BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A suspect arrested in connection with the killing of four University of Idaho students plans to forgo an extradition hearing so he can be rushed to Idaho to face murder charges, said his defense attorney on Saturday.
Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old Ph.D. A student and teaching assistant in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University, was taken into custody by Pennsylvania State Police early Friday morning at his parents’ home in Chestnuthill Township, authorities said.
“We think we have our man,” Moscow Police Department Captain Anthony Dahlinger told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Investigators received samples of Kohberger’s DNA directly from the suspect after he was arrested, Dahlinger said.
“He’s the one we believe is responsible for all four murders,” he said.
Bill Thompson, a prosecutor in Latah County, Idaho, said during a Friday news conference that investigators believe Kohberger broke into the University of Idaho dorm room near campus “with intent to commit murder.” The bodies of the students – Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin – were found dead on April 11, 13, several hours after investigators believe they died.
The arrest in the troubling case brought a sense of relief to the small college town in north Idaho after weeks of little information being released by police. But it’s also raised questions about whether the suspect knew the victims, what he’s been doing in the weeks since the killings, and how authorities tracked him down in Pennsylvania.
Many of these details will be released after Kohberger first appeared in an Idaho courtroom, Dahlinger said. State law prohibits police from releasing most investigative records during investigations, and investigators kept many details about the investigation secret so as not to damage the case, he said.
“I just really hope that everyone out there can understand the ‘why’ behind us as we keep a lot of information close to our vests,” Dahlinger said. “It’s the positive result we’ve been looking for all along.”
Kohberger’s attorney, lead defense attorney Jason LaBar, said Kohberger is keen to be exonerated and plans to tell a judge in Monroe County, Pennsylvania Tuesday that he will forgo his extradition hearing so he can be quickly transferred to Idaho.
LaBar also warned people not to pass judgment on the case until a fair trial is held. The case has sparked massive speculation on social media, with potential investigators suggesting possible motives, often attempting to blame the deaths on various friends and acquaintances of the victims.
“Mr. Kohberger has been charged with very serious crimes, but the American justice system has shrouded him in a veil of innocence,” LaBar wrote in a prepared statement. “He should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise – not brought before the court of public opinion.”
The police are now trying to understand “every aspect” of Kohberger, said Dahlinger. When the arrest was announced, investigators asked anyone who knew Kohberger to call a hotline to share information.
The reaction was immediate.
“We received 400 calls within the first hour of the press conference, which is great,” Dahlinger said. “We’re trying to paint that picture of him now: who he is, his story, how we came to this event, why this event happened.”
Neighbors of the Kohberger family in Chestnuthill Township, Pennsylvania, told The (Scranton) Times-Tribune on Friday that they were shocked to see police vehicles outside the home.
Eileen Cesaretti, who lives across the street, said she loves Kohberger’s parents and their son, who helped her and her husband around the house when he got home from school.
“I don’t think he’s capable of anything like that. I pray to God he’s innocent,” Cesaretti said.
Nephi Duff lives next door to Bryan Kohberger in a Washington State University apartment complex for graduate students and families. He told Spokane, Wash.-based television station KREM2 that recent crimes, such as the Moscow murders, had made him feel insecure.
“I don’t remember ever seeing him around,” Duff said of Kohberger. “I thought I was going to move to a safe, small community, but that hasn’t been the case lately. I’m just thinking, when these things are happening right under my nose, how do I protect (my family)?”
BK Norton, a student in WSU’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, said Friday that they don’t know Kohberger well but don’t like him.
“We exchanged views in class, but personally I wasn’t a fan of Bryan because he made comments about LGBTQ+ people,” they said in an email to The Associated Press. “He was a bit off the mark but I always thought it was because he was awkward and wanted to fit in.”
Federal and state investigators are now combing through Kohberger’s background, financial records and electronic communications while working to identify a motive and build the case, a law enforcement official who has been unable to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of the Anonymity. Investigators are also interviewing people who knew Kohberger, including those from WSU, the official said.
Kohberger is being held without bail in Pennsylvania and will be held without bail upon his return to Idaho, said Latah County prosecutor Thompson. The affidavit on four counts of first-degree murder in Idaho will remain sealed until his return, Thompson said. He is also charged with burglary in Idaho. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
The students – Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; and Ethan 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 apartment building with two other roommates. Kernodle and Chapin were together and he visited the house that evening.
autopsies shown All four were probably asleep when attacked. Some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times. According to police, there was no evidence of sexual assault.
Ben Roberts, a graduate student in WSU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, described Kohberger as confident and outgoing, but said it seemed like “he was always looking for a way to fit in.”
“I honestly had just rated him as super awkward,” Roberts said.
Roberts started the program in August — along with Kohberger, he said — and has had several classes with him. He described Kohberger as wanting to appear academically.
“One thing he almost always did was find the most complicated way to explain something,” he said.
The arrest was a bittersweet moment for police officers, Dahlinger said.
“We are very upset that we are bringing Mr. Kohberger into custody but we all still feel the sadness and compassion,” he said. “We feel terrible for the families and the loss of their loved ones.”
Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Balsamo reported from Washington. news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York; reporters Mark Scolforo and Brooke Schultz in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Michael Kunzelman of Silver Spring, Maryland; and Martha Bellisle in Seattle also contributed.