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Public defender says Idaho murder suspect thinks he'll be exonerated: 'It's not him'

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A public defender for Bryan Christopher Kohberger, the 28-year-old suspect charged with the murder in the deaths of four University of Idaho students, said TODAY his client believes he will be exonerated.

Jason LaBar, the chief public defender for Monroe County, Pennsylvania, is representing Kohberger in the extradition but not in the murder case. He called the accusations “a bit out of place”.

“He said it wasn’t him,” LaBar told TODAY on Tuesday, January 3. “He thinks he’s going to be exonerated. That’s what he believes, those are his words.”

Kohberger, 28, was being held in Pennsylvania and awaiting extradition in connection with an investigation into the murders of four University of Idaho students.
Kohberger, 28, was being held in Pennsylvania and awaiting extradition in connection with an investigation into the murders of four University of Idaho students.Monroe County Correctional Facility (Pennsylvania) / AP

LaBar added that Kohberger had been very “calm” and easy to talk to during the four times he visited, and that he expected Kohberger to sign the extradition papers when Tuesday’s hearing.

Kohberger was arrested at his parents’ home in northeast Pennsylvania on Dec. 30, police said. Moscow Police Chief James Fry told a news conference that Kohberger was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one burglary charge.

Kohberger has been held in Pennsylvania since and is expected to waive a scheduled Jan. 3 extradition hearing, paving the way for his return to Idaho later that day.

University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were found killed in their home near the school campus in Moscow, Idaho, November 13.

Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.
Victims Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.TODAY

Kohberger’s arrest marked the end of a seven-week manhunt for a suspect. Police say the four men were brutally stabbed in their beds in the early morning hours of November 13.

Once Kohberger returns to Idaho, he will be served with a warrant for his arrest and investigators could unseal court documents that could provide more details about the evidence that led police to him.

Two law enforcement officials said NBC News detectives used genetic genealogy to trace the suspect, a process that allows investigators to identify close relatives of potential suspects.

LaBar said Kohberger’s family was “obviously shocked” when they found out about the charges.

“They don’t believe it was Bryan,” LaBar said. “It’s certainly completely irrelevant, the allegations, and really they’re just trying to be supportive with the understanding that these four families have suffered a loss, so they’re sympathetic to that, and that’s why that should stay really private.”

LaBar previously said Kohberger’s father recently flew to Washington state and traveled 2,500 miles to Pennsylvania with his son, where they were stopped by police twice.

Steve Goncalves, the father of victim Kaylee Goncalves, said in an interview with NBC News that he had never heard Kohberger’s name before his arrest.

“[He] wasn’t on my radar at all,” he said. “I want him to get sick of seeing us and get sick of knowing that these people won’t let go.”

“Our next mission is really to find justice and to make sure that we have a closing chapter that meets the expectations of all families,” he continued.

Kohberger received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from DeSales University, a private Catholic university in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, the school said in a statement.

Internet sleuths uncovered a Reddit post from Kohberger’s graduate school in which he apparently asked for volunteers for a research project aimed at “understanding how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing crimes. a crime”.

DeSales University has confirmed that the email address listed on the post belonged to Kohberger when he was a student at the school.

At the time of the stabbings, Kohberger was a doctoral student in criminal justice and criminology at nearby Washington State University, just across the state line in Pullman, Washington.

Elizabeth Chilton, chancellor of the WSU Pullman campus and vice president of WSU, said in a Dec. 30 statement that the university’s police department has assisted Idaho law enforcement officials in executing search warrants at Kohberger’s apartment and office on campus.

“This horrific act has shaken everyone in the Palouse area,” Chilton said. “We will long feel the loss of these young people in the Moscow-Pullman community and hope that today’s announcement will be a step towards healing.”

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