2022 University of Idaho killings

In the early hours of November 13, 2022, four University of Idaho students were fatally stabbed in an off-campus residence in Moscow, Idaho.[1] On December 30, 28-year-old Bryan Christopher Kohberger was arrested in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary.[2] Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.[3]

2022 University of Idaho killings
Moscow, Idaho
Map
1km
0.6miles
none
Sigma Chi house
Sigma Chi house
Corner Club
Corner Club
Grub Truck
Grub Truck
Residence
Residence
Locations of interest in murder investigation
Area around the University of Idaho in Moscow
LocationMoscow, Idaho, U.S.
DateNovember 13, 2022 (2022-11-13) (1 years ago)
4:00 – 4:25 am (PST (UTC−8))
Attack type
Mass stabbing, mass murder
WeaponMilitary-style Ka-Bar knife
Deaths4
VictimsKaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin
MotiveUnknown
AccusedBryan Christopher Kohberger
ChargesFirst-degree murder (4 counts),
felony burglary
JudgeJohn C. Judge
Moscow is located in the United States
Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is located in Idaho
Moscow
Moscow

Background edit

Several University of Idaho students lived in a rented off-campus home in the rural college town of Moscow, Idaho.[4] The three-story home had six bedrooms, two on each floor.[5][6]

There had not been a murder in the city since 2015.[7]

Events edit

In the early morning of November 13, 2022, four University of Idaho college students were stabbed to death in a shared rental home close to campus.[8][9][10][11] Two female victims—Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle—lived in the house. They worked at the same local restaurant. The third, Kaylee Goncalves, had recently moved out of the house but returned to attend a nearby party.[12] The fourth victim, Ethan Chapin, was Kernodle's boyfriend who was sleeping over on the night of the attacks.[5][9] Two other female roommates also lived at the house; they were not attacked.[13]

Earlier on the evening of November 12, two of the four victims, Chapin and Kernodle, were reportedly at an on-campus party at the nearby Sigma Chi fraternity from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. They returned home at 1:45 a.m.[5][13][14] That evening, the other two victims, Mogen and Goncalves, had gone to The Corner Club, a downtown sports bar at 10 p.m., from which they departed at 1:30 a.m.[5][9][13][14] A livestreamed video on Twitch[15] by The Grub Truck, a food truck four blocks south at Friendship Square (Main and Fourth Streets), showed Mogen and Goncalves at 1:41 a.m., chatting and smiling, getting their food ten minutes later, and leaving to take what the police initially said was an Uber ride home, a trip of about one mile (1.6 km). The police later rephrased their statement to say the ride was provided by a "private party," arriving home at 1:56 a.m.[16]

According to the surviving roommates the four students were home by 2:00 a.m.[5] Seven unanswered phone calls were made from the phone of Goncalves to her former long-time boyfriend, a fellow student, from 2:26 to 2:52 a.m. and three unanswered calls were made from Mogen’s phone to the same person, from 2:44 to 2:52 a.m. These calls were investigated[5][17] with the police concluding they did not believe the recipient of those missed calls was involved in the crime.[18] A DoorDash order labeled for Xana was delivered to the house around 4 a.m.[19]

The two surviving roommates had allegedly returned home by 1 a.m. Original reports stated both surviving roommates were in their beds on the ground floor at the time of the killings, were not attacked or held hostage, and that neither woke during the killings.[20][21] However, the probable cause affidavit for the case said that one surviving roommate stated she was sleeping on the second floor, the same floor as Kernodle and Chapin, before she was awakened by what sounded like Goncalves and her dog. She stated she later heard a roommate saying something to the effect of "there's someone here."[19][11] The roommate stated she believed this was said by Goncalves,[11] although investigators also believe this might have been Kernodle speaking, as a forensic download of her cell phone showed that she was on the app TikTok at 4:12 a.m.[22] The surviving roommate stated she opened her door twice within a short span of time, and the second time, heard what sounded like crying coming from Kernodle's room and a male voice saying "it's okay, I'm going to help you."[19][11] Security cameras near the home picked up the sound of whimpering, a loud thud, and a dog barking numerous times starting around 4:17 a.m.[19] The surviving roommate allegedly opened her door a third time and saw a figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered his mouth and nose walking towards her. The man, whom the roommate stated she did not recognize, walked past her and used the sliding glass door to exit.[23] The roommate stated she stood in a "frozen shock phase" and then locked herself in her room.[19][23]

The four victims were stabbed to death on the second and third floors in the home, where they had been in bed.[10] The victims were not gagged or restrained[8] and the walls at the scene were spattered with blood. Mogen and Goncalves were found in Mogen's bedroom, and Kernodle and Chapin were found in Kernodle's room.[24][25]

No calls to 911 were made until 11:58 a.m., many hours after the early morning killings. The call made at that time requested aid for an "unconscious" person, and was placed from within the residence using the cell phone of one of the surviving roommates.[5][17][26] When police arrived, the door to the home was open, there was no sign of forced entry or damage inside the home, and nothing appeared to be missing. The two surviving roommates were in the residence when police arrived, as were other friends of the victims. The surviving roommates had allegedly called friends over to the home because they believed one of the second-floor victims was unconscious and was not waking up. The identity of the 911 caller was not released, but police confirmed the caller was not considered a suspect.[27]

All four victims were pronounced dead at noon.[13] Detectives stated they believe the killings occurred sometime between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m.[11] That morning, officers came upon Goncalves's dog, which she shared with her ex-boyfriend, alive and unharmed at the house.[28]

Victims edit

Four University of Idaho students were killed: Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington; Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona (she later lived in Post Falls, Idaho); and Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.[29] Chapin was a freshman, Kernodle was a junior, and Goncalves and Mogen were both seniors.[30]

Response edit

On the evening of November 13, the university cancelled classes for November 14;[31] it also scheduled a candlelight vigil to be held on the UI administration building lawn on the evening of November 16, then postponed it two weeks.[32] From the day of the killings, investigators initially said that there was no risk to the community. Three days later, however, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said: "We cannot say that there is no threat to the community."[33]

Fall break was scheduled to begin after November 18, with classes resuming on November 28.[34] Many students and other Moscow residents, not trusting the initial assurances of the police and fearing for their own safety, began an early Thanksgiving holiday exodus from the area. Other residents who stayed were anxious and cautious, and a number of professors canceled their classes.[35][36][37] Due to weather concerns, the candlelight vigil was moved indoors to the Kibbie Dome and held on the evening of November 30.[citation needed]

The fathers of Goncalves and Chapin criticized the limited flow of information from the police and university to the families of the victims.[38][33] TikTokers, self-proclaimed psychics, and social media users began to speculate and spread rumors and misinformation about the case on social media.[39][40][41] In response the Moscow Police Department criticized Internet sleuths for creating rampant online rumors and disrupting investigations, and in a December 2 news release said: "There is speculation, without factual backing, stoking community fears and spreading false facts."[41] Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier said "Tracking down rumors and quelling rumors about specific information and specific events that may not have happened is a huge distraction... We are not releasing specific details as we do not want to compromise the investigation."[42]

They also warned that "people harassing or threatening those potentially involved with the case could face criminal charges."[41][39]

Investigation edit

The investigation of the stabbings is being conducted by the Moscow Police Department, supported by the Idaho State Police and the Latah County Sheriff's Office.[14][43][44] In all, almost 130 members of law enforcement from the three agencies began working on the case.[16]

Autopsies on the four victims were performed in Spokane, Washington. The Latah County coroner stated the victims all appeared to have been stabbed multiple times (with fatal wounds in the chest and upper body) with a large knife (if not the same knife, very similar ones). At least one victim (with what were apparently defensive stab wounds on her hands) and possibly more appear to have tried to fend off their attacker, and the victims may have been attacked while sleeping in their beds.[45][46][47] None showed signs of sexual assault.[5] All four deaths were deemed homicide by stabbing.[8] The victims were not tied and gagged. No weapon has been recovered, although the police believe the killer or killers used a fixed-blade knife.[13][48]

A surviving roommate who reportedly saw the suspect described him as a male stranger around 5 feet 10 inches, and "not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows".[49]

On November 19, police requested the public provide any video of the house that had been recorded the night of the killings.[50] A phone tip line and email were created for students and others to submit potential evidence to officials. As of December 5, it was reported that there had been more than 2,600 emailed tips, 2,700 phone calls, and 1,000 digital media submissions from the public to these tip lines.[21][33] On December 24, the investigative team reported having received at least 15,000 tips regarding the case.[41]

The police initially left open the possibility that there could be more than one perpetrator.[5] Police stated that they believe it was "a targeted attack but have not concluded if the target was the residence or its occupants."[51]

In a November 23 press conference, the Moscow police chief said that authorities had received a number of tips including that Goncalves allegedly had a stalker, but were unable to verify that claim or identify any such individual at that time.[52]

After receiving hundreds of tips from the public, on December 15 police announced they were searching records of approximately 22,000 fifth-generation Hyundai Elantras made between 2011 and 2013.[50] A camera in the area captured video of a white or light colored Elantra around the time of the murders, which investigators noticed had made multiple passes along the same route near the residence.[19] Another surveillance recording obtained by investigators also showed an Elantra passing by the victims' home three times, beginning around 3:29 a.m.[22] At 4:04 a.m., the Elantra returned to the home for a fourth time. At 4:20 a.m., the car was seen speeding away from the victims' neighborhood.[22]

Investigators in neighboring Pullman, Washington, also a university town, began an investigation into a white Elantra belonging to a 28-year-old PhD candidate and teaching assistant named Bryan Christopher Kohberger, who drove it with his father home to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for the holidays. Kohberger's Elantra was of a later year than the original police description. Kohberger was pulled over twice within a nearly five-mile radius by Indiana State Police on Interstate 70 outside Greenfield, Indiana, allegedly for following too close or tailgating.[53][54] The FBI denied allegations that they had directed the Indiana State Police to make the stops.[55] Investigators obtained cell phone data that showed that Kohberger's phone stopped connecting to the network around 2:47 a.m. in Pullman on November 13 before reconnecting around 4:48 a.m. near Blaine, Idaho,[22] which is near U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow.[56] Cell phone data also show that his phone utilized a cell tower near the victims' residence around 9 a.m. on November 13, approximately five hours after the killings. Police also obtained data that indicated that his phone pinged from the cell phone tower nearest the residence at least twelve times between June 2022 and November 13.[19][57] Investigators had obtained three unidentified male DNA samples DNA from the crime scene including DNA found on a tan leather knife sheath on Mogen's bed.[19]

Using a public genealogy database, authorities reportedly identified a partial match to an individual with a familial connection to Kohberger.[58] Investigators recovered trash from outside Kohberger’s family's home in Pennsylvania for DNA, which they stated was consistent with being the father of the dna from the sheath.[19]

Before the arrest, investigators monitored Kohberger outside of his parents' Pennsylvania home.[59] He was allegedly seen multiple times wearing surgical gloves and observed putting trash bags inside of the garbage can of a neighbor. The items were sent to the Idaho State Lab for testing.[59] Authorities also said Kohberger had "cleaned his car, inside and outside, not missing an inch [of area]."[59] According to authorities, a search of the home where Kohberger was arrested revealed a knife, a pistol, and a black face mask,[60] as well as ID cards inside a glove inside a box.[61]

Kohberger was taken into custody by an FBI SWAT team and Pennsylvania State Police on December 30 at the home of his parents in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.[62] At the time of his arrest, authorities allegedly found Kohberger in the kitchen dressed in a shirt and shorts, while wearing examination gloves and putting trash into separate zip-lock baggies.[63]

Accused edit

Kohberger was born on November 21, 1994, in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania.[64] Shortly after finishing Pleasant Valley High School in 2013, he attended Monroe Career and Technical Institute in Bartonsville but dropped out a year later.[65] Kohberger later attended Northampton Community College’s campus in Tannersville, where he earned an associate degree in psychology in 2018. After graduating from Northampton, he worked as a security guard for the Pleasant Valley School District, the same school district where his father previously worked as a maintenance worker for many years and his mother for a time as a substitute teacher. He received a B.A. in 2020 and an M.A. in 2022 in Criminal Justice from DeSales University, in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.[66]

In the summer of 2022, Kohberger moved to Washington state to pursue a PhD at Washington State University in Pullman; its campus is less than eight miles (13 km) west of Moscow.[67][68][69][70] At the time of the killings, he was a doctoral student in criminology and had completed his first semester there nine days before his arrest.[71][72] Kohberger had been a teaching assistant at WSU, and less than two weeks before the murders, faculty members met with him to discuss growing concerns about his behavior and conduct. Kohberger was terminated from his teaching assistant role on December 19 with the decision being based on "his unsatisfactory performance as a teaching assistant, including his failure to meet the 'norms of professional behavior' in his interactions with the faculty."[73][74]

Arrest edit

Kohberger was arrested on four counts of first-degree murder and one felony count of burglary, was appointed a public defender, and was detained without bond at the Monroe County Correctional Facility in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. On his return to the county courthouse on January 3, 2023, he agreed to extradition.[75] On January 4, he was flown to Pullman, driven to the Latah County jail in Moscow, and held without bail.[76][77]

Kohberger made his first appearance in the Latah County Courthouse on January 5 and was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary, for breaking into a home with the intent to commit a felony.[78] One week later on January 12, Kohberger made his second appearance for a status conference in the same room at the courthouse.[79]

Indictment and arraignment edit

On May 17, 2023, the Latah County District Court announced that Kohberger was indicted by a grand jury on five charges: four counts of first degree murder and one count of felony burglary.[80] A preliminary probable cause hearing scheduled for June 26 was canceled after the indictment.[81] In May 2023, Kohberger refused to enter a plea during his arraignment. His attorney said that he was "standing silent" on the charges. The judge entered a 'not guilty' plea for him.[82]

On June 26, the Latah County Prosecutor’s office announced they were seeking the death penalty given the statutory aggravating circumstances of the first-degree murder charges.[3] Kohberger is being held in the Latah County Jail and has been denied bond. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.[83] In January 2024, the judge hearing the case granted the defense access under seal the results of the investigative genetic genealogy testing which used a "touch" sample from the sheath of a knife left behind at the crime scene which first led to the investigation of Kohberger.[84]

Aftermath edit

On February 24, 2023, University of Idaho president C. Scott Green announced that the house where the killings occurred was donated to the university; the house was demolished on December 28, 2023.[85][86][87]

A memorial garden for the victims on the University of Idaho campus is being planned.[85][86] Scholarships in the name of three of the victims (Kernodle, Chapin, and Mogen) have been created.[85][86]

The University of Idaho awarded posthumous degrees to the four victims during the university's May 2023 graduation ceremonies.[88]

See also edit

References edit

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46°43′19″N 117°00′39″W / 46.72194°N 117.01083°W / 46.72194; -117.01083