A PhD student in criminology at Washington State University has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students more than six weeks ago, police said.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was arrested on Friday in the state of Pennsylvania, said James Fry, chief of police in the town of Moscow, Idaho, where the university is located.
Kohberger was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary, said prosecutor Bill Thompson of Latah County, Idaho.
The quadruple killings sent shockwaves through the small college town.
The four victims – three women and a man in their early 20s – were found fatally stabbed on the morning of November 13 inside an off-campus house where the three women lived. The fourth killed was the boyfriend of one of the roommates.
Two other female roommates in the house at the time were unharmed, apparently sleeping through the killings. Police said the cellphone of one of the survivors was used to call emergency-911 when the bodies were first discovered.
Kohberger remained in jail without bond awaiting a hearing on Tuesday to determine whether he will waive extradition and return voluntarily to Idaho to face charges in the high-profile case.
“This is not the end of this investigation. In fact, it is a new beginning,” Thompson told a news conference.
The four victims – Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho – suffered multiple stab wounds.
Autopsies revealed that all four were likely asleep when they were attacked. Some had defensive wounds. There was no sign of sexual assault, police said.
No murder weapon, no motive – many tips
They appeared to have been killed with a knife or some other “edged” weapon, according to police. Fry said the murder weapon has not been recovered.
The killings initially confounded law enforcement and shook the small farming community of about 25,000 people. But tips began pouring in after police asked the public for help in finding a white Hyundai Elantra sedan seen near the home around the time of the killings.
DNA evidence played a key role in identifying Kohberger as a suspect, and officials were able to match his DNA to genetic material recovered during the investigation, a law enforcement official told the AP news agency.
Fry said his department had received more than 19,000 tips from the public and had conducted more than 300 interviews as part of its investigation, assisted by state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
He declined to offer a possible motive for the crime or to give any details about the investigation, such as how authorities traced Kohberger to Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, where he was arrested.
Kohberger is a PhD student in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, about 16 kilometres (10 miles) from the University of Idaho campus, according to the authorities.
The Washington university issued a statement on Friday saying its police department and Idaho law enforcement officers searched both Kohberger’s apartment residence and his office on campus.
It said Kohberger had completed his first semester as a PhD student in its criminal justice programme earlier this month, suggesting that he had remained on campus, just kilometres away from the crime scene across the Idaho state line, for several weeks before returning to Pennsylvania.
Federal and state investigators are now combing through his background, financial records and electronic communications as they work to identify a motive and build the case, police said.
Thompson said more details would emerge publicly from a probable-cause affidavit that summarises the factual basis for the charges but remains under court seal until the suspect is physically back in Idaho to be served his arrest warrant.