Bryan Kohberger, suspect in Idaho college slayings, makes court appearance

MOSCOW, Idaho — A victim’s mother wiped away tears on Thursday as Bryan Christopher Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students, made his first courtroom appearance in the state.

The handcuffed Kohberger, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, faced Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall and answered “yes” when she asked if he understood his rights and the charges brought against him.

He’s accused of killing Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho, inside a Moscow home on Nov. 13.

The four charges of first-degree murder carry sentences that could include life in prison to the death penalty.

Goncalves’ mother Kristi Goncalves sat in the front row and wiped away tears as her husband Steve wrapped his arm around her shoulders while Judge Marshall read the charges.

Kohberger’s court appearance prompted the release of previously sealed documents, chronicling the police probe that led investigators to his arrest.

Key revelations in an affidavit, supporting the arrest and filed by police in Moscow, Idaho, included:

  • A woman, who was inside the house where the Nov. 13 murders happened but was not harmed, told police she saw a figure “clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose” who “walked past” her as she “stood in a ‘frozen shock phase.’ “

  • A knife sheath found near Mogen’s body had a “single source of male DNA.” That discovery prompted Pennsylvania police to recover “trash from the Kohberger family residence” in Albrightsville, where they allegedly found genetic evidence that linked him to the Moscow murders.

  • Police claimed they have video of Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra near the crime scene when the murders happened on Nov. 13 and evidence that his cell phone was on and allegedly near the Moscow house that early morning.

Shanon Gray, an attorney for the Goncalves family, said his clients were understandably shaken seeing the suspect in person.

“It’s obviously an emotional time for the family, seeing the defendant for the first time,” Gray told reporters outside court.

“This is the beginning of the criminal justice system and the family will be here for the long haul.”

Earlier this week, Marshall ordered police, attorneys and officials directly connected to the trial not to speak publicly or share any information about Kohberger’s prosecution outside courtroom walls.

The parties, “investigators, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and agents of the prosecuting attorney or defense attorney,” are “prohibited from making extrajudicial comments, written or oral, concerning this case,” Marshall ordered.

Kohberger arrived in Latah County on Wednesday, following a cross-country trip from northeastern Pennsylvania where the Washington State University graduate student was arrested on Friday.

In addition to the murder allegations, Kohberger was also charged with burglary for allegedly breaking into the Moscow home, in this small college town, with the intent to commit a felony.

At the time of the slayings, Kohberger was a doctoral student, studying criminal justice and criminology at Washington State, a short drive over the Washington-Idaho state line from Moscow. A WSU official has said Kohberger is no longer enrolled at the Pullman school.

Kohberger was ordered held without bail and his next pre-trial hearing was set for Jan. 12.

Deon Hampton reported from Moscow, Idaho, and David K. Li from New York City.

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