By: Andrea Cipriano, MAFP
Bryan Kohberger, 28, is a suspected spree killer currently about to face a trial for the four murders of Idaho University students. Here’s everything you need to know about him — and the victims he’s accused of murdering.
AUGUST 2023 — UPDATE
In mid-August, accused University of Idaho killer Bryan Kohberger’s defense team filed a motion to remove cameras in the courtroom, saying the recordings interfere with his right to a fair trial and that journalists have not complied with a court directive to avoid focusing on him in court.
In the letter to the judge, lawyer Anne Taylor noted that press observers continue to snap zoomed-in photos of the accused, and film the back of his head during proceedings.
In a more pressing motion, Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial telling the judge he “absolutely” felt comfortable with the extended time — meaning the planned October 2nd trial start date is no longer in effect. Experts argue we won’t see the start of the trial until next year, or maybe until 2025.
A new trial date will be set after Kohberger’s next hearing scheduled for Sept. 1.
In earlier news from August, Kohberger’s defense team says that during the time of the murders, he was driving alone. They say he is “not claiming to be at a specific location at a specific time” and that there are no witnesses to say where he was.
Bryan Kohberger — Quick Facts
Name: Bryan Christopher Kohberger (28 years old) – born
Online aliases: ‘Pappa Rodger’ on Facebook (unconfirmed), ‘Exarr’ on Tapatalk (confirmed).
Birth: Kohberger was born on November 21, 1994, in Effort, Pennsylvania to his parents, Michael and Maryann Kohberger. He has two older sisters.
Date Apprehended: December 30, 22, from Bryan’s parents’ home in Albrightsville, PA.
Known Active States: Washington State
Date of Murders: November 13, 2022
Education: Pleasant Valley High School (2013), Associate’s Degree from Northampton Community College, BA in Criminal Justice from DeSales University (2020), MA in Criminal Justice from DeSales University (2022), most recently a Ph.D. Candidate at Washington State University. While studying for his undergraduate degree, he spent years as a part-time school security officer in the Peasant Valley School District.
Charges and Plea: Four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. Kohberger ‘stood silent’ for his arraignment, so the Judge entered a “not guilty” plea on his behalf.
Trial Date: October 2, 2023. Prosecutors announced on June 26th that they are seeking the death penalty against him.
Idaho4 Victims: Know their names.
The four victims were close friends, and their quadruple murder rocked the entire University of Idaho community. Among the four victims were Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.
Ethan Chapin was a freshman at the University of Idaho, majoring in recreation, sports, and tourism management. He was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. As a triplet, Ethan was close with his siblings, who all miss him dearly. They say he was “the glue of the family.” His family says he loved playing club soccer, being funny, and country music.
Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were dating for almost a year.
Xana Kernodle was a junior majoring in marketing and a Pi Beta Phi sorority member. Her sister recalls her as someone who was “so positive and light hearted that she always lifted up a room.” She loved her dog, Shoeshine, listening to EDM music, and while she was in high school, she played volleyball, track, and soccer.
Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen worked together as servers at the Mad Greek restaurant in Moscow.
Madison Mogen was a senior majoring in marketing, and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Her family says she planned to move to Boise after graduating. Those who loved her also say she was known for her “offbeat and hilarious sense of humor — and it was well-known by all who knew her to never let her get hungry!” While working at Mad Greek, she helped run their social media pages.
Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were best friends since middle school.
Kaylee Goncalves’s sister describes her as “the ultimate go-getter.” She was a senior majoring in general studies in the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, while also being a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. After graduating, Gonvcalves had planned a trip to Europe that she was excited to go on, and was making tentative plans to move to Texas. She just bought a 2016 Range Rover, and had a job lined up.
Who is Bryan Kohberger?
Bryan Kohberger, 28, was a Ph.D. student in Washing State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology — which is a 15-minute drive across state lines to the University of Idaho community.
Other Ph.D. students in his program say he was confident and outgoing, but says it seemed like “he was always looking for a way to fit in.” Many students say he was awkward, and wanted to “appear academic.” One student in his doctoral program said Kohberger would “find the most complicated way to explain something,” as a way to make sure that everyone knew how smart he was.
While students his age found it difficult to connect to him, his professors only saw a dedicated student.
A former DeSales University professor who taught Kohberger said he was “one of my best students, ever” — and that the then-master’s candidate was one of only two students she has ever recommended to a Ph.D. program. She added that he was “brilliant” and a “great writer,” providing more context to his ability to understand the justice system and criminal mind.
While in high school, Kohberger was reportedly out of shape and physically struggled in the law enforcement class, so he eventually took up running to get thin. Others from his high school recall Kohberger as someone who often smoked marijuana to cope with the constant targeting and bullying he experienced from others. Online reports say he was teased by “mean girls.”
Kohberger has been noted to suffer from a heroin addiction during the same time.
A former high school friend of Kohberger’s recalls driving him around because Kohberger asked him to pick up needles for a sick aunt. In reality, he was taking Kohberger to buy drugs, but the friend had no idea. When he later realized Kohberger was “playing mind games,” and repeatedly taking advantage of the friend’s kindness, the former friend says, “I didn’t want to be around him anymore.”
Kohberger eventually withdrew from college to go to rehab.
Does Bryan Kohberger suffer from mental illness?
While it’s undetermined if the Idaho murders suspect suffers from any particular mental illness, it’s known that Kohberger openly wrote about his mental health struggles in social media posts.
On November 2, 2009, Kohberger joined a forum website called Tapatalk, where he made 118 posts over the course of 3 years under the account ‘Exarr.thosewithvisualsnow’.
Interestingly, the top search result says the name “Exar” is given to describe someone with “a quick, clever mind, an interest in the welfare of humanity, and a desire to help those in need.”
In 2011, Kohberger posted about his “absence of emotion.” He also complained about a little-understood neurological condition called Visual Snow.
People with Visual Snow Syndrome, which was first recognized by doctors in 1995, detail seeing tiny, snow-like flecks in their vision at all times. That static-like vision — which remains even with their eyes closed — can be debilitating to some, affecting their capacity to think and causing migraines.
On May 12, 2011, Kohberger posted to a ‘Visual-Snow” forum on Tapatalk looking for answers and relief from other people.
Kohberger posted a message, with the title “Am I the only one?” that he always feels as though he’s “not there.” He added that he felt “completely depersonalized.” He also noted that mentally, he experienced “NO EMOTION,” “depression” “constant thought[s]of suicide” and “delusions of grandeur.”
We don’t know if these symptoms continued past 2011, but many note their importance.
Kohberger also posted on July 4, 2011 in a general discussion forum, saying: “I feel less than mentally damaged, it is like I have severe brain damage. I might spiral out of control and lose myself in the void, I can’t let it all go.” In his
“As I hug my family, I look into their faces, I see nothing, it is like I am looking at a video game, but less. I feel less than mentally damaged, it is like I have severe brain damage. I am stuck in the depths of my mind, where I have to constantly battle my demons, am I here or am I fake? I feel myself slipping away, I hear screams faintly, but I constantly battle away from it. What if I let go… where would I be? Would I ever come back to reality? I try to remember where I originated from, but I can’t.”
Kohberger’s last logged into his Tapatalk account on February 20, 2012.
What car did Bryan Kohberger drive?
Bryan Kohberger drove a white 2015 Hyundai Elantra.
During the height of the investigation, police said they wanted to speak with a driver of a white 2011–13 Hyundai Elantra, which was seen near the crime scene on the morning of the killings. They told regional law enforcement to be on the lookout for cars matching this description.
They said, “Investigators believe the occupant(s) of this vehicle may have critical information to share regarding this case.”
On November 29, a Washington State University officer found a 2015 Hyundai Elantra registered to Kohberger. The officer looked up his name, and noted he had switched his car registration from Pennsylvania to Washington on November 18, 2023 — five days after the murders.
How did Bryan Kohberger get caught?
While investigators were looking into the Hyundai Elantra lead, forensic scientists also worked the case.
According to a source close to the investigation, touch DNA found on the sheath at the crime scene was run through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA, but it didn’t come back with any matches.
It was later reported that once they knew who drove the car in question, investigators and the FBI tracked him during his cross-country drive to his parents’ home in Pennsylvania in December. During that traffic stop, an officer was able to get Kohberger’s cell phone number, which enabled the police to subpoena the cell data. From that, they uncovered evidence that possibly puts him near the scene of the murders.
Once Kohberger was in Pennsylvania, authorities went through the Kohberger family’s trash to get DNA. Ultimately, they were able to connect the family blood line to the crime scene knife sheath with an investigative genetic genealogy match to his father’s DNA.
What are the official documents about the trial against Bryan Kohberger?
Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty (June 26, 2023) The prosecution says that considering the murders were “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting in exception depravity,” among other penal code definitions, this case warrants seeking the death penalty.
Kohberger’s Defense Filing: No Victim DNA (June 22, 2023) The defense team says there was no DNA linking Xana, Ethan, Kaylee, or Maddie to Kohberger’s car, apartment, or the home in Pennsylvania. While this is important, it’s also worth noting that even though biological evidence wasn’t found in his vehicle, bleach, disinfectants, and other cleaning products were discovered.
This filing also notes that there were other distinct male DNA profiles found at the crime scene that do not match Kohberger. At the end of the filing, Anne Taylor, Kohberger’s Public Defender, writes:
A massive investigation came to focus on him and him alone. The State appears to be trying to hide its original domino such that he cannot discover why. Mr. Kohberger has a right to discover and question the investigation that led to him. This Court should so find.
Smaller June 23, 2023 filings include:
- Cameras are allowed to remain in court.
- The Gag order was slightly lifted, but still incredibly strict.
Kohberger’s DNA Sheath Results (Filed June 16, 2023) This court filing reveals, for the first time, how the FBI confirmed that the DNA discovered on the knife sheath was linked to Kohberger using a short tandem repeat DNA profile. The sample from the crime scene was tested against a known sample from Kohberger’s own booking cheek swab. The DNA is unequivocally his.
Grand Jury Indictment, State of Idaho v. Bryan C. Kohberger (Filed May 17, 2023) The grand jury indictment released Wednesday does not include additional details in the case, only that the jury believes that Kohberger “did unlawfully enter” a home in Moscow, Idaho, and then did “willfully, unlawfully, deliberately, with premedication and with malice aforethought, kill and murder” Maddie Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin.
Evidence Collection Log (Filed Jan 1, 2023) Explore 166 pages of logged evidence from Kohberger’s student housing, including notes about a black nitrate glove, possible animal hair, and human hair. The logs also indicate which items came back positive for blood markers.
Search Warrant for Kohberger’s Apartment (December — January 2023) This is the full search warrant list for the Pullman, Washington apartment where Kohberger lived (1630 NE Valley Road, APT G201). Officers were instructed to seize anything that appeared to include blood or bodily fluid, weapons, clothing, trace evidence, photos (whether “digital or print”) of the victims and the King Road house, as well as electronic devices.
Unsealed Probable-cause Affidavit (Filed December 29, 2022) This affidavit incudes a first-hand account by one of the surviving roommates — identified only as D.M. — who says she heard crying in the house, and Goncalves playing with her dog shortly before saying, “There’s someone here.” This prompted D.M. to eventually come out of her room to see “a figure clad in black clothing” and a mask walking toward her. The “athletically built” man with “bushy eyebrows” walked past her and left out of the sliding glass door.
Who is on Bryan Kohberger’s defense team?
Anne C. Taylor is Kohberger’s court appointed Public Defender in Kootenai County. Taylor, an Idaho native and a University of Idaho graduate, is one of only 13 public defenders in the state licensed by the state’s public defense commission to represent persons facing the death penalty.
Jay Weston Logsdon is Anne’s co-council on the case. He is the Chief Deputy Litigation at the Public Defender’s office in Kootenai County, according to his LinkedIn Profile.
Elisa G. Massoth is also listed on court filings as being a part of Kohberger’s defense team. She is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former President of the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, according to her attorney website.