The man arrested in connection with the November killings of four University of Idaho students who were found stabbed to death attended a nearby university in Washington state and traveled across the country in December to spend the holidays with his parents.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was arrested in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, on Friday on an arrest warrant for first-degree murder charges issued by the Moscow, Idaho, Police Department and the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office, according to the criminal complaint.
The four slain students – Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20 – were each stabbed multiple times in the early morning hours of November 13 at an off-campus house in the small college town of Moscow.
Kohberger was apprehended at his parents’ house in Pennsylvania, where Kohberger went several days before Christmas, Monroe County Chief Public Defender Jason LaBar told CNN. A white Elantra authorities had been looking for in connection with the killings was also at the parents’ house, the attorney added.
“He was home for the holidays,” LaBar said.
Kohberger’s father traveled with him from Washington state to Pennsylvania, according to the public defender and a person who claims to have interacted with the father and son earlier in December.
That person, who asked not to be identified, said they did not know the father and son but engaged in friendly conversation with them at an auto maintenance shop on December 16 in Pennsylvania, while the two were getting their Elantra serviced. (A separate person also confirmed to CNN the father and son did business at the location on December 16.)
The father told the individual he flew to Washington state and made the cross-country trip with Kohberger, adding his son would be traveling to the west coast alone after the holidays. Police have not indicated the suspect’s father is in any way implicated in the killings. CNN has attempted to contact the father for comment.
The person described the younger Kohberger as “a little awkward,” but not suspiciously so. The suspect reportedly told the person he wanted to go into the field of behavioral criminal justice and become a professor.
He is a PhD student in criminal justice
Kohberger is a graduate student at Washington State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, according to a now-removed university graduate directory, which was seen by CNN earlier Friday.
Kohberger had finished his first semester as a PhD student in the school’s criminal justice program earlier in December, the university said in a Friday statement.
Kohberger applied for an internship in the fall of 2022 with the Pullman Police Department in Washington, writing in his essay he was interested in “assisting rural law enforcement agencies with how to better collect and analyze technological data in public safety operations,” according to court documents.
Earlier that day, university police assisted authorities in executing search warrants at his office and apartment, both located on the school’s Pullman campus.
Pullman is about a 15-minute drive from Moscow, where the killings took place.
Before his transfer to Idaho, his lawyer in Pennsylvania said his client is “eager to be exonerated” of the charges.
A Reddit post asking about criminal offenses
Kohberger was previously an undergraduate and graduate student at DeSales University, according to a statement on the school’s website. DeSales is a Catholic university in Pennsylvania, according to its official Facebook page.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and earlier this year completed his “graduate studies for the Master of Arts in criminal justice program,” according to a university spokesperson.
Kohberger’s attorney described his client as “very intelligent,” adding “he understands where we are right now.”
In a post removed from Reddit after the arrest was made public, a student investigator associated with a DeSales University study named Bryan Kohberger sought participation in a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime.”
The post said, “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.”
CNN reached one of the principal investigators of the study, a professor at DeSales University, but they declined to comment on the matter. The university has not responded to comment.
A spokesperson for Northampton Community College, also in Pennsylvania, confirmed Kohberger was a student there and graduated with an Associate of Arts and Psychology degree in 2018.
How authorities narrowed their search
One of the surviving roommates, identified in court documents as D.M., told investigators they “heard crying” in the house the morning of the murders and heard a voice say, “It’s ok, I’m going to help you.”
She then saw a “figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her,” according to the affidavit. “D.M. described the figure as 5’ 10” or taller, male, not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows. The male walked past D.M. as she stood in a ‘frozen shock phase,’” the affidavit stated.
Earlier in December, authorities asked the public for information about a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra they believed was in the “immediate area” of the crime scenes around the time of the killings.
Five days after the murders, Kohberger received a new license plate for his white Hyundai Elantra, court documents citing Washington State licensing records reveal.
After an overwhelming number of tips, investigators narrowed their focus to Kohberger by tracing ownership of the Elantra back to him, according to two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation.
A Washington State University officer located a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra registered to Kohberger in an apartment complex parking lot and officials were able to zero in on him because his driver’s license information and photograph were consistent with the roommate’s description, according to court documents.
His DNA also matched DNA recovered at the crime scene, according to the sources, who also explained authorities believed Kohberger left the area and went to Pennsylvania after the crime.
Trash recovered from the Kohberger family residence by Pennsylvania law enforcement on December 27 and sent to the Idaho State Lab for DNA testing helped investigators narrow down Bryan Kohberger as the suspect, according to court documents released Thursday.
The next day, “the Idaho State Lab reported that a DNA profile obtained from the trash” matched a tan leather knife sheath found “laying on the bed” of one of the victims, the court documents said.
Phone records indicate Kohberger’s phone was near the quadruple murder scene between 9:12 a.m. and 9:21 a.m. – hours after Kohberger allegedly killed the university students, the documents said.
Phone records also indicate Kohberger’s phone was near the murder victims’ residence at least 12 times between June 2022 to present day, according to court documents.
A surveillance team with the FBI tracked the suspect for several days in the area where he was arrested, the sources added.
One law enforcement source said Kohberger is believed to have driven across the country to his parents’ house in the Elantra. Authorities had also been surveilling his parents’ house, the source said.
Authorities kept Kohberger under surveillance while investigators from Moscow’s police department, the Idaho State Police and the FBI worked with prosecutors to develop sufficient probable cause for an arrest warrant.
The suspect’s family is “very shocked,” LaBar, the attorney, said, adding they are in “awe over everything that’s going on” and believed this was “out of character for Bryan.”
Authorities asking for information on suspect
Authorities still want to hear from people who may be able to shed more light on Kohberger.
“This is not the end of this investigation, in fact, this is a new beginning,” Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said Friday. “You all now know the name of the person who has been charged with these offenses, please get that information out there, please ask the public, anyone who knows about this individual, to come forward.”
“Report anything you know about him, to help the investigators, and eventually our office and the court system, understand fully everything there is to know about not only the individual, but what happened and why,” Thompson added.
Authorities received roughly 400 calls in the hour after Kohberger’s arrest was announced, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said, adding he hopes tips will help investigators learn more about the suspect.
“We want information on that individual,” the chief told CNN. “We want that updated information so that we can start building that picture now. Every tip matters.”
This story has been updated to clarify the action expected at the extradition hearing.
CNN’s Lauren del Valle, Veronica Miracle, Josh Campbell, Jean Casarez, Pamela Brown, John Miller and Mark Morales contributed to this report.