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What we know about the University of Idaho stabbings

A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found dead is displayed Nov. 30 on a table along with buttons and bracelets during a vigil in memory of the victims in Moscow, Idaho.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found dead is displayed Nov. 30 on a table along with buttons and bracelets during a vigil in memory of the victims in Moscow, Idaho.

Updated January 1, 2023 at 7:59 PM ET

Authorities arrested 28-year-old Bryan Christopher Kohberger, a suspect in the deaths of four University of Idaho students, on Friday. The arrest marks a breakthrough in a case that initially bewildered investigators, who have yet to locate a murder weapon.

The four students — Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves — were found dead at an off-campus home, after police responded to reports of an unconscious person, on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Kohberger has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary in connection with the killings of the four students.

During a Friday press conference, the authorities reiterated that they would remain tight-lipped on what information could be shared with the public as the investigation continued.

"This is not the end of this investigation," Bill Thompson, the prosecutor for Latah County, which contains the University of Idaho, said. "In fact, this is a new beginning. You all now know the name of the person who has been charged with these offenses."

The incident shocked those who lived in Moscow, Idaho, a small college and farming town with a population of about 25,000 people — including roughly 11,000 students — in northern Idaho's Palouse region.

"I want to express my appreciation to our local community," Moscow Police Chief James Fry told reporters. "The people of Idaho, and those throughout our nation, who provided information to help us investigate these murders, has been very impressive."

"No arrest will ever bring back these young students," Fry said. "However, we do believe justice will be found through the criminal process."

Police did not offer any details on a potential motive.

The stabbings also took place shortly before a gunman opened fire at the University of Virginia, killing three students and injuring two more. After a campus-wide lockdown, and a manhunt that lasted more than 12 hours, the authorities took the shooter into custody.

Here what we know about the University of Idaho stabbings.

The victims all knew each other

The University of Idaho released the following information about the four victims after the Moscow Police Department publicly identified them:

Ethan Chapin, a freshman from Mount Vernon, Wash., and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, who majored in recreation, sport and tourism management.

Xana Kernodle, a junior from Post Falls, Idaho, and member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, who majored in marketing.

Madison Mogen, a senior from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, who majored in marketing.

Kaylee Goncalves, a senior from Rathdrum, Idaho, who majored in general studies.

The victims were likely killed in their sleep and had multiple stabbing and defensive wounds, according to autopsies. There were no signs of sexual assault. There were no signs of forced entry, and a door was found open by the first police officers who arrived on the scene.

In addition to all being involved in the university's Greek system, Mogen, Goncalves and Kernodle — along with two others — lived in the three-story home, on King Road, together.

Kernodle worked alongside Mogen at a Greek restaurant, and had been dating Chapin, who came to visit that night.

On the night before the killings, Chapin and Kernodle came home around 1:45 a.m. after going to the Sigma Chi frat house. Mogen and Goncalves arrived back at the house about 10 minutes later, after visiting a local bar and street food vendor, police said. The two surviving roommates had returned earlier, around 1 a.m. The next morning, a 911 call was made at 11:58 a.m. from a surviving roommate's cellphone, reporting an unconscious person.

The suspect is being held without bail

Pennsylvania State Police worked with the FBI to arrest Kohberger in Albrightsville, Pa. A Monroe County judge ordered Kohberger's extradition to Idaho on a warrant for first-degree murder after a hearing set for Tuesday. He is currently being held without bail.

The suspect is a graduate student at Washington State University's Pullman campus, where he keeps an apartment residence and office. He completed his first semester as a Ph.D student in the university's criminal justice program in December, the university said in a statement. WSU's Pullman campus is located less than 10 miles from that of University of Idaho in Moscow.

The suspect's family released a statement on Jan. 1, stating that they "have fully cooperated with law enforcement agencies in an attempt to seek the truth and promote his presumption of innocence rather than judge unknown facts and make erroneous assumptions."

The school's police department assisted Idaho law enforcement officials in the execution of search warrants at the suspect's apartment and office on Friday morning, WSU said.

"On behalf of the WSU Pullman community, I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of the law enforcement agencies that have been working tirelessly to solve this crime," said Elizabeth Chilton, chancellor of the WSU Pullman campus. "This horrific act has shaken everyone in the Palouse region."

A person with the same name also is shown as having received a master's degree in criminal justice from DeSales University this past year, online records show.

This photo provided by Monroe County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania shows Bryan Kohberger.
/ Monroe County (Pa.) Correctional Facility via AP
/
Monroe County (Pa.) Correctional Facility via AP
This photo provided by Monroe County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania shows Bryan Kohberger.

It's taken weeks for the authorities to arrest a suspect

The stabbing deaths bewildered police, who were unable to arrest a suspect for weeks. The case also attracted online sleuths as the authorities remained tight-lipped on details of the investigation, as member station Boise State Public Radio notes.

"It is a complex and terrible crime and it will take some time to resolve," Moscow Police Chief James Fry said at a Nov. 20 press conference, one week after the incident.

But as weeks dragged on, people grew restless. On Nov. 28, Idaho Gov. Brad Little allocated $1 million in state emergency funds to help the investigation.

The local authorities also had help from the FBI, who assigned 44 people to the case, the Idaho State Police, which enlisted 15 troopers, and 20 more investigators, according to The Associated Press.

On Dec. 7, the Moscow police department asked the public for help identifying a white sedan previously spotted near the off-campus home.

The police department said on Thursday that it is still working through more than 9,025 emailed tips, 4,575 phone tips, 6,050 digital media submissions, and 300 interviews.

"Whether you believe it is significant or not, your information might be one of the puzzle pieces that help solve these murders," the police department said in a post on Facebook.

The university's campus remains shaken

The slayings have shaken the small University of Idaho community. After Thanksgiving break, many of the 9,000 students enrolled at the school didn't return to campus. The university has told its faculty to be flexible with its students, with some professors opting for optional and virtual sessions or canceling classes and finals altogether.

In December, students and alumni held a candlelight vigil honoring the four slain victims, both on the main campus and at University of Idaho satellite campuses.

"We never lost faith that this case would be solved, and we are grateful for the great work of the Moscow Police department, and their law enforcement partners," University of Idaho President C. Scott Green said at the Friday press conference.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 31, 2022 at 12:00 AM EST
This story has been modified to make it clear a murder weapon has not been found.
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Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.
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