Murder of Idaho student suspected in custody
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania –
Pennsylvania authorities have arrested a suspect in the murder of four University of Idaho students who were found stabbed to death in their beds more than a month ago, the local police chief said Friday. , James Fry.
The killings initially mystified law enforcement and rocked the small town of Moscow, Idaho, a farming community of about 25,000 people that hadn’t had a murder in five years. Fears of a repeat attack prompted nearly half of the University of Idaho’s more than 11,000 students to leave town and switch to online classes.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was arrested early Friday morning by Pennsylvania State Police at a home in Chestnuthill Township, authorities said. Latah County District Attorney Bill Thompson said investigators believe Kohberger broke into the student house « with intent to commit murder. »
Kohberger is being held without bail in Pennsylvania and will be held without bail in Idaho once he is removed, Thompson said, and the affidavit for four counts of first-degree murder in Idaho will remain sealed until ‘on his return. He is also charged with burglary in Idaho, Thompson said. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Kohberger is a doctoral student in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University, a short drive from the University of Idaho.
He graduated from Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania with an associate of arts degree in psychology in 2018, college spokeswoman Mia Rossi-Marino said. DeSales University of Pennsylvania said he earned a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and completed graduate school in June 2022.
The Idaho students – Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin – were stabbed to death in a rental house near campus in the early morning hours of November 13. Investigators were unable to name a suspect or locate a murder. weapon for weeks.
But the case opened up after law enforcement asked the public for help in locating a white Hyundai Elantra sedan seen near the house at the time of the killings. The Moscow Police Department made the request on December 7, and the next day had to direct the tips to a special FBI call center, as many were coming in. By mid-December, investigators were working on nearly 12,000 tips and had identified more than 22,000 vehicles matching that make and model.
« We’re still looking for the gun, » Fry said. « I will say we found an Elantra. »
Gonçalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; and Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington, were members of the university’s Greek system and close friends. Mogen, Goncalves and Kernodle lived in the three-story rental house with two other roommates. Kernodle and Chapin were dating and he was visiting the house that evening.
Fry was emotional as he announced the arrest, calling the victims by their first names. The chief has said in the past that all members of the force are keen to solve the crime, sometimes choking when discussing the impact on the families of the victims and the close-knit rural community.
Autopsies showed that all four were probably asleep when they were attacked. Some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times. There were no signs of a sexual assault, police said.
Chief Fry said they were still « putting all the pieces together » to determine the motive.
Police said on Thursday the rental house would be cleared of « potential biohazards and other harmful substances » to collect evidence starting Friday morning. It was unclear how long the work would take, but a press release said the house would be returned to the property manager when complete.
Shanon Gray, an attorney representing Goncalves’ father, Steve Goncalves, said law enforcement officials called the family last night to tell them of the arrest, but gave no further information on how. which they thought might be linked to the murders.
« Obviously they’re relieved that someone got arrested, » Gray said. « You know as much as we do right now. »
Ben Roberts, a graduate student in WSU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, described Kohberger as confident and outgoing, but said it seemed « he was always looking for a way to fit in. »
« It’s pretty out of left field, » he said of the news on Friday. « Honestly, I just identified him as super clumsy. »
Roberts started the program in August — with Kohberger, he said — and took several classes with him. He described Kohberger as wanting to appear academic.
« One thing he always did, almost without fail, was find the most complicated way to explain something, » he said. « He had to make sure you knew he knew. »
The case also attracted online sleuths who speculated about potential suspects and motives. At the start of the investigation, the police released relatively few details publicly. Security concerns also caused the university to hire an additional security company to escort students around campus, and the Idaho State Police sent in troops to help patrol city streets.
Kohberger was arrested in eastern Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. No attorney for Kohberger was listed in court documents, and phone calls to the county public defender’s office were answered Friday.
Boone reported from Boise, Idaho, and Balsamo reported from Washington. News researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York and journalist Mark Scolforo contributed from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.