HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Authorities in Pennsylvania have arrested a suspect in the murders of four University of Idaho students who were found stabbed to death in their beds more than a month ago, local police Chief James Fry said Friday.
The murders were initially taken by surprise law enforcement and shocked the small town of Moscow, Idaho, a rural community of about 25,000 people that had not committed a murder in five years. Fears of a repeat attack prompted nearly half of the University of Idaho’s more than 11,000 students to leave town and switch to online classes.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was arrested early Friday morning by Pennsylvania State Police at a home in Chestnuthill Township, authorities said. Latah County District Attorney Bill Thompson said investigators believe Kohberger broke into the students’ home “with the intent to commit murder.”
Kohberger is being held without bond in Pennsylvania and will be held without bond in Idaho once he is returned, Thompson said, and the affidavit on four counts of first-degree murder in Idaho will remain sealed until he is returned. He is also charged with felony burglary in Idaho, Thompson said. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Kohberger is a doctoral student in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University. University police assisted Idaho law enforcement in executing search warrants at Koberger’s home and office on campus, the university said.
WSU is a short drive across the state line from the University of Idaho. The two universities are partners in many academic programs and students sometimes attend courses and seminars or work at neighboring schools. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Kohberger: University of Idaho President Scott Green wrote in a memo to students and staff Friday night that the Idaho school had no record of him.
Kohberger graduated from Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology in 2018, college spokeswoman Mia Rossi-Marino said. DeSales University in Pennsylvania said he received a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and completed graduate studies in June 2022.
The Idaho students — Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin — were stabbed to death in a rental home near campus sometime in the early morning hours of Nov. 13.
Investigators were unable to name a suspect or locate a murder weapon for weeks.
But the case seemed to unravel when law enforcement asked the public for help in finding a white Hyundai Elantra sedan seen close to home at the time of the murders. The Moscow Police Department made the request on December 7 and by the next day had to send tips to a special FBI call center because so many were coming in. By mid-December, investigators were working through nearly 12,000 tips and had located more than 22,000 vehicles matching the make and model.
“We’re still looking for the gun,” Fry said. “I’ll say we found an Elantra.”
Fry was emotional as he announced the arrest, calling the victims by their first names. The chief has said in the past that all forces feel strongly about solving the crime, sometimes choking up when discussing the impact on victims’ families and the tight-knit rural community.
Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; and Chapin, 20, of Conway, Wash., were members of the university’s Greek system and close friends. Mogen, Goncalves and Kernodle lived in the three-story rental house with two other roommates. Kernodle and Chapin were dating and he was visiting the house that night.
Autopsies showed All four were probably asleep when they were attacked. Some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times. There was no sign of sexual assault, police said.
Chief Fry said they are still “putting all the pieces together” to determine a motive.
Police said Thursday that the rental home will be cleaned of “potential biohazards and other harmful substances” to collect evidence starting Friday morning. It was unclear how long the project would take, but a press release said the house would be returned to the property manager after it was completed.
Shanon Gray, an attorney representing Goncalves’ father, Steve Goncalves, said law enforcement officials called the family last night to inform them of the arrest, but did not provide additional information about how or why they believe he may have been arrested. linked to the murders.
“Obviously they’re relieved someone was caught,” Gray said. “You know as much as we do right now.”
Ben Roberts, a graduate student in the criminology and criminal justice department at WSU, described Kohberger as confident and outgoing, but said she seemed to be “always looking for a way to fit in.”
“It’s pretty out of left field,” he said of the news on Friday. “I had honestly pegged him as extremely awkward.”
Roberts started the program in August — along with Kohberger, he said — and has had many classes with him. He described Kohberger as wanting to appear academic.
“One thing he always did, almost without fail, was find the most complicated way to explain something,” he said. “He had to make sure you knew he knew.”
Ethan Chapin’s family sent a statement after the press conference. “We are relieved that this chapter is over because it provides a form of closure. However, it does not change the outcome or relieve the pain,” the family wrote. “We miss Ethan and our family has been changed forever.”
The Chapin family also thanked the University of Idaho and Sigma Chi fraternity, where Ethan was a member, for their support.
“We also appreciate the outpouring of kind words from so many others, which we will need as we enter the next chapter of this nightmare,” the family wrote.
The case attracted online sleuths who speculated about possible suspects and motives. Safety concerns also led the university to hire an additional security company to escort students around campus and the Idaho State Police to send troopers to help patrol city streets.
Kohberger was arrested in eastern Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. No attorney for Kohberger was listed in court documents, and calls to the county public defender’s office were returned Friday.
Boone reported from Boise, Idaho, and Balsamo from Washington. News researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and reporters Mark Scolforo and Brooke Schultz in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Martha Bellisle in Seattle also contributed.