Fri, 02 Jun 2023

(CN) - An Idaho judge entered a not guilty plea for the man charged in the murders of four students from the University of Idaho this past November, after the suspect refused to say anything at his arraignment Monday.

"Your honor we will be standing silent," said Bryan Kohberger's attorney, Anne Taylor, after Kohberger refused to answer the counts read by Latah County Judge John Judge.

In response, Judge entered Kohberger's not guilty plea on his behalf. Prosecutors will now have 60 days to decide whether they will seek the death penalty.

Last week a grand jury indicted Kohberger, 28, in the November 2022 murders of Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, who were stabbed in a rental home near the University of Idaho. At the time of the killings, Kohberger was a graduate criminology student studying at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

On Nov. 13, 2022, authorities found the bodies of Kernodle, Chapin, Mogen and Goncalves, who had spent the night before socializing around town before arriving home at 1:45 a.m. Chapin and Kernodle attended a party at a fraternity across the street, while Mogen and Goncalves were at a nearby bar before stopping to eat at a food truck.

The four students were found close to noon that day. Two other female roommates living in the house at the time were unharmed. Investigators believe the homicides occurred between 4:00 a.m. and 4:25 a.m.

Investigators have yet to outline a motive, although they say they connected Kohberger to the crime through an array of evidence, according to the unsealed affidavit by Brett Payne, a police corporal in Moscow, Idaho.

Investigators say they found Kohberger's DNA on a leather knife sheath left at the crime scene. Shortly before arresting Kohberger at his parent's home in Effort, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 30, 2022, investigators confirmed the DNA match by comparing it to the DNA of Kohberger's father taken from his trash.

Investigators also say Kohberger fit one of the surviving roommate's descriptions of the intruder she saw that night in the house, someone "5'10" or taller, male, not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows." The roommate told investigators she locked herself in her room after watching the man walk past her and out the back sliding glass door as she stood in a "frozen shock phase."

Additional evidence presented in the affidavit included videos investigators say put Kohberger's white Hyundai Elantra in the vicinity at the time of the murder and cellphone data that indicated Kohberger had left his apartment in Pullman, Washington, around 2:42 a.m.

Shortly after, they say Kohberger's phone began using cellular resources southeast of the victims' home and there was no other location data available from the phone until 4:48 a.m. from a tower in Moscow, Idaho, suggesting he turned his cellphone off. Around then, his phone records indicate he took a southerly roundabout route back to Pullman through Genesee, Idaho, and Uniontown, Washington.

Following Kohberger's arrest in Pennsylvania and his extradition hearing on Jan. 3, his public defender there, Jason LaBar, said Kohberger had been following the case with interest and was "shocked" to be arrested. Kohberger was subsequently flown to Pullman and driven to the Moscow jail on Jan. 4. Kohberger made his first court appearance the following day.

The indictment allows prosecutors to skip a previously scheduled preliminary hearing in late June and move on to trial on Oct. 2, 2023. The trial - expected to last six weeks - will undoubtedly shed more light on the details surrounding the murders, which have shaken the communities of Pullman and Moscow, Idaho.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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