Classes resume Wednesday at the University of Idaho, just weeks after many students left campus amid concern they were not arrested in the gruesome stabbing deaths of four students in November.
However, the arrest of a suspect during the winter break has eased many students’ fears, allowing them to enter classes on Wednesday with greater confidence in their safety. However, the community’s long-held sense of security has been shattered irrevocably, some university members say.
“It definitely looks like a different place,” sophomore Shawa Mulder told CNN affiliate KXLY. “I hang out with some other people. Definitely stay in groups.”
The university is still mourning the loss of the four students – Kylie Goncalves, 21; Madison Muggin, 21; Zana Kernodel, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20 – Found stabbed in an off-campus home on November 13.
Nearly seven weeks have passed without arrest in the case, leaving the tight-knit campus wracked with unease and uncertainty. The university has significantly tightened security measures and given students the option to leave campus and complete the semester remotely.
So when Brian Kohberger, 28, was arrested and named the sole suspect on Dec. 30, students like sophomore Ryder Pasley were given a little peace of mind.
Paslay was watching the news with his family when he learned of Kohberger’s arrest. “I breathed a sigh of relief and I’m sure my mom did the same,” he told KXLY.
Although some of the security measures implemented after the killings will be scaled back this semester, campus security will remain tight, university dean and executive vice president Torey Lawrence told CNN last week. While students still have the option to attend remotely, he said most are back on campus.
However, he said, “a very peaceful and safe society” experienced a “loss of innocence” in the aftermath of the tragedy. Before the November stabbings, Moscow had not seen a murder since 2015.
“I don’t know if it will ever feel the same,” student Paige Palczynski told KXLY, “but I think just the awareness of knowing what happened and having more protection in place has been tremendous.”
After being arrested at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, Kohberger waived extradition to Idaho, for which he was charged with four counts of first-degree murder each in the killings and one count of burglary.
Kohberger is scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a status hearing. He has not yet filed a petition and is currently being held without bail in the Latta County Jail, Idaho.
The court order prevents the prosecution and defense from commenting beyond reference to public records of the case.
After the killings, the students’ concerns grew as several weeks passed without the suspect being named publicly or much progress announced in the case. Moscow police also received backlash after initially saying there was no immediate threat to the community, but later retracted their assertions.
Criticism of the police mounted as the case appeared to have been halted with no murder weapon suspected or discovered. But court documents show that investigators were working meticulously behind the scenes to clamp down on the suspected killer.
Documents showed that investigators had their sights set on Kohberger weeks before his arrest, but decided not to share key developments with the public to avoid compromising the investigation.
Notably, an important witness’ account was not shared publicly until after Kohberger was in custody, when the probable cause statement was revealed.
The affidavit said one of the two victims’ surviving roommates told investigators that she had seen a man dressed in black inside the house on the morning of the murder. She described the man as being 5 feet 10 inches or taller, “not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows,” she said. The cabin description was consistent with Kohberger’s driver’s license information, which investigators reviewed in late November.
Armed with the suspect’s driver’s license and plate information, investigators were able to obtain phone records, which indicate Kohberger’s phone was near the crime scene on the morning of the murder, according to the affidavit. Records also show that his phone was near the victims’ home no less than a dozen times between June 2022 and the present day.
The school confirmed Kohberger completed his first semester as a doctoral student in Washington State University’s criminal justice program in December. He was living on the school’s Pullman, Washington campus, about a 15-minute drive from Moscow, where the killings took place.
Investigators linked Kohberger to the murders through DNA found on the scabbard of a knife left at the crime scene, according to an affidavit. The document said his car was also seen near the victims’ home at the time of the murder.
Law enforcement tracked Kohberger to his family’s home in Pennsylvania, where he had been visiting for the holidays.
A law enforcement source told CNN he was monitored for four days before his arrest. During that period, he was seen placing garbage bags in the neighbors’ garbage bins and “cleaning his car inside and out, not missing an inch,” according to the source.
On Dec. 30, a Pennsylvania State Police SWAT team arrested him at his parents’ home, smashing the door and windows in what’s known as “dynamic entry” — a tactic used on rare occasions to arrest “high-risk” suspects, according to The Source. added.