MOSCOW, Idaho - A woman who found her college roommate nearly dead more than three decades ago spoke out in defense of the surviving roommate in the University of Idaho murders on Monday amid mounting questions surrounding her eight-hour delay in calling the police.
"I really hope that the media can just back off a little bit … and allow her to heal, because it’s going to be a long process," Alanna Zabel, 50, told Fox News in an interview on "America Reports," where she recalled her own haunting memories reignited by the case.
The surviving Idaho roommate identified only as D.M. is facing public pressure to explain why she didn't immediately call police after she came face to face with the suspected killer on the morning of Nov. 13.
"I’m sure she was trying to put the pieces together," Zabel said.
According to her attorney, D.M. was left paralyzed with fear and afraid to leave her bedroom after "she heard the crying and saw a figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person's mouth and nose walking towards her." The four victims were stabbed to death between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Police received an 11:58 a.m. call requesting aid for an unconscious person rather than a possible murder victim. Police arrived around noon and located the four victims — Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21, and their 20-year-old roommate, Xana Kernodle, and her boyfriend, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin.
The roommate's response that morning resonated deeply for Zabel, who has described eerie similarities between her own experience and the harrowing quadruple homicide in Idaho.
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Zabel believes in her case that she went into survival mode, making her unable to mentally process what she had seen when she found her roommate nearly dead in a three-story home with five Chi Omega sorority sisters while attending the University of Buffalo in 1992.
Zabel entered her friend's room to ask her to move her car when she was overpowered by a foul smell. At that point, Zabel said she hadn't noticed any blood and assumed the victim had choked to death on her own vomit, she said.
It was only when the paramedics arrived and commented on the amount of blood that Zabel realized the room was covered in blood and that her initial inability to see it was a trauma response. She was later informed that her roommate had been brutally beaten and raped.
"I saw no blood, a lot of liquid, so I assumed that she had choked on her vomit and was unconscious," Zabel said. "It was not until the paramedics came and I was walking behind the paramedic in the hallway that he stopped and stepped backward like, ‘Oh, my God, look at all the blood.’ And as soon as he said ‘blood,’ the room was filled. The mattress was three-quarters soaked in blood, she was covered in blood. I did not see it beforehand. When you are in that heightened state of fear and survival, your mind will do what it has to do to protect you."
"The mind is a powerful thing, and when you live with five other people and it’s a very party aspect, college life where it could be a fraternity prank, or there are multiple people moving through the house at all times, you always want to assume that it’s not the worst case scenario," Zabel added.
Earlier Monday on "America Reports," former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman credited D.M. for opening her door three times when she heard a noise coming from a different part of the house, eventually coming face to face with the suspect. Because of her encounter, she was able to provide a detailed description of the man to police, helping them hone in on suspected killer Bryan Kohberger.
"The third time, she saw the suspect…without that description of the suspect and very accurate description, especially the bushy eyebrows, they never would have been able to make a nexus between the Elantra and Bryan Kohberger’s physical description," Fuhrman said.
Zabel urged the public to allow D.M. the space she needs to work through her trauma from that day, telling Fox News host Sandra Smith that from her own experience, it's "not going to be quick healing."
"I ran from it. This was a different age, 30 years ago, you know, no one asks if you are ok, if you want therapy, My college did not give me extensions, it’s a totally different time," she said. "But also she has against her social media and people being armchair quarterbacks saying this is what you should have done. No one knows what they would have done in that situation," she continued, "and we can only try to surround her with support and hopefully she is with a professional and with loving family and friends to help her get through this because It’s not going to be a quick healing. This will be with her for the rest of her life."
Fox News' Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report.