By MARC LEVY, REBECCA BOONE and MIKE BALSAMO
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Authorities in Pennsylvania arrested a suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found stabbed to death in their beds more than a month ago, a law enforcement official said Friday.
The killings initially mystified law enforcement and shook the small town of Moscow, Idaho, a farming community of about 25,000 people that had not had a murder for five years. Fears of a repeat attack prompted nearly half of the University of Idaho’s over 11,000 students to leave the city and switch to online classes.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was arrested early Friday morning by the Pennsylvania State Police at a home in Chestnuthill Township, authorities said. He is being held for extradition to Idaho on a warrant for first degree murder, according to arrest paperwork filed in Monroe County Court. More details are expected at a press conference later today, and an extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
A Ph.D. student by the same name is listed in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University, which is a short drive across the state line from the University of Idaho. Messages seeking more information were left for officials at WSU. DeSales University in Pennsylvania confirmed that a student by that name 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 at 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 broke open after law enforcement asked the public for help finding a white Hyundai Elantra sedan seen near the home around the time of the killings. The Moscow Police Department made the request Dec. 7, and by the next day had to direct 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 identified more than 22,000 vehicles matching that make and model.
Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; and Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington, were members of the university’s Greek system and close friends. Mogen, Goncalves and Kernodle lived in the three-story rental home with two other roommates. Kernodle and Chapin were dating and he was visiting the house that night.
Autopsies showed all four were likely asleep when they were attacked. Some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times. There was no sign of sexual assault, police said.
Police said Thursday the rental home would be cleared of “potential biohazards and other harmful substances” to collect evidence starting Friday morning. It was unclear how long the work would take, but a news release said the house would be returned to the property manager upon completion.
Shanon Gray, an attorney representing Goncalves’s father, Steve Goncalves, said law enforcement officials called the family last night to let them know about the arrest, but gave no additional information about how or why they believe he might be connected to the murders.
“Obviously they’re relieved that someone has been arrested,” Gray said. “You guys know about 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 it seemed like “he was always looking for a way to fit in.”
“It’s pretty out of left field,” he said of the news Friday. “I had honestly just pegged him as being super awkward.”
Roberts started the program in August — along with Kohberger, he said — and had several courses with him. He described Kohberger as wanting to appear academic.
“One thing he would always do, almost with fail, was find the most complicated way to explain something,” he said. “He had to make sure you knew that he knew it.”
The case also enticed online sleuths who speculated about potential suspects and motives. In the early days of the investigation, police released relatively few details publicly. Safety concerns also had the university hiring an additional security firm to escort students across campus and the Idaho State Police sending troopers to help patrol the city’s streets.
Kohberger was arrested in Monroe County, located in eastern Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. The county seat, Stroudsburg, is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Philadelphia.