Bryan Kohberger ‘stands silent’ and refuses to enter plea in murders of four Idaho college students

The 28-year-old criminology PhD student appeared in Latah County Court in Moscow, Idaho, on Monday morning for his arraignment on four counts of first-degree murder and burglary

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 24 May 2023 11:55 BST
Moment Idaho student murders suspect arrives in court for arraignment

Bryan Kohberger refused to enter a plea in the murders of four University of Idaho students who were brutally stabbed to death in a shocking attack that horrified the nation.

The 28-year-old criminology PhD student appeared in Latah County Court in Moscow, Idaho, on Monday morning for his arraignment on four charges of first-degree murder and one charge of burglary.

His attorney said that he was “standing silent” on the charges, leaving the judge to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Shackled and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit with what appeared to be protective armour underneath, the accused killer entered the courtroom just after 9am PT, giving his attorney Anne Taylor a brief smile as he sat down next to her.

During the brief hearing, Judge John Judge informed Mr Kohberger of his rights, reading out each of the charges against him and the penalties – including the death penalty – if he is convicted.

The judge went through each count individually, saying aloud each of the victims’ names.

Mr Kohberger showed no emotion or expression as he stared straight ahead at the judge while hearing the names of the students who he is accused of violently killing.

Mr Kohberger spoke only to answer defiantly and loudly “yes” and “yes I do” when asked if he understood the charges, maximum penalties and his rights in the court.

Meanwhile, several members of Kaylee Goncalves’ and Madison Mogen’s families choked up with emotion as they came face to face with the man accused of killing their 21-year-old daughters and he declined to enter a plea.

Now, the prosecution has 60 days to confirm whether or not they are seeking the death penalty in the case.

Judge Judge has set Mr Kohberger’s trial date for 2 October 2023 following a request by Mr Kohberger’s attorney to set the date as late as possible. The trial is expected to take around six weeks.

Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for his arraignment hearing in Latah County District Court on Monday 22 May (AP)

Mr Kohberger had been due to appear in court for a week-long preliminary hearing on 26 June, where the prosecution would lay out the case and evidence against the suspect.

However, last Tuesday, a grand jury indicted Mr Kohberger on the charges, paving the way for the case to proceed to trial without that hearing.

Following the latest hearing, Goncalves’ family released a statement thanking the state for taking the case to the grand jury but saying that they are “disappointed” with the ongoing gag order preventing them from speaking about the case.

“The family would like to thank everyone for continuing to follow this case and keep the memories of Kaylee, Maddie, Xana and Ethan alive. They are what is important not the Defendant,” the statement reads.

“We are thankful that the Latah County District Attorneys Office finally took the case to a GJ and came back with an indictment. At the same time we are disappointed that the judicial process has not been more efficient in addressing the Gag order.

“This is just the beginning of a long journey for all the families and we are thankful for your continued support and coverage.”

Mr Kohberger is accused of breaking into an off-campus student home on King Road in the early hours of 13 November and stabbing Goncalves, 21, Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, to death with a large, military-style knife.

Bryan Kohberger looks at his attorney Anne Taylor during arraignment (CourtTV)

Two other female roommates lived with the three women at the property and were home at the time of the massacre but survived.

One of the survivors – Dylan Mortensen – came face to face with the masked killer, dressed in head to toe black and with bushy eyebrows, as he left the home in the aftermath of the murders, according to the criminal affidavit.

For more than six weeks, the college town of Moscow was plunged into fear as the accused killer remained at large with no arrests made and no suspects named.

Then, on 30 December, law enforcement suddenly swooped on Mr Kohberger’s family home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania and arrested him for the quadruple murders.

The motive remains unknown and it is still unclear what connection the WSU PhD student had to the University of Idaho students – if any – prior to the murders.

However, the affidavit, released in January, revealed that Mr Kohberger’s DNA was found on a knife sheath left behind at the scene of the murders.

It also revealed that his white Hyundai Elantra was caught on surveillance footage close to the crime scene.

New details have emerged since about what was found during an initial search of his apartment in Pullman and a rental storage unit.

The court documents show that two items found in his apartment – a mattress cover on the bed and an uncased pillow – tested positive for blood.

The documents do not reveal who the blood belongs to.

Investigators also seized a string of other items from his home including possible human and animal hair strands, a disposable glove and a computer.

Meanwhile, the murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – has still never been found.

As a criminal justice PhD student at WSU, Mr Kohberger lived just 15 minutes from the victims over the Idaho-Washington border in Pullman.

He had moved there from Pennsylvania and began his studies there that summer, having just completed his first semester before his arrest.

Before this, he studied criminology at DeSales University – first as an undergraduate and then finishing his graduate studies in June 2022.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died (Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)

While there, he studied under renowned forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland who interviewed the BTK serial killer and co-wrote the book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer with him.

He also carried out a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.

He is facing life in prison or the death penalty for the murders that have rocked the small college town of Moscow and hit headlines around the globe.

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