The city of Moscow, Idaho, was on edge after four University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death Nov. 13 in a home near the campus. Residents mourn the victims – Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Zana Kurnodl, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21 — and were worried about the killer being out in the open.
Then authorities arrested a 28-year-old criminology student from nearby Washington State University, Brian Kohberger, and on Thursday he made his first court appearance in Idaho, where a judge ordered him held without bail. I talked to Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, a Times reporter covering the murders, about how they have affected life in Moscow.
Claire: Hi Nicholas, You moved to Moscow, Idaho after you were arrested by the police. You were also there in November, just after the killings. How has the city changed?
nicholas: There is relief after being afraid for so long. Students told me about putting up rods to keep their windows shut, or about calling and receiving calls from their parents multiple times a day. Shortly after the murders, there was a wave of 911 calls about certain things, such as hearing screams, that could not warrant calling in at regular times. This kind of fear has set in since the arrest by the police. This moment is also bringing a lot of sadness and sorrow. Now that the search is over, all that’s left is the loss.
What effect did the killings have on the city more broadly?
Moscow is a beautiful college town. The students are employees in the coffee shops. There are drive-thru’s with sandwiches named after the college. There is a water tower with the logo of the University of Idaho that looms over the city.
Now the memory of the killings is almost everywhere. There are memorials outside the crime scene and on the premises. Flowers lie in the snow outside a Greek restaurant where some of the victims worked. Businesses have signs saying “Vandal Strong” for the university’s mascot.
you reported after thanksgiving that some students did not return to campus out of fear, Is it still the case that the winter break is coming to an end?
Students have started coming back. The University of Idaho has instituted more security, such as more patrolling on and around campus. The school is also offering self-defense classes and highlighting a program that lets students walk with someone at night, so they don’t have to be alone in the dark. But people are still worried.
There is a deep desire to know why the police think this man did what he did. The suspect has maintained his innocence and has said through a lawyer that he expects to be acquitted.
You were in the courtroom Thursday when Kohburger was charged. How was the mood, and what can you tell us about what we learned that day?
it was tense. I was one of about a dozen reporters who arrived at the courthouse around 5 a.m. to make sure we got seats inside. I sat right behind relatives of one of the victims, Kaylee Goncalves. They were consoling each other as they waited to see the suspect for the first time.
Earlier in the day an affidavit was opened which contained several new details about the crime. It included a chilling passage from the night of the murders, when one of the victims’ surviving housemates said she stood in “frozen shock” as a man dressed in black walked through her room. But it also left open some of the most burning questions: There was no indication of what the motive might have been, and it didn’t explain why the killer didn’t attack the two other people who lived in the home.
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs is a reporter at the National Desk, writing on a range of topics with a focus on criminal justice. He grew up in Aurora, NY, which is less than one square mile (population: 607).
Connected: Here are 10 things we learned from the affidavit.
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