A suspect arrested in connection with the killings of four University of Idaho students plans to waive an extradition hearing so he can be brought quickly to the state of Idaho to face murder charges, his defense attorney said Saturday.
Brian Kohberger, Ph.D. is 28 years old. Authorities said the student, a teaching assistant in the criminal justice and criminology department at Washington State University, was taken into custody early Friday morning by Pennsylvania State Police at his parents’ home in the town of Chestnuthill.
“We think we’ve got our guy,” Moscow Police Captain Anthony Dallinger told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Dallinger said investigators obtained Kohberger’s DNA directly from the suspect after his arrest.
“He is the person we believe is responsible for the four murders,” he said.
Investigators believe Kohberger broke into a University of Idaho student home near campus with “intent to commit murder,” Bill Thompson, the district attorney in Latah County, Idaho, said during a news conference Friday. The bodies of the students — Kylie Goncalves, Madison Mugen, Zana Kernodel and Ethan Chapin — were found on November 13, several hours after investigators believed they were dead.
The arrest in the troubling case brought relief to the small northern Idaho college town after weeks with little information released by the police. But it also raised questions about whether the suspect knew the victims, what he was doing in the weeks after the killings and how authorities in Pennsylvania tracked him down.
Many of those details will be revealed after Kohberger’s first appearance in an Idaho courtroom, Dallinger said. He said that state law prohibits police from releasing most investigation records during an investigation, and investigators have kept many details about the investigation secret to avoid damaging the case.
“I really hope everyone out there can understand ‘why’ we have so much information near our jacket,” Dallinger said. “This is the positive outcome we have been looking for all along.”
Kohberger is eager to be acquitted and plans to tell a Monroe County, Pennsylvania, judge on Tuesday that he will waive his extradition hearing so he can be brought quickly to Idaho, Kohberger’s attorney, Senior Public Defender Jason LaBar, said.
LaBar also warned people not to pass judgment on the case until there is a fair trial. The case generated a huge amount of speculation on social media, with would-be detectives pointing to possible motives, oftentimes trying to pin the blame on the many friends and acquaintances of the victims.
“Mr. Kohberger is accused of very serious crimes, but the American judicial system conceals him with a veil of innocence,” LaBar wrote in a prepared statement. “His innocence should be presumed until proven otherwise – not tried by the court of public opinion.”
Dallinger said that the police are now trying to understand “every aspect” of Kohberger. When the arrest was announced, investigators asked anyone who knew Kohberger to call an information line to share information.
The response was immediate.
“We got 400 phone calls within the first hour after the press conference, which is amazing,” Dallinger said. “Now we are trying to build this picture of him: who he is, his history, how did we get to this event, why this event happened.”
Neighbors of the Kohberger family in Chestnuthill, Pennsylvania, told the (Scranton) Times-Tribune on Friday that they were shocked to see law enforcement vehicles outside the home.
Elaine Cesaretti, who lives across the street, said she loves Kohberger’s parents and is fond of their son, who she said helped her and her husband run their home when he was home from school.
“I don’t think he’s capable of doing something like that. I pray he’s innocent,” Cesaretti said.
Navi Duff lives next door to Brian Kohberger in a Washington State University housing complex for graduate students and families. He told Spokane, Washington-based television station KREM2, that recent crimes like the murder in Moscow have made him feel insecure.
“I don’t remember seeing it before,” Duff said of Kohberger. “I thought I was moving into a safe little community, but that hasn’t been the case lately. I just think if 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 didn’t know Kohberger well, but didn’t like him.
“We interacted in class, but I personally wasn’t a fan of Brian because of the comments he made about LGBTQ people,” they said in an email to the Associated Press. “He was a little off-kilter, 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 as they work to determine a motive and build a case. A law enforcement official was unable to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The official said investigators are also interviewing people who knew Kohberger, including those who work at Washington State University.
Thompson, the Latta County district attorney, said Kohberger is being held without bond in Pennsylvania and will be held without bond in Idaho once he is returned. Thompson said the affidavit for four counts of first-degree murder in Idaho will remain sealed until he is returned. He is also charged with felony burglary in the state of Idaho. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
the students —Kylie Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho. Madison Maugin, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Zana Kernodel, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; and Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington—they were members of the university’s Greek system and close friends. Mugen, Goncalves, and Kernodel lived in a rented three-story house with two other roommates. Kernodle and Chapin were dating and he was visiting the house that night.
Autopsies are shown It is likely that all four were asleep when they were attacked. Some of them had defensive wounds and each of them was stabbed multiple times. Police said there was no sign of sexual assault.
Ben Roberts, a graduate student in Washington State University’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, described Kohberger as confident and outgoing, but said he was “always looking for a way to fit in.”
“I honestly related to him being so embarrassing.” Roberts said.
Roberts started the program in August—along with Kohberger, he said—and took several courses with him. Kohberger described wanting to appear as an academic.
“One thing he would always do, almost without fail,” he said, “was to find the most sophisticated way to explain something.”
Dallinger said the arrest marked a bittersweet moment for law enforcement officers.
“We are very excited about the fact that we were able to locate Mr. Kohberger and take him into custody, but we continue to feel sad and sorry,” he said. “We are horrified for the families and the loss of their loved ones.”
Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Balsamo from Washington. News researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York. correspondents Mark Scolfo and Brooke Schultz in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Michael Konzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland; Martha Belisel in Seattle also contributed.
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