Judge enters not-guilty plea for Bryan Kohberger, suspect charged in deadly stabbings of 4 Idaho college students: What we know
Kohberger, a 28-year-old graduate student studying criminology at Washington State, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in connection with the killings.
Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminology graduate student suspected in the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students, was arraigned Monday on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.
Appearing inside a courtroom in Moscow, Idaho, Kohberger said yes when the judge asked if he understood the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison or death.
When asked if he would enter a plea, Kohberger’s attorney said he would stand silent, and the judge entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. A trial date was set for Oct. 2, and the judge gave prosecutors 60 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Kohberger is being held without bail.
How the killings unfolded
In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022, authorities say, Kohberger, a student and teaching assistant at Washington State University in Pullman, used a knife to kill Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, Kernodle’s 20-year-old boyfriend, at an off-campus house the women rented in Moscow.
Autopsies showed that all four victims were stabbed multiple times and were likely asleep when they were attacked. Some had defensive wounds, the autopsies showed. There was no sign of sexual assault, police said.
The slayings shook the small college town of Moscow as authorities worked to identify a suspect even as police said initially that there was no threat to the community.
Court documents later revealed that a surviving roommate told investigators that she heard crying on the night of the killings, opened her door and saw a man in black clothes and a mask walking past her in the house. She described the intruder as 5 feet 10 or taller, and “not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows.”
How police say they solved the case
Investigators used a combination of DNA evidence, cellphone records and surveillance footage to connect Kohberger to the killings.
They were able to identify his vehicle, a white Hyundai Elantra, from surveillance video taken near the scene and track it to the WSU campus in Pullman, about a 15-minute drive from Moscow.
Data from Kohberger’s cellphone suggests that in the weeks leading up to the killings, he was in the area of the Moscow home at least 12 times.
Police also discovered a tan leather knife sheath lying next to Mogen’s bed with DNA matching Kohberger’s on it, the documents show.
What happened next?
In mid-December, Kohberger and his father drove across the country from Washington to Pennsylvania for the holidays, arriving in the commonwealth on Dec. 17. They were stopped twice by police in Indiana for following too closely. Each time, they were let go with a verbal warning. In body camera footage taken from the second traffic stop, Kohberger is seen behind the wheel being questioned by an Indiana State Police officer.
Police there later said they had no information at that time for the trooper to identify Kohberger as a suspect in the Idaho killings.
Kohberger was arrested on Dec. 29 at his parents’ home in Albrightsville, Pa., where law enforcement officials discovered dark clothing, medical gloves, a flashlight and other items. At his apartment In Pullman, investigators seized stained bedding, a single glove and strands of what appeared to be hair.
Kohberger then waived extradition to Idaho, where he was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. Last week, a grand jury indicted him on the same five counts, which allows prosecutors to skip a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for June and for the court to keep the list of witnesses in the case sealed.
Have police determined a motive?
Authorities have not publicly identified a motive in the killings, and the judge had issued a sweeping gag order limiting police, attorneys and family members from speaking publicly about the case.
Steve Goncalves, the father of stabbing victim Kaylee Goncalves, had said he believes his daughter and the others killed were victims of “stalking.” But officials have yet to publicly confirm whether they believe Kohberger specifically targeted any of the victims.
The unsealed affidavit does offer an unusual clue. It includes a Reddit survey — posted by Kohberger when he was an undergraduate at DeSales University in Pennsylvania — that sought participants for a research project to “understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime.”