Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty Against Pennsylvania Man Accused of Killing 4 University of Idaho Students

FILE - Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for his arraignment hearing in Latah County District Court, May 22, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. Prosecutors say they are seeking the death penalty against Kohberger, the man accused of stabbing four University of Idaho students to death in November 2022. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson filed the notice of his intent to seek the death penalty in court on Monday, June 26. (Zach Wilkinson/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP, Pool, File)

By Associated Press

June 27, 2023

Bryan Kohberger of Monroe County is charged with four counts of murder in connection with the stabbing deaths at a rental house near the Moscow, Idaho, university campus last November.

BOISE, Idaho — Prosecutors say they are seeking the death penalty against a Monroe County man accused of stabbing four University of Idaho students to death last November.

Bryan Kohberger, 28, is charged with four counts of murder in connection with the deaths at a rental house near the Moscow, Idaho, university campus. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson filed the notice of his intent to seek the death penalty in court on Monday.

Kohberger was taken into custody at his parents’ home in Albrightsville, Chestnuthill Township, on Dec. 30 after a search warrant was executed at the residence.

The bodies of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were found on Nov. 13, 2022, at a rental home across the street from the University of Idaho campus. 

The slayings shocked the rural Idaho community and neighboring Pullman, Washington, where Kohberger was a graduate student studying criminology at Washington State University.

Court documents detailed how police pieced together DNA evidence, cellphone data and surveillance video that they say links Kohberger to the slayings.

Investigators said traces of DNA found on a knife sheath inside the home where the students were killed matches Kohberger, and that a cell phone belonging to Kohberger was near the victims’ home on a dozen occasions before the killings. A white sedan allegedly matching one owned by Kohberger was caught on surveillance footage repeatedly cruising past the rental home around the time of the killings.

Idaho law requires prosecutors to notify the court of their intent to seek the death penalty within 60 days of a plea being entered. In his notice of intent, Thompson listed five “aggravating circumstances” that he said could qualify for the crime for capital punishment under state law; including that more than one murder was committed during the crime, that it was especially heinous or showed exceptional depravity, that it was committed in the perpetration of a burglary or other crime, and that the defendant showed “utter disregard for human life.”

If a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case, defense attorneys are also given the opportunity to show that mitigating factors exist that would make the death penalty unjust. Mitigating factors sometimes include evidence that a defendant has mental problems, that they have shown remorse, that they are very young or that they suffered childhood abuse.

Idaho allows executions by lethal injection. But in recent months, prison officials have been unable to obtain the necessary chemicals, causing one planned execution to be repeatedly postponed. On July 1, death by firing squad will become an approved back-up method of execution under a law passed by the Legislature earlier this year, though the method is likely to be challenged in federal court.

Community editor Patrick Berkery contributed to this report.

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