Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old accused in the November slayings of four University of Idaho students, made his first court appearance in Latah County District Court at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Latah County District Court is in Moscow, the college town where the attack happened.
Kohberger was brought back to Idaho Wednesday night from Pennsylvania where he was arrested. He’s charged with four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary.
If he is found guilty of the murders, Kohberger faces life imprisonment or the death penalty. He remains in the Latah County jail without bail.
The family of Kylee Goncalves, one of the students killed at her off-campus home, was in court Thursday.
Shanon Gray, the Goncalves' attorney, spoke with the media just moments before the hearing. "It's an emotional time for the family seeing the defendant for the first time. This is the beginning of the criminal justice system. And the family will be here for the long haul."
Capital punishment was reinstated in Idaho in 1973 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death penalty statutes across the country in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
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Kohberger, a 28-year-old doctoral student at Washington State University, was flown by Pennsylvania State Police to a small regional airport near the Idaho border and handed over to local authorities Wednesday evening. Uniformed law enforcement officers were waiting on the tarmac for the plane to land and then escorted the handcuffed Kohberger to a caravan of five vehicles for the short drive from Washington across the Idaho border.
The public release of court documents could shed some light on Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson’s reasons for accusing Kohburger in the Nov. 13 stabbing deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin and answer key questions about how authorities built a case against him.
Kohberger was arrested at his parents’ home in eastern Pennsylvania last week and agreed to be extradited to Idaho. His attorney in Pennsylvania, Monroe County chief public defender Jason LaBar, said Kohberger was eager to be exonerated and described him as “an ordinary guy." He said Kohberger would be represented by the chief public defender in Idaho's Kootenai County once in the state.
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Police have released few details about the investigation and a magistrate judge has issued a sweeping gag order barring attorneys, law enforcement agencies and other officials from discussing the case.
The nighttime attack at a Moscow home near the University of Idaho campus spread fear through the surrounding community, as authorities seemed stumped by the brutal stabbings. Investigators appeared to make a breakthrough, however, after searching for a white sedan that was seen around the time of the killings and analyzing DNA evidence collected from the crime scene.
Investigators have said they were still searching for a motive and the weapon used in the attack.
The bodies of 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 found Nov. 13 at the rental home where the women lived. Kernodle and Chapin were dating, and he had been visiting the house that night.
Latah County, Idaho, prosecutors have said they believe Kohberger broke into the victims’ home intending to commit murder.
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Although Moscow police have been tightlipped about the investigation, investigators last month asked the public for help finding a white sedan that was seen near the scene of the crime — specifically, a 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra. Tips poured in and investigators soon announced they were sifting through a pool of around 20,000 potential vehicles.
Meanwhile, Kohberger apparently stayed in Pullman, Washington, through the end of the semester at WSU. Then he drove across country to his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, accompanied by his father. They were in a white Elantra.
While driving through Indiana, Kohberger was pulled over twice on the same day — first by a Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy and a few minutes later by an Indiana state trooper.
Body camera video of the first stop released by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office shows Kohberger behind the wheel and his father in the passenger seat on Dec. 15. Both men told the law enforcement officer that they were traveling from WSU before the officer sent them on their way with a warning for following too closely.
The Indiana State Police released bodycam footage of the second stop. The agency said that at the time, there was no information available to the trooper that would have identified Kohberger as a suspect in the killings. Kohberger was again given a warning for following too closely.