowing they are false. Thus, this lawsuit became necessary to protect Professor Scofield's safety and her reputation."
A tarot card reader focusing on unsolved "mysteries," per her TikTok description, Guillard has in the past posted videos about other high-profile murder cases, includingless than two weeks before the killings in Idaho. She has recorded and posted more than 40 statements that Scofield says are false linking her to the students' murders in an extensive series of TikTok videos shared over the last four weeks, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also alleges that Guillard continued to post defamatory comments about Scofield online after receiving two cease and desist letters from the professor.
Guillard's videos about the Idaho murders typically garner tens of thousands of views from other social media users on the platform, and they have implicated Jack DuCoeur, the ex-boyfriend of Goncalves, who police say has been cleared as a potential suspect, in addition to Scofield.
"Guillard's statements are false," the lawsuit continues. "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 videos have been viewed millions of times, amplifying Guillard's online persona at the expense of Professor Scofield's reputation."
Scofield and her husband were out of town when the murders took place in Moscow, according to the complaint, which notes that the couple was visiting friends in Portland, Oregon, that weekend. They spent the night of Nov. 12 in a hotel there, and drove for roughly five hours from Portland back to Moscow the next day, "arriving after law enforcement officers had discovered the murders" following a police call from the surviving roommates and other friends that afternoon, the lawsuit says.
The complaint also addresses Guillard's claims involving DuCoeur, who, she says in multiple videos, partnered with Scofield to plan or carry out the killings. Scofield never taught Goncalves, Mogen, Kernodle, Chapin or Ducoeur in classes since joining the staff at the University of Idaho in 2016, nor had she met any of the students in another capacity, according to the lawsuit. It goes on to reference specific remarks in Guillard's videos about Scofield at one time allegedly having a romantic relationship with one of the students who was killed, and denies each one, calling them categorically false.
"Guillard's false TikToks have damaged Professor Scofield's reputation," the lawsuit states. "They have caused her significant emotional distress. She fears for her life and for the lives of her family members. She has incurred costs, including costs to install a security system and security cameras at her residence. She fears that Guillard's false statements may motivate someone to cause harm to her or her family members."
Guillard responded to the lawsuit in a TikTok video posted on Friday, which has been viewed nearly 150,000 times since then.
"I am actually gleaming with excitement," she said. "I'm going to immediately start planning because I cannot wait to present my ideas in court regarding Rebecca Scofield and her role in the murder of the four University of Idaho students."
CBS News contacted TikTok for additional comments but did not receive an immediate reply.
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