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Bryan Kohberger: The man charged with the University of Idaho killings

Bryan Kohberger looks toward his attorney during a hearing
Image: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Bryan Kohberger looks toward his attorney during a hearing in Latah County District Court, 5th January 2023, in Moscow, Idaho, USA

It has been a year since four University of Idaho students were found brutally murdered at their off-campus residence. The small community was left horrified and the local police chief described the murders as a ‘very complex’ case.

Initially, no suspect had been named in the killing of roommates Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin.

Following an intense investigation and vast media coverage of the unsolved murders, the FBI received thousands of tips. Speculation was rife and the community was on edge, but seven weeks later, the police announced the arrest in Pennsylvania of a 28-year-old criminology doctoral student named Bryan Kohberger.

The night of the murders

On 12th November 2022, at around 9:00pm, Xana and Ethan, who were dating, were seen partying at Ethan’s fraternity, Sigma Chi, just a short walk from the apartment. That night, Kaylee uploaded a final picture to Instagram with the caption, ‘one lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday [sic]’. At 10:00pm, Kaylee and Madison went to a local sports bar named The Corner Club.

During the early hours of 13th November, Kaylee and Madison were captured on video ordering food from a local food truck. Investigators stated that Xana and Ethan arrived home at 1:45am, whilst Kaylee and Madison returned at 1:56am. The two other roommates in the apartment also went out that evening and returned at 1:00am.

At 11:58am, one of the surviving two housemates called 911 to report an ‘unconscious person’.

The investigation

In December 2022, the police reached out to the public to help locate a white Hyundai Elantra that was seen circling the crime scene between 3:20am and 4:20am. The car was traced to Pullman, Washington, 10 miles away from Moscow and the home of the Washington State University campus.

With help from the WSU campus police, the owner of the car was identified as Bryan Kohberger, who studied at the university. Mobile phone records placed Kohberger travelling from Pullman towards Moscow on the night of the murders before his phone shut down between 2:47am and 4:48am.

Despite having strong circumstantial evidence linking Kohberger and his car to the crime, the breakthrough came from DNA discovered on an empty knife sheath. Investigators turned to a groundbreaking technique known as genetic matching. By using DNA from Kohberger’s father obtained from rubbish at their home, a definitive DNA match was found.

After surveilling Kohberger for several days, the Pennsylvania State Police raided his parents’ home in the rural Chestnuthill Township on 30th December. After the arrest, Kohberger was extradited to Idaho.

The accused

As Kohberger’s name was released to the media, details emerged about his life. In 2020, he received a BA and two years later an MA in criminal justice from DeSales University, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 2022, Kohberger moved to Washington State to study for a PhD in criminology.

There are mixed reports regarding Kohberger’s childhood, with some individuals who knew him stating that he had been bullied about his weight, whilst others said they did not recall him being bullied at all and claimed that he was a bully himself. During Kohberger’s teen years, he reportedly used heroin.

During his brief time at Washington State, Kohberger was described by classmates as ‘intelligent but quiet’. One student said that Kohberger had made anti-LGBTQ comments.

Kohberger worked as a teaching assistant during his time at Washington State. Joey Famularo, the teacher of a class that Kohberger worked in, said there were initially no red flags about him. However, after 12th November, his behaviour changed. The teacher noted that in October, he failed all of his students and left comments, but after November, he handed out 100s with minimal comments.

In the months before Kohberger’s arrest, he was issued a warning from a local bar in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was reported that Kohberger was warned about his interactions with women working and frequenting the Seven Siren Brewing Company.

The legal proceedings

In January 2023, Kohberger was charged with four counts of murder and one count of felony burglary. Four months later, at his arraignment, Kohberger pleaded not guilty, and his trial was set for 2nd October. In June, prosecutors stated that they would pursue the death penalty.

Two months before the trial was set to begin, Kohberger waived his right to a fast trial, meaning it has been postponed, and a new date for the trial has yet to be set.

The house in which the tragic events of November 13th, 2022, unfolded was set to be demolished in October 2023. However, the decision to demolish the home has been paused.