Idaho murder suspect accused in slayings of 4 students last fall
STROUDSBURG, Pa. -- The suspect in the November slaying of four University of Idaho students waived extradition from his home state of Pennsylvania to face murder charges in the state of Idaho.
Bryan Kohberger arrived at Pennsylvania's Monroe County Courthouse Tuesday by prison transport van, cuffed and in a prison jumpsuit, and was escorted to the back of the courthouse by armed law enforcement.
Kohberger answered "no" when the judge asked if he had any mental health issues that would impede his ability to waive his extradition, and Kohberger's father, also in the courtroom, shook his head "no." The defendant signed the waiver at the defense table with shackles still around his wrist.
Judge Worthington ordered Kohberger must be handed over to the custody of Latah County District Attorney's Office within 10 days.
Kohberger has invoked his right to be silent going forward, his state-appointed extradition attorney, Jason LaBar, said.
Tuesday's move was expected after the attorney earlier indicated his client planned to waive extradition from his home state and called the hearing a "formality proceeding."
All the commonwealth needed to prove is that his client resembles or is the person on the arrest warrant and that he was in the area at the time of the crimes, Monroe County Chief Public Defender LaBar told CNN's Jean Casarez.
Kohberger did not answer reporters' questions as he was escorted in. He made eye contact with and nodded to his family seated in the first row of the courtroom behind the defense table as officers brought him in.
Kohberger's mother and father sat on either side of his sisters, accompanied by a representative from the public defender's office, and when the judge told Kohberger he faces charges of murder when he returns to Idaho, his mother collapsed into his sister's arms, both sobbing openly.
Arrangements are currently being made to transfer Kohberger to Idaho, according to state police, but no timeline has been announced.
"My heart goes out to the families of the victims, their friends, the community of Moscow and the University of Idaho," Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Robert Evanchick said at a news conference. "No words can heal the pain associated with the loss of a child. Their young lives were ended far too soon."
The Monroe County Correctional Facility warden informed officials that Kohberger has been a "model prisoner" who has not caused any problems during his time in detention, according to a source familiar with Kohberger's status at the facility.
Kohberger, considered a maximum status prisoner, is being held in a cell monitored by an officer at all times.
He has been "quiet" and "followed directions," according to the source.
Kohberger was arrested Friday in Pennsylvania, almost seven weeks after Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found dead November 13 in an off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho.
Kohberger was "shocked a little bit," LaBar told CNN a day after his client was arrested. Kohberger is presumed innocent until proven guilty, LaBar added in a statement. He "believes he's going to be exonerated." LaBar said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday.
Kohberger has been "very easy to talk to," is "in a calm demeanor" and understands the proceedings, including what to expect concerning his transport to Idaho and what to expect when he gets there, LaBar said.
The 28-year-old suspect last month finished his first semester as a PhD student in the criminal justice program at Washington State University's campus in Pullman, about a 15-minute drive west of Moscow.
He drove home to Pennsylvania for the holidays, accompanied by his father, LaBar told CNN on Saturday. The two arrived in the commonwealth around December 17.
A white Hyundai Elantra authorities had been looking for in connection with the killings was found at Kohberger's parents' house, LaBar confirmed.
Driving through Indiana, Kohberger was stopped twice by law enforcement on December 15 for following another vehicle too closely in the Elantra, authorities said Tuesday. The second stop was by a state trooper, who let Kohberger go with a warning.
"At the time of this stop, there was no information available on a suspect for the crime in Idaho, to include identifying information or any specific information related to the license plate state or number of the white Hyundai Elantra which was being reported in the media to have been seen in or around where the crime occurred," Indiana State Police said. The Hancock County Sheriff's Office, which had stopped him the first time, also said this in their release.
Investigators focused on Kohberger as a suspect after tracing ownership of the Elantra, which had been seen in the area of the killings, to him, according to two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. Also, his DNA was matched to genetic material recovered at the home where the students were slain, the two sources said.
An FBI surveillance team tracked Kohberger for four days before his arrest while law enforcement worked with prosecutors to develop enough probable cause to get a warrant, the two law enforcement sources said.
Other than the DNA and the car, details such as whether Kohberger knew the victims -- or a possible motive in the slayings -- are not publicly known. The probable-cause affidavit, which would contain information to justify the suspect's arrest, remains sealed until he appears in an Idaho court.
Michael Mancuso, Monroe County's first assistant district attorney, on Tuesday posited that Kohberger waived extradition because he wants to see what is in the affidavit.
"I definitely believe that one of the main reasons the defendant chose to waive extradition and hurry his return back to Idaho was the need to know what was in those documents," Mancuso said at a news conference.
With those details still unknown, much public interest has focused on Kohberger's criminal justice studies.
He graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2020 and this year completed his Master of Arts in criminal justice at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, according to a spokesperson for the university.
In a post removed from Reddit after his arrest was announced, a student investigator associated with a DeSales University study named Bryan Kohberger sought participants for a research project "to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime."
"In particular, this study seeks to understand the story behind your most recent criminal offense, with an emphasis on your thoughts and feelings throughout your experience," the post read.
Moscow Police Department Chief James Fry said after the arrest that the investigation of the complex, extensive case was not over.
Investigators are still searching for pieces of evidence, Fry said, including the weapon used, believed to be a fixed-blade knife.
"We developed a clear picture over time," he said, "(but) be assured that the work is not done. This is just started."
Mancuso said his office stands ready to assist Idaho investigators.
"I would hold our office at the disposal of the Idaho authorities to help facilitate a complete background investigation into the defendant, both the activities prior to the murders occurring within the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and his activities after the murders in Pennsylvania," Mancuso said Tuesday.
When pressed as to what Pennsylvania authorities will look at specifically, Mancuso added, "In any case of this nature ... you want to look at any evidence of a possible motive, you want to look at any evidence of a pattern, of modus operandi or method, you want to get into the subject's character and mental state to the best you can."
Kohberger is being held without bail in Pennsylvania, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said Friday. Once Kohberger is in Idaho, he is expected to make an initial appearance before a magistrate, and further hearings will be scheduled.
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