The brutal murders of four University of Idaho students who were found stabbed to death in their off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho, on Nov. 13 sent shockwaves across the college town which hadn’t seen a murder in several years, and left the community fearful as a suspect in the case remained a mystery for more than a month-and-a-half.
The victims Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21—three of whom lived in the home— were killed early morning hours of Nov. 13 in what police initially called a “targeted attack.” After weeks of investigations and at least 19,000 tips from the community, Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old Ph.D student of criminology at Washington State University, just 8 miles from the murder scene, was arrested as a primary suspect in late December.
“These tragic murders took four young, vibrant members from our community. This has been a difficult time for the families, the university, the Moscow community, and the people of Idaho,” said Colonel Kedrick Wills of the Idaho State Police in a press statement following Kohberger’s arrest in Albrightsville, Pa, on Dec. 30. “However, it has also proven that communities come together in tough times.”
The court unsealed an affidavit Thursday that outlined how authorities tracked down Kohberger and linked him to the slayings.
Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall has issued a nondissemination order in the case that prohibits law enforcement, attorneys, and others from communicating with the public or media about the case.
Here’s what we know about the case so far.
A timeline of the murder
On the night of Nov. 13, two pairs of roommates, who lived in the Moscow apartment where the murders occurred, went out separately and arrived home shortly before 2 a.m. Kernodle and Chapin arrived home first, followed by Goncalves and Mogen, according to the affidavit. Two other roommates, who were not killed, were also in the home at the time of the murders. Footage of the Moscow neighborhood shows that a white Hyundai Elantra was seen driving around the student’s townhouse three times beginning just before 3:30 a.m.
Kernodle received a DoorDash delivery at 4 a.m., the same time one of the surviving roommates, identified as D.M. in court documents, was woken up by what she said sounded like her roommate playing with her dog upstairs. At around 4:04 a.m, the Elantra made its fourth round by their home.
Phone records show that Kernodle was on TikTok until 4:12 a.m., according to court documents. Sometime after 4 a.m crying could be heard from Kernodle’s room along with a male voice saying something along the lines of “It’s ok, I’m going to help you,” her roommate told police.
Court documents say a security camera from a nearby home captured audio of a whimper, loud thud, and a dog barking. D.M alleges that she opened her bedroom door once more and saw a man with “bushy eyebrows,” black clothes and a mask covering their mouth and nose walk past her as she stood frozen in shock in the doorway to her room. He walked towards a sliding-glass door in the home, and she then went into her room and locked the door.
At around 4:20 a.m. the Elantra is captured speeding away from the Moscow area, according to the affidavit.
Police did not arrive on scene until noon that day, after a 911 call was made to report an unconscious person. They found four people dead of stab wounds in two separate rooms in the house.
After the murders, police initially said they did not believe there was an “ongoing risk to the community,” but just three days later, on Nov. 16, Chief James Fry changed previous assurances and said “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community.”
Although police had previously said the attack was targeted, they later said they were not sure whether it was.
Arrest of Bryan Kohberger
Authorities engaged in a national effort to find and arrest a suspect in the case. In the meantime, police say Kohberger left Idaho for his Pennsylvania family home. The Pennsylvania State Police SWAT team broke down the door and windows to his home in a “dynamic entry” on Dec. 30, formally arresting and charging him with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.
“These murders have shaken our community and I know that no arrest will restore the families or bring these young students back. However, we believe in the criminal process and continue to extend our most sincere condolences to the families,” said Moscow Police Chief James Fry in a press release following the announcement of the arrest. “Since November, investigators have been laser-focused on pursuing every lead in our pursuit of justice… It was persistent determination and extensive hours spent unraveling this case that led to an arrest.”
In the days leading up to Kohberger’s arrest, law enforcement sources say a surveillance team was instructed to watch the suspect’s movements and told to find an object with DNA that could connect Kohberger to the crime scene. Investigators previously found a leather knife sheath on the bed next to Mogen and Goncalves with DNA that they is Kohberger’s.
Police narrowed in on Kohberger after they broadened the search for the white Elantra that had been seen on surveillance footage. They were able to find one matching the description at Washington State University that was registered to Kohberger, according to an affidavit. Authorities also said that a surviving roommate had said that Kohberger matched the description of who they had seen in the home on Nov. 13. Phone records also placed Kohberger in Moscow at 4:48 a.m, according to the affidavit.
Agents say that prior to his arrest, Kohberger was seen wearing surgical gloves outside multiple times, and had deeply cleaned the inside and outside of his car. Kohberger also went on a cross-country road trip with his father, and by the end of December he was back in their Pennsylvania home. It was there that authorities obtained DNA from garbage outside the home and identified that a sample collected was the father of the person whose DNA had been left on the knife sheath found at the murder scene, according to the affidavit.
Kohberger was initially held without bond before being extradited from Pennsylvania to Idaho on Jan. 4.
Public defender Jason LaBar has said that Kohberger was surprised by his arrest, and “looks forward to being exonerated.” He denies any involvement in the murder.
LaBar also shared a statement on behalf of Kohberger’s family. “First and foremost we care deeply for the four families who have lost their precious children. There are no words that can adequately express the sadness we feel, and we pray each day for them,” they said. “We will continue to let the legal process unfold and as a family we will love and support our son and brother.”
Authorities have not identified a motive in the killings or identified whether Kohberger had a connection to any of the victims. The murder weapon has also not been located. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 12.
Response to the murders
The community commemorated the victims with a vigil held at the University of Idaho on Nov. 30. Memorials can also be found in front of the campus entrance as well as at Mad Greek, a local restaurant.
Two scholarships have also been created in the victims’ honor: Sigma Chi Foundation’s Ethan Chapin Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Xana Kernodle Scholarship Endowment, which was created by her family. The Kernodle family has vouched to match dollar-for-dollar contributions to the fund, up to $10,000.
After the affidavit was released earlier this week, Sheldon Kernodle, a family member of Xana’s, asked the public to keep the family in their thoughts.
“Please think about our family and all the other families involved. Find ways to support them as well,” he wrote. “We must continue to remember the ones we lost. We have a long road ahead of us.”
Steve Goncalves, the father of Kaylee Goncalves, told CNN that “none of these girls deserved this.”
“The real problem we have is we have an individual that thought it was okay to attack other human beings. That’s what I’m going to focus on.”
During Thursday’s court proceedings, Goncalves also said that Kohberger never turned to look at him.
“I was hoping for that,” Goncalves told TODAY. “You know, he’s going to avoid me for a while, but he’s definitely going to have to deal with the effects of the aftermath.”
Police are still open to receiving tips by phone (208-883-7180) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org).