Idaho prosecutors seek death penalty for college murder suspect Bryan Kohberger

Idaho prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old criminal justice graduate charged with murdering four University of Idaho students in a brutal knife attack that shocked the America.

Latah County District Attorney Bill Thompson filed a notice of his intention to seek the death penalty in a court in Moscow, Idaho, on Monday, citing five “aggravating factors” that could warrant the maximum sentence of capital punishment. requested.

These circumstances include that the murder was “particularly heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity” and that the accused displayed “utter disregard for human life”.

“The State gives this advice on the basis that it has not identified or received sufficient mitigating circumstances to preclude triers of fact from considering all punishments authorized by the Idaho Legislature, including possibility of capital punishment,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

“Therefore, based on all of the evidence currently known to the State, the State is compelled to file this Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty.”

Under Idaho law, prosecutors have 60 days from the day the defendant pleads to notify them of their intent to seek the death penalty.

Mr Kohberger declined to plead guilty when he was arraigned to four charges of first-degree murder and one burglary charge last month. His lawyer said he was “staying silent” on the charges, leaving the judge to plead not guilty on his behalf.

The death sentence notice was filed a day before the accused murderer was due in court on Tuesday.

At a hearing in Latah County Court, Judge John Judge will hear arguments on several motions filed by the defense, including asking the court to order prosecutors to provide more evidence on DNA evidence and details on the grand jury which returned an indictment against him.

In one of multiple court filings submitted by his lawyers last week, Mr Kohberger insisted he had “no connection” to the four students killed and claimed DNA from three other men unidentified had also been found at the gruesome crime scene.

Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for a motion hearing regarding a gag order on June 9 (AP)

Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for a motion hearing regarding a gag order on June 9 (AP)

Court documents, filed by the 28-year-old doctoral student’s lawyers last week, claim that the DNA of two other men was also found inside the off-campus student house in Moscow, Idaho.

DNA from a third unknown was also found on a glove found outside the property on November 20 – a week after the murders, the documents say.

“As of December 17, 2022, lab analysts were aware of the DNA of two additional males in the home where the deceased was located and of another unknown male DNA on a glove found outside the residence on December 20, 2022. November 2022,” writes Mr. Kohberger’s attorney, Jay Logsdon. in the file.

“To date, the Defense does not know what type of test, if any, was performed on these samples other than STR DNA profiles.

“Furthermore, these three separate and distinct male DNA profiles were not identified through CODIS, leading to the conclusion that the profiles do not belong to Mr. Kohberger.”

Mr. Kohberger’s defense is fighting the state’s use of genetic genealogy to link him to the brutal murders of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.

Prosecutors say the killer left the scabbard of a military knife at the scene of the Nov. 13 stabbing. The sheath was found next to Mogen’s body in her bed on the third floor of the student house.

The DNA found on the sheath was later matched to Mr Kohberger after the FBI checked the sample against genetic genealogy databases and “notified” local authorities.

Officers at the scene of the off-campus student hostel where the murders took place (AP)

Officers at the scene of the off-campus student hostel where the murders took place (AP)

After picking up trash at the suspect’s parents’ home in the Poconos Mountains, family correspondence – from Mr. Kohberger’s father – was made to the knife sheath, according to the criminal affidavit.

Following Mr. Kohberger’s arrest on Dec. 30, DNA samples were taken directly from the suspect and came back as “a statistical match,” according to prosecutors.

In the latest court filing, the accused killer’s legal team accused prosecutors of “hiding his entire case” from the defendant by trying to keep his method of “genetic pedigree investigation” secret.

“There is no connection between Mr. Kohberger and the victims,” ​​says the filing, titled Objection to the State’s Motion for Protective Order.

“There is no explanation for the complete lack of DNA evidence of the victims in Mr. Kohberger’s apartment, office, home or vehicle.”

The filing came in response to the state’s request for a protective order regarding the methods used to match his DNA to the crime scene.

The defense argues that the prosecution should turn over all of this information to Mr. Kohberger and that he has a right to know what led investigators to suspect him in the first place.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr. Kohberger does not accept that his defense does not need this information,” his lawyers say.

They say authorities don’t want the suspect to see “how many other people the FBI chose to ignore during their investigation” nor do they want the public to be deterred from sharing their genetics with such sites. “if they realized the government is watching”.

Judge Judge is due to hear arguments in court on Tuesday.

Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle (Jazzmin Kernodle)

Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle (Jazzmin Kernodle)

A separate motion to compel discovery revealed that Mr. Kohberger’s defense was demanding that the state turn over the DNA profiles of the three other men whose DNA was found at the scene.

Mr Kohberger’s lawyers recently hired two DNA consultants – Bicka Barlow and Stephen B Mercer – for his defense.

Last week the judge ruled to keep the gag order in place in the case – but narrowed its scope, agreeing with a media coalition and lawyers for the Goncalves family that the original order was too broad . He also ruled that cameras would continue to be allowed in the courtroom, but that could change as the case progressed.

Mr Kohberger is due to stand trial on October 2 for the murders of Goncalves, 21, Mogen, 21, Kernodle, 20, and Chapin, 20, after being indicted by a grand jury on four counts of first-degree murder and a burglary. charge.

Mr Kohberger is accused of breaking into an off-campus student house on King Road in the early hours of November 13 and stabbing the four students to death with a large military-style knife.

Two other housemates lived with the three women at the property and were home at the time of the massacre but survived.

Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves pictured together (Instagram)

Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves pictured together (Instagram)

One of the survivors – Dylan Mortensen – came face to face with the masked killer, dressed head to toe in black and with bushy eyebrows, as he left the house following the murders, according to the criminal affidavit.

For more than six weeks, the university town of Moscow was gripped in fear as the accused murderer remained at large with no arrests and no named suspects.

Then, on December 30, law enforcement suddenly descended on Mr. Kohberger’s family home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, and arrested him for the quadruple murder.

The motive remains unknown, and it remains unclear what connection the WSU doctoral student had to students at the University of Idaho – if any – prior to the murders. The murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – has still not been found.

As a criminal justice doctoral student at WSU, Mr. Kohberger lived just 15 minutes from the victims across the Idaho-Washington border in Pullman.

He had moved there from Pennsylvania and started his studies there that summer, having completed his first semester before his arrest.

Prior to that, he studied criminology at DeSales University – first as an undergraduate, then graduating in June 2022.

There, he studied with famed forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland who interviewed serial killer BTK and co-wrote the book. Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of BTK Killer Dennis Rader with him.

He also conducted a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making during the commission of a crime”.

He faces life in prison or the death penalty for the murders that rocked the small university town of Moscow and made headlines around the world.

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