The man accused of stabbing four University of Idaho students to death last month has been arrested and will be extradited from Pennsylvania to face charges, police said.
In a news conference in Moscow, Idaho, on Friday, authorities said Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was taken into custody late Thursday.
The unsettling late-night attack inside a rental home left college students and the community on edge for more than a month as investigators worked on the case. Authorities have not released a possible motive in the Nov. 13 stabbing deaths of Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, and Xana Kernodle.
“These murders have shaken our community, and no arrest will ever bring back these young students,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Friday afternoon. “We have an individual in custody who committed these horrible crimes and I do believe our community is safe.”
Fry declined to reveal additional details of the accusations against the suspect, who is being held without bond on possible first-degree murder and felony burglary charges. Prosecutors said they cannot release a probable cause arrest affidavit until the suspect is returned to Idaho, a process that could take days or up to 3 months.
Authorities said he is scheduled to be in court Tuesday to attend an extradition hearing in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, with a public defender, which could shed more light on the case and the timing of his return to the state.
“These tragic murders took four young, vibrant lives from our community. Nothing we do can bring them back,” said Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Wills. “The only thing that we can do in law enforcement to honor their memories, that we know of, is to bring this to a successful conclusion.”
Kohberger’s attorney, chief public defender Jason LaBar, said Kohberger plans to waive his extradition hearing so he can be quickly brought to Idaho to face the charges and is eager to be exonerated.
LaBar also cautioned people against passing judgment on the case until a fair trial is held. “Mr. Kohberger has been accused of very serious crimes, but the American justice system cloaks him in a veil of innocence,” LaBar wrote in a prepared statement. “He should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise — not tried in the court of public opinion.”
Two other roommates inside the home slept through the attack, police said.
Goncalves’ family issued a statement through their lawyer, Shanon Gray: “The family is relieved that the authorities have someone in custody and now the journey through the criminal justice system begins.”
Suspect a graduate student at Washington State University
Authorities said Kohberger was a doctoral student in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University in nearby Pullman, Washington.
Ben Roberts, a fellow graduate student in the department at WSU, described Kohberger as confident and outgoing, but said it seemed like “he was always looking for a way to fit in.”
“It’s pretty out of left field,” he said of the news of his arrest. “I had honestly just pegged him as being super awkward.”
Roberts started the program in August — along with Kohberger, he said — and had several courses with him. He described Kohberger as wanting to appear academic.
“One thing he would always do, almost without fail, was find the most complicated way to explain something,” he said. “He had to make sure you knew that he knew it.”
Washington State University is just across the state border, about eight miles away from the University of Idaho. The two universities are partners in several academic programs, and students sometimes attend classes and seminars or work at the neighboring schools.
University of Idaho President Scott Green wrote in a memo to students and employees Friday that the school did “not appear to have any record” of Kohberger.
No motive given for nighttime attack, unclear how suspect knew victims
Investigators for weeks have been looking for a white Hyundai Elantra 2011-13 model. Police on Friday said they had taken custody of a white Elantra but declined to elaborate.
On Thursday, Fry released a video statement saying the house was being turned over to a commercial crime scene remediation team to remove biohazards like blood and forensic chemicals used by investigators. That work was supposed to begin Friday morning but was halted by court request, Fry said.
Police initially said the deaths were an “isolated targeted attack,” and seemed to confirm that again Friday. But they declined to discuss if there were other potential suspects.
The uncertainty over the motive had prompted many students at the University of Idaho to switch to online classes for the remainder of the semester. Extra police flooded the city during the investigation, trying to bring a sense of security to the unsettled community.
“Today’s news of an arrest is a welcome one,” said University of Idaho President Scott Green during the press conference Friday. “It’s a relief to our university, our community, and our extended Vandal family. We never lost faith that this case would be solved.”
Who were the victims?
A community memorial service for Goncalves and Mogen, both 21, was planned for Friday afternoon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where they graduated high school. Both women were seniors; Mogen was studying marketing and Goncalves was a general studies major in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.
Kernodle, 20, was a junior studying marketing and was dating Chapin, whom police said was sleeping over at her house. Chapin, 20, was a first-year student studying recreation, sport and tourism management and was from Washington state.
All four victims were involved in fraternity or sorority organizations.
“Ethan, Xana, Maddie and Kaylee came to the University of Idaho and found their place. … They were brimming with promise and poised to make their mark on the world outside of Moscow,”Green, president of the University of Idaho, said at a vigil in November.
More on the Idaho student case
Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY Network reporter Brian Myszkowski of the Pocono (Penn.) Record; The Associated Press