Jan. 4—STROUDSBURG, Pa. — The criminology graduate student accused of killing four University of Idaho students agreed Tuesday to be extradited from his home state of Pennsylvania to Idaho to face murder charges.
In his first public court appearance since his arrest early Friday morning at his parents’ home in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Effort, 28-year-old Washington State University student Bryan Kohberger appeared calm, telling a judge in an even tone that he understood the charges against him: four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary.
Dressed in a red jumpsuit, Kohberger turned several times during the brief hearing to look at his parents, who sat behind him with other family members. He appeared to mouth the words, “Hi, Mom” before the judge began making sure he understood the rights he was choosing to forgo.
Kohberger was represented by Jason LaBar, chief public defender of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, who confirmed that Anne Taylor, chief public defender of Kootenai County, will represent Kohberger in Idaho.
Monroe County Judge Margherita Patti-Worthington said Kohberger would be transferred to Idaho within 10 business days, but a Pennsylvania State Police spokesman told reporters the exact timing of his extradition was not yet clear.
Before approving his expedited transfer to Idaho, Patti-Worthington asked Kohberger a series of questions, including whether he was voluntarily skipping the extradition proceeding and whether he was mentally fit to make the decision.
“Mr. Kohberger, do you suffer from any mental health diagnosis or take any type of prescribed medication — or are you on any type of medication — that would impact your ability to understand what we are doing here today?” the judge asked, to which Kohberger replied, “No.”
Television crews from stations across the country converged on this town of about 6,000 in the Pocono Mountains, with dozens of journalists crowding under tents and into local cafes to escape a steady downpour. The courtroom was packed, with Kohberger’s family sitting in front of a section filled with journalists and scores of curious locals sitting on the other side of the room.
Juan Guzmán, a Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, resident, attended the hearing on his way to the gym out of curiosity. In 15 years living in the area, he said, he had never seen anything like Tuesday’s spectacle.
Deborah Whitman and Peter Campbell, who live in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, are regulars at a cafe near the courthouse that became an ad hoc staging area for journalists on Tuesday. Whitman said it was strange seeing a local in the national media spotlight.
“This is kind of a small town,” Campbell said. “We were probably sitting in a restaurant 10 feet away from this guy at one point or another.”
UI seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington, were stabbed to death Nov. 13 at a rental home in Moscow. The three female victims lived in the rental house with two other women who police said were unharmed and not involved in the crime.
Mogen’s father, Ben Mogen, said Friday his family is “so relieved” a suspect has been arrested.
“I’m just so appreciative of all the people that worked hard on this day and night, and that they knew what they were doing,” Mogen said. “Having faith in them this whole time was hard, but I’m just so glad that we had such a hardworking bunch of people doing what they do. I just hope they know how much the families appreciate them. … We’re pretty lucky.”
In an interview on NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday, LaBar confirmed that Kohberger and his father, Michael Kohberger, were stopped twice in mid-December by police in Indiana while driving together across the country from Pullman to the family’s home.
“He believes he is going to be exonerated,” LaBar said of Kohberger to host Savannah Guthrie.
Maj. Christopher Paris of the Pennsylvania State Police told reporters after the hearing that 50 “tactical assets” were involved in the arrest in the early hours of Dec. 30. Police broke multiple windows and doors to enter the house, where Kohberger was with his mother and father, Paris said, adding that
Kohberger surrendered without incident.
The probable cause affidavit that allowed law enforcement to obtain search warrants remains sealed. The warrants allowed officers to obtain Kohberger’s DNA, impound a white Hyundai Elantra that matched the description of a car seen the night of the killings near the campus-area home, and search the Kohbergers’ family home. Paris did not disclose what was collected.
The FBI processed the scene.
First Assistant District Attorney of Monroe County Mike Mancuso said Pennsylvania law enforcement wasn’t aware of Kohberger being a suspect until a couple of days before the arrest. When Pennsylvania authorities were notified, the information was kept to fewer than 10 people.
Few details about the fatal attack, such as the evidence against Kohberger, a motive or whether he has a connection to the victims, has been released. The probable cause affidavit detailing at least some of the evidence police have against Kohberger will likely be unsealed after he makes his first appearance in an Idaho courtroom, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said at a news conference last week.
Mancuso said it’s a “quirk” that Idaho does not release probable cause affidavits until a suspect has appeared in Idaho court.
“I definitely believe that one of the main reasons the defendant chose to waive extradition … was the need to know what was in those documents,” Mancuso said.
He also noted that Pennsylvania investigators will explore whether Kohberger is connected to other crimes and fully support investigation into Kohberger’s background.
Orion Donovan-Smith’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.