Suspect Arrested in University of Idaho Murders

Using genealogy databases, investigators were able to match the suspect’s DNA to genetic material recovered during the investigation.

Suspect Arrested in University of Idaho Murders

Bryan Kohberger, 28, is a doctoral student at Washington State University. (Photo: Monroe County Correctional Facility)

A 28-year-old criminal justice graduate student was arrested Thursday in connection with the November 13 murders of four University of Idaho (UI) students.

Bryan Kohberger, a doctoral student at Washington State University (WSU) which is located less than 10 miles from UI, was arrested in his home state of Pennsylvania, reports CNN. The victims — Kaylee Gonvalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20 — were stabbed to death in a home near campus.

Local police and the FBI tracked Kohberger to Pennsylvania through his vehicle. Earlier this month, authorities announced they were looking to speak to the driver of a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra that was spotted near the victims’ house around the time of the murders. Moscow Police announced they were sorting through registrations for 22,000 Elantras.

Investigators said Kohberger, accompanied by his father, drove cross-country in his Elantra and arrived at his parents’ house in Pennsylvania on December 13. Authorities started tracking him at some point during the trip east from Idaho. An FBI surveillance team tracked Kohberger for four days before his arrest while investigators worked with prosecutors to develop enough probable cause to get a warrant, two law enforcement sources told CNN. He was arrested at his parents’ home around 3 a.m. Thursday morning. At the time of the murders, Kohberger was living in Pullman, Washington. His apartment and office at WSU were searched by law enforcement Friday morning, the university confirmed in a statement.

DNA also played a key role in identifying the suspect. Using genealogical DNA testing, which experts say has revolutionized criminal investigations, authorities were able to connect Kohberger to unidentified DNA evidence found during the investigation. The DNA was run through a public database to find potential family member matches, and subsequent investigative work led to Kohberger as the suspect.

Investigators have yet to confirm Kohberger’s motive or if he even knew the victims. State law limits what information authorities can release before Kohberger makes his initial appearance in an Idaho court, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said during a press conference Friday.

Kohberger’s attorney said he plans to waive extradition at a hearing this week to expedite his return to Idaho where he will face four counts of first-degree murder and burglary. The murder weapon has not been recovered.

Suspect Studied Criminal Justice, Described as ‘Dominant’ by Childhood Friend

Kohberger received an associate’s degree in psychology from Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania in 2018. Also in 2018, according to a local news report, Kohberger worked as a security guard for the Pleasant Valley School District in Pennsylvania.

Kohberger attended DeSales University in Pennsylvania where he received his bachelor’s degree in 2020. He completed his graduate studies in June 2022 and graduated with a master of arts in criminal justice. Kohberger then began his doctoral program at Washington State University.

Seven months ago, a Reddit user named Bryan Kohberger posted in the Prison and ExCons sub Reddits and asked users to participate in a research project to understand “how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime,” USA Today reports. The post said the study, which aimed to understand the stories behind participants’ most recent criminal offense, had been approved by the DeSales University Institutional Review Board.

The survey included questions like: “Why did you choose that victim or target over others?” “What was the first move you made in order to accomplish your goal?” “Before leaving, is there anything else you did?” Reddit removed the thread on Friday and DeSales removed the survey from its website as well.

Leading up to Kohberger’s arrest, authorities also received over 20,000 tips and conducted more than 300 interviews. Within an hour of Kohberger being identified as the suspect, more than 400 calls were made to the Moscow Police Department’s tip line.

A childhood friend of Kohberger told ABC News that Kohberger was “mean” in high school and eager to be seen as “dominant.”

“He would grapple me and put me in headlocks and armbars and stuff like that,” he said.

Authorities are anyone else who may have known Kohberger and may have helpful information to contact authorities at tipline@ci.moscow.id.us or 208-883-7180.

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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