Four students stabbed to death, a weeks-long manhunt but no motive: What we know about the Idaho murders

The investigation into the murder of four college students in the quiet town of Moscow, Idaho, that began in November last year is now heading towards its final stages after several months of unraveling.

The brutal assault took place nearly eight hours after authorities were summoned to the horrifying location at the dwelling situated outside the campus. The individuals, who were all enrolled as students at the University of Idaho, were unexpectedly targeted within their living quarters and fatally wounded with a knife resembling those used in the military, which has not yet been located.

Scant details about the carnage were revealed weeks after the arrest of Bryan Kohberger, a student at Washington State University, who was apprehended in December for searching and raiding the home, family, and office apartment. The community grappled with fears of a loose murderer and reeled from the tragedy.

The probe and its findings continue to be a perplexing enigma, with the majority of its aspects and conclusions still intact and a restraining order in the case still in effect. However, additional information has been made known to the public through the disclosure of search warrants and arrest records in recent months.

In May, a grand jury indicted Mr. Kohberger on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary, effectively rerouting the case directly to the state’s felony court level, allowing prosecutors to skip the preliminary hearing process.

Mr. Kohberger declined to plead guilty to the charges of murder, leaving the sorrowful family members of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin to confront the alleged perpetrator of their children’s deaths in the courtroom following a prolonged period of uncertainty.

The October trial date was canceled, causing the accused murderer to give up his right to a prompt trial. It is currently uncertain when he will face the charges.

Here, The Independent delves deeply into the advancements in the intricate case.

Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin were fatally stabbed on 13 November in the rented house of the young women on King Road in Moscow. Chapin, who is Kernodle’s partner, was present at the residence on the night of the killings, and the house is conveniently located just a short walk away from the campus.

Based on a sworn statement for Mr. Kohberger’s apprehension, it is believed that the murders occurred at approximately 4am.

Adjacent to her mutilated corpse, the brown leather Kabar cover, adorned with the emblem of the United States Marine Corps, was unearthed on Mogen’s bed. Among the disclosures in the 18-page report, it was revealed that Mr. Kohberger’s DNA was detected on a blade cover that the perpetrator abandoned at the scene of the crime.

The disguised murderer encountered Ms Mortenson directly, according to the police report. Bethany Funke and Dylan Mortenson, the two additional occupants of the residence, were present during the quadruple murder but were unscathed by the perpetrator.

According to Ms Mortenson’s horrifying narrative, she had fallen asleep in her bedroom on the second level of the three-story house, but was awakened by what seemed to be Goncalves playing with her canine in one of the bedrooms on the third floor.

“There is an individual present,” uttering, either Goncalves or Kernodle is suspected to be the person she overheard Ms Mortenson mentioning. After a brief period, her former acquaintance, who turned out to be the murderer, was positioned at the entrance of the doorway and – Chapin and Kernodle, who were on the same floor – were brutally slain in the bedroom on the second floor of her residence, according to what she informed investigators.

Ms. Morterson stated minutes later that when she opened her door for a second time, she thought she heard the crying coming from Kernodle’s room. She mentioned that she did not see anything when she initially looked out of her bedroom.

At that moment, she stated that she heard a male voice uttering, “Do not worry, I will assist you.”

She walked past the sliding glass door of her home, headed towards the back, and locked herself in her room. Later, when she opened the door, she said she saw a figure dressed in black clothing, with a mask covering their nose and mouth. She was frozen in shock, unable to recognize the man she saw for the first time.

She failed to notice him within the dimly lit house, as he did not experience a fortunate escape or whether the murderer caught sight of her. A report was made of an “unresponsive person” from a cellphone belonging to one of the roommates who managed to survive – the call was placed at 11:58 am, a staggering eight hours after the distressing incident, yet it did not result in a 911 call, despite the near miss.

The bodies of Goncalves and Mogen were discovered in a bedroom on the third level, whereas Kernodle and Chapin were located on the second level of the residence. This prompts speculation as to whether he had intended to murder all four individuals or if certain victims were unintentionally harmed in the dreadful assault.

The sworn statement does not provide any information about what relationship – if any – Mr. Kohberger had with his supposed victims.

In August 2022, Mr. Kohberger, a doctoral candidate studying criminal justice at Washington State University, relocated to that area to commence the educational curriculum, residing a mere 15 minutes away from the individuals across the Idaho-Washington boundary in Pullman.

Goncalves and Mogen, both 21, were final-year students at the University of Idaho and were anticipated to complete their studies this year.

In sixth grade, the two “exquisitely stunning” young ladies met and became inseparable, as shared by Mr. Goncalves, Goncalves’ father, during a vigil weeks after the tragic incidents.

Eventually, they ended up moving into the same apartment. They came here together and began looking at colleges. At that time, he mentioned that they shared everything. They came to our house together and did homework together every day. They also found each other just by chance.

“And ultimately, they passed away together, in the identical room, in the same bed.”

The knife attacks took place when it is assumed that the pair of individuals in their twenties were conscious. Kernodle and Chapin had started a romantic relationship several months before they were killed and were in their third year of college.

Half a year following the knife attacks, the relatives of the deceased students received awards in their memory for their accomplishments.

On 13 May, family members of Mogen and Goncalves strolled across the platform to receive their diplomas in a heartfelt ceremony. Kernodle’s relatives also received her marketing certificate in a distinct ceremony, while Chapin’s accolade in sports, recreation, and management was sent by mail to his parents.

Kernodle’s family recently received her marketing certificate at a private event, whereas Chapin’s award in sports, recreation, and management will be sent to his parents through mail later this week.

Mr. Kohberger was working as a teaching assistant at WSU in the field of criminal justice and studying for his PhD at the time of the murders.

In June 2022, Mr Kohberger finished his graduate studies after studying criminology at DeSales University first as an undergraduate. Prior to this.

According to online school records, Mr. Kohberger obtained a master’s degree in criminal justice this year from DeSales University and an associate arts degree in 2018 from Northampton Community College in Albrightsville.

While studying at DeSales University, he interviewed Katherine Ramsland, a renowned forensic psychologist, and co-killer of BTK, who wrote the book “The Untold Story of the Serial Killer BTK”

At Pleasant Valley School District, where his mother was documented as a paraprofessional, he held a part-time position as a security officer until August 2021.

The supposed killer conducted a research endeavor “to comprehend how feelings and psychological characteristics impact decision-making while carrying out a criminal act”.

Mr Kohberger contacted potential participants on Reddit, with the chilling questionnaire resurfacing after his apprehension.

This study seeks to understand the story behind your most recent criminal offense, with an emphasis on your thoughts and experiences throughout.

Internship with the local police department applied for he when murders the of time the around continued have to appears fascination his.

The affidavit revealed that he wrote an essay on how he had an interest in assisting rural law enforcement agencies in analyzing and collecting public safety data in a more technologically advanced manner, and applied for an internship with the Pullman Police Department in the fall of 2022.

On the 30th of December, authorities in Idaho and Pennsylvania revealed the apprehension of Mr. Kohberger following a period of silence regarding the ongoing inquiry. On that very day, he was taken into custody at his parents’ residence in Pennsylvania, and a search warrant was carried out at Mr. Kohberger’s apartment in Pullman, Washington.

During the search of the apartment, evidence of seizure was recovered, including 15 peculiar stains, a disposable glove, a computer tower, receipts, and hairs.

In January, former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer and former crime scene investigator Dr. Monte Miller told Independent investigators that the most likely items believed to have stains of blood were a collection of “uncovered dark red spot” and a reddish/brown stain on a pillow and mattress cuttings, including several blood stains. This information was recorded in the search warrant record.

Dr. Miller stated, “At the time, we found something that resembles blood, which can be considered a euphemism for a brown or reddish stain. We don’t know if it could be his own blood or the blood of the victims. They will be able to obtain DNA if it is blood, but they won’t know until they test it. We are currently looking for any kind of DNA evidence that may have come from the crime scene, but we don’t know what the stains in the sheets could be.”

Ms Coffindaffer stated: “It is not referred to as blood, but it is definitely implied that it was blood.”

Multiple items were taken from Mr. Kohberger’s apartment in Pullman, Washington on May 4, as revealed by court documents released by authorities. These items, which were not specified as positive or negative, were tested for the presence of blood.

In response to the incident, law enforcement authorities subsequently discovered a canine that was present at the residence during the time of the homicides. Among the individuals whom he is alleged to have murdered, Goncalves, a victim, had a “potentially animal-derived strand of hair” listed among the items confiscated. It is not believed that Mr. Kohberger owns a domestic animal.

Dr. Miller suggests that the DNA test could be conducted on the dog’s hair, provided there is skin attached to it or a root present. Although it may not directly link to the specific dog, a microscopic analysis could be carried out to eliminate most dogs, especially if the hair is simply shed without any accompanying skin.

Following the homicides, Mr. Kohberger promptly replaced the license plates on his Hyundai Elantra within a few days. A comparable version of the vehicle, resembling his white Hyundai Elantra, was observed near the location of the crime during the approximate time of the killings. Additionally, Mr. Kohberger’s involvement in the crime was further substantiated by the analysis of his cellphone records.

Four students were discovered fatally stabbed in a residence in Moscow, five days after Mr. Kohberger modified the registration from Pennsylvania to Washington on November 18th. This information was unearthed through a thorough examination of CarFax documents conducted by Newsweek. As per a citation from the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, the car belonging to the suspect had Pennsylvania license plates when it was stopped by the police in Moscow in August 2022.

The police stated that they had not found any murder weapon before the restraining order was imposed after Mr. Kohberger’s arrest.

The motive remains unknown. The attack’s execution and the killer’s familiarity with the victims, if any, are still undisclosed, leaving uncertainty about whether it was driven by jealousy or rage.

Authorities have refused to reveal who made the 911 call and the audio release will not describe them as merely a victim. It is unclear what led to the discussion of other friends and roommates in the unconscious state.

Investigators have not disclosed whether they believed the killer entered the house after the students returned or if he entered the house prior to the victims arriving home and concealed himself before attacking them while they were asleep.

A preliminary hearing, previously arranged, was on the schedule, during which prosecutors needed to demonstrate to the judge that there is sufficient evidence to warrant proceeding with charges of burglary and four instances of murder, set for 26 June.

The Associated Press reported that the case was effectively redirected to the state’s felony court level, and prosecutors were given permission to bypass the preliminary hearing process when, on May 16th, a grand jury indicted Mr. Kohberger on identical accusations.

According to the indictment, Mr Kohberger is charged with four counts of murder in the first degree and one count of burglary.

Each of the individuals were fatally stabbed, with the intention of causing harm, planning, purposefully, illegally, and intentionally, as indicated by each charge of murder.

His attorney stated that Mr. Kohberger declined to plead in Latah County District Court on 22 May, remaining quiet regarding the charges.

The judge’s response prompted Mr. Kohberger to enter a plea of “not guilty” on behalf of the potentially facing the death penalty, as he could be in the setting of the trial’s stage.

It has also emerged that Mr. Kohberger’s parents have ordered a grand jury to testify before in the case of the woman found dead after her sudden disappearance, in the family’s home state of Pennsylvania.

The details can subsequently be disclosed to Idaho prosecutors. The mother of the alleged murderer has already provided testimony to the grand jury, while his father is scheduled to give a statement on Thursday (25 May), according to CNN’s initial report on Wednesday (24 May), which cited an anonymous source.

Eyewitness News reported that the investigation is focused on the vanishing and demise of a 45-year-old woman named Dana Smithers.

In the last month, the remains of Mr. Kohberger were discovered in a wooded area where he was living at the time, in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. He vanished without a trace in May 2022.

The judge had scheduled Mr Kohberger’s trial date for 2 October 2023 after appeals from Kohberger’s lawyer and the state.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case, citing five “aggravating circumstances” that could warrant the maximum sentence of capital punishment.

However, in a surprising decision, Mr Kohberger relinquished his entitlement to a prompt trial, resulting in the trial being postponed indefinitely.

Now, he is fighting to have cameras removed from the courtroom – a request that prosecutors at least in part agree with.

A trial regarding cameras in the courtroom will occur on September 13th.