The man accused of killing four University of Idaho students will appear in court for the second time on Thursday. Bryan Kohberger is considered innocent until proven guilty but the evidence is stacking up against him. Here are five key facts from the case so far.
What we will learn from Kohberger’s court appearance
Bryan Kohberger will appear in court on Thursday for a status conference, where a magistrate judge will discuss scheduling with his attorney and the prosecutor.
Sometimes decisions will be made at status conferences that change the trajectory of the case.
Kohberger could waive his right to a speedy trial or agree to skip the preliminary hearing but more often the conferences are about things like agreeing on future court dates, discussing how many days each side will need to present testimony, or making sure both sides have access to any evidence they need.
What he is accused of
Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminology graduate who was studying at nearby Washington State University, is accused of stabbing to death Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, in their off-campus home on November 13.
After an almost seven-week high-profile investigation, police linked Kohberger to the murders and arrested him two weeks ago at his parents’ home in eastern Pennsylvania. He was extradited to Idaho last week.
Genealogical DNA testing linked Kohberger to the crime
Several new pieces of evidence have linked Kohberger to the crime but genealogical DNA testing came as a breakthrough in the lengthy case, ultimately putting Kohhberger on the police’s radar.
Unidentified DNA evidence found on a knife sheath left at the crime scene lying beside one of the slain students was run through a public database to find potential family member matches.
According to the affidavit, agents recovered trash from the Kohberger family residence on December 27 before the arrest.
Officers sent evidence to the Idaho State Lab to be tested, and the next day, a DNA profile obtained from the trash was compared to the DNA profile obtained from the sheath.
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Other evidence linking Koberger to the crime
Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra car was identified near the student’s house several times in the weeks leading up to their deaths, and once after. The car became a key clue in the investigation.
The white car is believed to have been driven by the students’ house at least four times on the morning of the murders, between 3:29am and 4:04am, according to footage obtained by police. Then again, at around 4:20 am, the same car was captured on video speeding away from the area, according to the affidavit.
The vehicle’s pattern also matches his cellphone records, which appears to have been switched off during the time the students were killed and turned on again once Kohberger is believed to have returned home.
One of two surviving roommates, Dylan Mortensen, also claims to have seen a “masked figure clad in black” in the house, who walked past her at 4am on the night the four students were killed.
Her description of the figure – 5’10” or taller, male, not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows – bares similarities to Kohberger.
What happens next in the trial
Kohberger’s next court appearance could be a preliminary hearing when prosecutor Bill Thompson will be expected to show the magistrate judge that he has enough evidence to justify moving forward with the felony charges.
If the magistrate judge agrees, the case will be “bound over” into Idaho’s 2nd District Court, and a district judge will take over the felony case. Then Kohberger will have a chance to enter a plea to the charges.
If he pleads not guilty, the case will begin working toward a trial. If he pleads guilty, a sentencing hearing will be set.
The prosecutor has not yet said if he will seek the death penalty in Kohberger’s case. If Thompson decides to seek the death penalty, he has to file a formal notice with the court no later than 60 days after Kohberger enters a plea.
A magistrate judge has also issued a gag order barring the attorneys and any agencies involved from talking about the case.