Judge enters not guilty pleas on behalf of Bryan Kohberger, charged in Idaho student murders

Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

By Dakin Andone and Jason Kravarik, CNN

(CNN) -- (CNN) — An Idaho judge entered not guilty pleas on behalf of Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students last fall, during an arraignment in a Latah County Court on Monday.

Judge John Judge read aloud Kohberger’s rights and each of the murder and burglary charges outlined in the indictment. When asked if he understood the charges, Kohberger replied to each, “Yes.”

When asked for his plea to counts of murder and burglary, Kohberger remained silent. His attorney rose and said, “Your honor, we are standing silent,” and the judge then entered not guilty pleas for him.

Kohberger, 28, was indicted last week on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary for the November 13 killings of Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, at a home just outside the university’s main campus in Moscow, Idaho.

The trial was set for October 2 and is expected to last about six weeks. Prosecutors have 60 days from Monday to announce, in writing, whether they plan to seek the death penalty in this case.

The hearing offered few details on a grisly case that remains shrouded in mystery. Authorities say Kohberger, a graduate student in the Department of Criminology at nearby Washington State University, broke into the students’ home and repeatedly stabbed the victims. Police have not released a potential motive in the case, and due to a wide-ranging gag order, few details have trickled out so far.

Kohberger has been in police custody since late December, when he was arrested at his parents’ Pennsylvania home following a weekslong search for a suspect that left the university and the surrounding community of about 25,000 people on edge. He is being held without bail.

In the days after the discovery of the grisly crime scene, investigators narrowed in on Kohberger after focusing on a white Hyundai Elantra seen in surveillance footage near the crime scene, according to a probable cause affidavit released in January.

By November 25, area law enforcement officers were notified to look out for the vehicle, the affidavit read. Within days, police at Washington State University in nearby Pullman, Washington, identified a vehicle and found it registered to Kohberger.

His driver’s license information was consistent with the description of a man given to police by the victims’ surviving roommate, the affidavit says, specifically noting his height, weight and bushy eyebrows.

The roommate told investigators she saw a man with a similar description clad in black the morning of the attack. Hours before the killings, Chapin and Kernodle had attended a party on campus, police have said, while Mogen and Goncalves went to a downtown bar before ordering food at a food truck.

Investigators connected Kohberger to the crime scene after DNA on a tan leather knife sheath found lying next to one of the victims was linked to DNA on trash recovered from Kohberger’s family home in Pennsylvania, according to the affidavit.

There, investigators seized a white 2015 Hyundai Elantra an attorney for the suspect previously said he’d used to drive, accompanied by his father, to his parents’ home for the holidays. Court documents show investigators dismantled the vehicle, collecting parts, fiber and swabs for further examination.

Investigators also seized knives, a cell phone, black gloves, black masks, laptops, dark-colored clothes and dark shoes, an evidence log shows.

Following his arrest, Kohberger waived extradition and was sent back to Idaho. He was booked into the Latah County Jail on the same counts for which he was indicted.

Many details about the case remain unknown, in part due to a wide-ranging nondissemination order that prevents attorneys for any interested party in the case from commenting beyond the public record, leaving in place a veil of secrecy.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for the end of June, with the parties expected to detail evidence collected by the state. But the hearing was canceled after Kohberger’s indictment, Latah County Deputy Court Clerk Tamzen Reeves said, and court records indicate the names of the witnesses who testified before the grand jury are under seal.

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