An Idaho grand jury has indicted the man suspected of killing four college students in November, paving the way for a trial on murder charges.
A preliminary hearing in the case against Bryan Kohberger, 28, was originally scheduled for next month, following his arrest in December on four counts of first-degree murder and burglary for allegedly breaking into a home in Moscow, Idaho with the intent to commit a felony.
But prosecutors’ decision to impanel a grand jury, which was not anticipated, allows the state to avoid the week-long preliminary hearing that would have required it to present evidence to a judge, as well as allow the defense attorney to cross-examine witnesses.
Since January, lawyers, police and other officials have refrained from making statements after Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall issued a gag order that is being challenged by a coalition of news organizations.
A spokesman for the Idaho Supreme Court confirmed the grand jury indictment on Wednesday. Neither prosecutors nor Kohberger’s public defender could immediately be reached for comment.
Kohberger has yet to enter a plea; he is expected to do so at a court hearing Monday. The indictment will remain sealed until then.
The victims – Maddie Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20 — were stabbed to death in the early hours of Nov. 13 in their off-campus apartment building near the University of Idaho, where they were students. Chapin, Kernodle’s boyfriend, had stayed at the home overnight.
A motive remains unclear in the killings; Kohberger’s family said in January that they were cooperating with law enforcement to “promote the presumption of his innocence.”
Investigators said they traced male DNA that was on a knife sheath left at the crime scene to Kohberger, then a doctoral student at Washington State University, less than 10 miles from the University of Idaho. Other evidence included security video from the area where a white Hyundai Elantra was seen that investigators said was driven by Kohberger, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Authorities have not said whether Kohberger knew the victims or why he would have attacked them or the house. The murder weapon, which is believed to be a large knife with a fixed blade, has not been found, according to the police in Moscow.
Kohberger is being held in the Latah County Jail without bond.
The quadruple slaying stunned the small Moscow community, where investigators grappled with what the city’s police chief would later describe as a “very complex” case.
Last weekend, the University of Idaho awarded posthumous bachelor’s degrees to the families of Goncalves and Mogen, who were seniors at the time of their deaths. Kernodle, a junior, and Chapin, a freshman, also received posthumous certificates.