Suspect in the Idaho college student killings plans to waive extradition hearing, attorney says
(CNN) — The suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho college students plans to waive his extradition hearing this week, his attorney said, to expedite his return to the Gem State, where he faces four counts of first-degree murder.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger is “shocked a little bit,” Jason LaBar, the chief public defender for Monroe County, Pennsylvania, told CNN Saturday, a day after the 28-year-old’s arrest in his home state on charges related to the fatal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20. He also faces a charge of felony burglary, according to Latah County, Idaho, Prosecutor Bill Thompson.
LaBar did not discuss the murder case with the suspect when they spoke for about an hour Friday evening, the attorney said, adding that he did not possess probable cause documents related to it and is only representing Kohberger in the issue of his extradition, which the attorney called a “formality.”
“It’s a procedural issue, and really all the Commonwealth here has to prove is that he resembles or is the person who the arrest warrant is out for and that he was in the area at the time of the crime,” LaBar said.
Waiving the extradition hearing set for Tuesday was “an easy decision obviously,” LaBar said, “since he doesn’t contest that he is Bryan Kohberger.”
In a statement, LaBar stressed his client is presumed innocent until proven guilty, saying, “Mr. Kohberger is eager to be exonerated of these charges and looks forward to resolving these matters as promptly as possible.”
The arrest of the suspect — a PhD student in Washington State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, the school confirmed — comes nearly seven weeks after the victims were found stabbed to death in an off-campus home on November 13. Since then, investigators say they have conducted more than 300 interviews and scoured approximately 20,000 tips.
But authorities have yet to publicly confirm the suspect’s motive, or even if he knew the victims, whose deaths rattled the college community and the surrounding town of Moscow. The murder weapon has also not been located, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Friday.
In the weeks since the killings, some community members have grown frustrated as investigators have yet to offer a thorough narrative of how the night unfolded. Authorities have released limited details, including the victims’ activities leading up to the attacks and people they have ruled out as suspects.
Fry told reporters Friday state law limits what information authorities can release before Kohberger makes an initial appearance in an Idaho court. The probable cause affidavit — which details the factual basis of Kohberger’s charges — is sealed until the suspect is physically in Latah County and has been served with the Idaho arrest warrant, Thompson said.
Investigators homed in on Kohberger as a suspect through DNA evidence and by confirming his ownership of a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene, according to two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. Authorities say he lived just minutes from the site of the stabbings.
He drove cross-country in a white Hyundai Elantra and arrived at his parents’ house in Pennsylvania around Christmas, according to a law enforcement source. Authorities began tracking him at some point during his trip east from Idaho.
An FBI surveillance team tracked him for four days before his arrest while law enforcement worked with prosecutors to develop enough probable cause to obtain a warrant, the two law enforcement sources said.
Genetic genealogy techniques were used to connect Kohberger to unidentified DNA evidence, another source with knowledge of the case told CNN. The DNA was run through a public database to find potential family member matches, and subsequent investigative work by law enforcement led to his identification as the suspect, the source said.
LaBar confirmed Kohberger, accompanied by his father, had driven from Idaho to Pennsylvania to celebrate the holidays with his family. A white Hyundai Elantra was found at his parents’ home, LaBar said, where authorities apprehended Kohberger early Friday.
LaBar was unsure how quickly his client would be returned to Idaho following his intent to waive extradition at Tuesday’s hearing, saying it would be based on authorities. But LaBar expected Kohberger to be returned to Idaho within 72 hours of the proceeding.