a A criminology graduate student accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November agreed Tuesday to extradite him from Pennsylvania, where he was arrested last week, to face charges in Idaho.
Brian Kohberger, A 28-year-old Ph.D. student at Washington State University—a short drive from the crime scene across the state line—will be transferred to Idaho in 10 days.
Students at the University of Idaho and nearby residents have lived in fear for weeks as authorities appeared to be baffled by the mysterious and brutal November 13 stabbings. But it appears Idaho police have made headway, after searching for a white sedan seen around the time of the killings and analyzing DNA evidence at the crime scene.
Still looking for the murder weapon
Investigators said they are still searching for a murder weapon and a motive. More details about the case are expected to be released after Kohberger arrives in Idaho and opens an affidavit.
But attorneys, law enforcement and others involved in the case will not be able to discuss the affidavit or other court documents after an Idaho justice of the peace Tuesday night issued a so-called “ghost order” preventing officials from speaking publicly about many aspects of the case outside of court. .
Judges sometimes issue orders when they fear that pre-trial publicity will prevent a defendant from getting a fair trial.
Dressed in a red jumpsuit with his hands handcuffed in front of him, Kohberger showed little emotion during his brief hearing Tuesday in a Pennsylvania courtroom where he pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.
Kohberger, who was arrested by state police at his parents’ home in eastern Pennsylvania last Friday, will be held in a jail in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, until his surrender.
Kohberger’s parents and sisters were seated in the front row of the courtroom, behind the defense table. His mom and sister Melissa broke down as he entered the courtroom, sobbing softly and holding each other. The deputy mayor brought them a box of tissues. Kohberger looked at his family briefly as he was led out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors in Latah County, Idaho, said they believe Kohberger broke into the victims’ home near campus with the intent to commit murder.
The students are: 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 close friends and members of the university’s Greek system.
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.
DNA evidence played a major role in identifying Kohberger as a suspect
The killings deeply shake the rural city of Moscow, Idaho, and police have released few details about the investigation. For weeks, the Moscow police department faced heavy criticism for telling frightened residents there was no significant danger to the community, despite not naming the suspect.
University officials have hired extra security to escort students across campus, but nearly half of the 11,500 students have left campus temporarily, seeking the safety of online classes.
Would-be investigators have attempted to fill the void with their own online theories — some targeting friends and acquaintances of murdered students with hurtful and inaccurate claims.
Monroe County’s chief public defender said his client is eager to be acquitted. The public defender, Jason LaBar, said that Kohberger should be presumed innocent and “not be tried in the court of public opinion”.
After Tuesday’s hearing, LaBar called Kohberger “an ordinary guy” and said that after his extradition he would be represented by the chief public defender in Kootenay County, Idaho.
Capt. Anthony Dallinger, of the Moscow Police Department, Idaho, told The Associated Press Saturday that authorities believe Kohberger was responsible for all four killings at a rented home near campus.
“We think we’ve got our man,” Dallinger said, adding that investigators obtained Kohberger’s DNA samples directly from him after his arrest.
A warrant for Kuehburger’s arrest is worth an arrest after dark, which requires a higher standard of probable cause, Pennsylvania State Police Major Christopher Paris said Tuesday.
“We wanted to usher in a time that we thought would be the safest for everyone. Safer for everyone else in the house, safer for Mr. Kohberger and safer for our people,” he said.
Paris said a tactical response team reviewed floor plans of the home, and broke several doors and windows when they entered.
In her gag order — officially called a “no-publication order” — Latta County Judge Megan Marshall barred people involved in the case from speaking about anything that “reasonably might interfere with a fair trial of this case.” That includes details about any evidence, the existence of any confessions or other statements made by the defendant, or the merits of the case, Marshall wrote in the order.
The gag order will continue until a court ruling is issued or amended. Paper documents filed in the criminal case are still expected to be open to the public once Kohberger arrives in Idaho.
DNA evidence played a key role in identifying Kohberger as a suspect, a law enforcement official said last week, and officials were able to match his DNA to genetic material found during the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details of the ongoing investigation publicly.
In addition to the DNA evidence, authorities have also learned that Kohberger has a white Hyundai Elantra, said the official, who spoke anonymously.
Moscow police have already identified a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene, and have asked the public to help find the white car. Tips poured in, and Idaho investigators quickly tried to narrow down a list of nearly 20,000 potential vehicles to find the right one.
Indiana State Police announced Tuesday that on December 15, a trooper stopped a white Hyundai Elantra on Interstate 70 to closely follow it. Police said the body cam the officer was wearing shows Brian Kohberger in the driver’s seat. At the time, the agency said, there was no information available to the soldiers that would have identified Kohberger as a suspect in the Idaho murders, and he was released with a verbal warning.
The Sheriff’s Department said a deputy from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department stopped Kohberger a few minutes earlier because he was following him too closely, and gave him a verbal warning.
Federal and state investigators are combing through Kohberger’s background, financial records and electronic communications as they work to build a case against him, said the official, who spoke anonymously. The official said investigators are also interviewing people who knew Kohberger, including those at Washington State University.
Kohberger’s relatives in Pennsylvania expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, but pledged to support him and strengthen his “presumption of innocence.”
Investigators asked for information about Kohberger from anyone who knew him, and Dahlinger said investigators received 400 calls to an information line within the first hour of that request. He said they are “trying to build this picture of him now: who he is, his history, how did we get to this event, why did this event happen”.