A Washington State University graduate student was arrested in his home state of Pennsylvania on Friday in the murder last month of four University of Idaho students in their off-campus home – a brutal attack that rocked a small college town, authorities said.
A criminal complaint charging Bryan Kohberger, 28, with four counts of first-degree murder, as well as burglary, was filed Thursday, Latah County District Attorney Bill Thompson said at a news conference Friday after noon in Idaho.
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Authorities focused on Kohberger after tracking his ownership of a white Hyundai Elantra seen in the area of the killings, according to two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. Kohberger’s DNA was also matched to genetic material recovered from the off-campus house where the students were stabbed to death, the sources say.
Authorities learned the suspect had left the area and traveled to Pennsylvania, the sources said.
An FBI surveillance team from the Philadelphia Field Office had been following him for four days in the area where he was arrested, the sources said.
While he was under surveillance, investigators from the Moscow Police Department, the Idaho State Police Homicide Bureau, and the FBI worked with prosecutors to develop sufficient probable cause to obtain the warrant. After the arrest warrant was issued, Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI made the arrest.
Moscow Police Department chief James Fry told the news conference that an Elantra has been located, but investigators are still looking for the knife used in the murders. He did not reveal any details about the case, including when the suspect became the focus of the investigation or if he knew the four students who were killed.
After the suspect returns to Idaho, a probable cause affidavit used to obtain the arrest warrant will be unsealed.
Records show Kohberger was arraigned Friday morning in Pennsylvania and has an extradition hearing on Jan. 3.
Because the suspect was arrested in Pennsylvania, he has the option of waiving extradition and voluntarily returning to Idaho. If he chooses not to return voluntarily, Moscow police will initiate extradition proceedings through the governor’s office, Fry said.
“If we do that, it may take a while for it to get here,” he said.
Kohberger is a graduate student in Washington State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, according to a now-deleted directory of college graduates. A student at the school told CNN that Kohberger was a graduate student in criminal justice.
A CNN crew in Pullman, which is just 11 km from Moscow, saw law enforcement activity at an apartment complex where graduate students live.
Washington State University officials did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
In a post deleted from Reddit after Kohberger’s arrest became public knowledge, a student investigator associated with a DeSales University study named Bryan Kohberger asked to participate in a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.
“In particular, this study seeks to understand the story behind your most recent criminal offense, with a focus on your thoughts and feelings throughout your experience,” the post reads.
One of the study’s lead investigators, a professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, declined to comment on the matter.
Kohberger earned a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and completed his graduate studies at DeSales in June 2022, according to a statement posted on the school’s website.
The suspect also earned an associate’s degree in arts and psychology from Northampton Community College in 2018, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania school said.
The November 13 murders fascinated the nation and shocked the small university town of Moscow, its first murder in seven years. The case sparked fear and anxiety in the community and student body, and questions arose about the pace of the police investigation.
The arrest comes a day after police said they received around 20,000 information through more than 9,025 emails, 4,575 phone calls and 6,050 digital media submissions, while conducting more than 300 interviews.
The students killed – Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20 – were likely asleep when they were each stabbed multiple times in the early morning, authorities said. Some of the victims had defensive wounds, a coroner said.
Police said they were looking for the Elantra which was believed to have been near the house early on November 13.
The house where the murders took place will be cleared but will remain an active crime scene under police control, authorities said Thursday.
Moscow police said they worked with a property management services company to eliminate “potential biohazards and other harmful substances used to collect evidence,” the update said. The house will be handed over to the property management company.