Dec 30 (Reuters) – A Washington State University criminal justice student has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four University of Idaho students more than six weeks ago, officials said on Friday.
Police in eastern Pennsylvania, acting on a fugitive warrant, arrested 28-year-old Brian Christopher Kochberger Thursday night, according to James Fry, police chief in Moscow, Idaho, where the University of Idaho campus is located. Fry said Koberger lives in Pennsylvania.
Kohberger was arraigned in a Pennsylvania court and remained jailed without bond pending a hearing Tuesday to determine whether he will waive extradition and voluntarily return to Idaho to face charges in the high-profile case, said Attorney Bill Thompson in Latah County, Idaho.
Thompson said Koberger was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and burglary in a crime spree that rattled the small northwest Idaho college town where the four victims — three women and a man in his 20s — were killed.
The four were found fatally stabbed on the morning of Nov. 13 in the off-campus house where the three women lived, two of them sharing a room and one sharing a room with the fourth victim, her boyfriend.
Two other roommates in the house at the time were unharmed, having apparently slept through the murders. Police said one of the survivors’ cell phone was used to call 911 when the bodies were first discovered.
“This is not the end of this investigation. In fact, this is a new beginning,” Thompson said at a news conference.
The victims – identified as Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Wash.; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho — all suffered multiple stab wounds, Frye said. Some of the bodies also showed defensive wounds, Frye said, suggesting they tried to fend off their attacker.
NIGHT OUT BEFORE THE MURDERS
Chapin and his girlfriend Kernodle had attended a frat party the night before, while Mogen and Goncalves, who were best friends, had visited a local bar and food truck. Both couples returned to the house just before 2am. The other two roommates had come home about an hour earlier.
Authorities say they believe the murders took place between 3 and 4 a.m. on Nov. 13.
The victims appeared to have been killed with a knife or some other sharp weapon, police said. Fry said the murder weapon has not been found, although police have recovered a car they are looking for in connection with the killings.
Authorities said Koberger was a student at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington, about 10 miles from the University of Idaho campus.
WSU released a statement Friday saying its police department and Idaho law enforcement officials searched both Koberger’s apartment and his office on campus.
It said Kochberger “completed his first semester as a doctoral student in WSU’s criminal justice program earlier this month,” suggesting he remained on campus, just miles from the crime scene across the Idaho state line, several weeks before returning to Pennsylvania.
Asked at the press conference in Moscow if authorities there were looking for additional suspects, Fry said: “We have a person in custody who committed these terrible crimes, and I believe our community is safe.”
Frye said his department received more than 19,000 tips from the public and conducted more than 300 interviews as part of its investigation, which was assisted by state police and the FBI. He and Thompson urged anyone who knows anything about the accused killer to come forward.
He declined to offer a possible motive for the crime or give any details about the investigation, such as how authorities tracked Kochberger to Albrightsville, Pa., a small community in the Pocono Mountain resort region about 90 miles north of Philadelphia, where he was arrested .
Thompson said more details will come publicly from a probable cause affidavit that summarizes the factual basis for the charges, but remains under court seal until the suspect physically returns to Idaho to be served with the arrest warrant.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Neil Fullick
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