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Bryan Kohberger, suspect in Idaho college slayings, appears in court

A Latah County judge has already issued a gag order, telling parties they can't speak about the case outside court.

MOSCOW, Idaho — A victim's mother wiped away tears Thursday as Bryan Christopher Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students, made his first courtroom appearance in the state.

The handcuffed Kohberger, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, faced Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall and answered “yes” when she asked whether he understood his rights and the charges against him.

He is accused of killing Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho, inside a Moscow home on Nov. 13.

The four charges of first-degree murder carry sentences that could include life in prison to the death penalty.

Goncalves' mother, Kristi Goncalves, sat in the front row and wiped away tears as her husband, Steve, wrapped his arm around her shoulders while Marshall read the charges.

Kohberger's court appearance prompted the release of previously sealed documents, chronicling the police probe that led to his arrest.

Key revelations in an affidavit supporting the arrest and filed by police in Moscow, Idaho, included:

  • A woman who was in the house where the Nov. 13 slayings happened but was not harmed told police she saw a figure "clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person's mouth and nose" who "walked past" her as she "stood in a 'frozen shock phase.'"
  • A knife sheath found near Mogen's body had a "single source of male DNA." The discovery prompted Pennsylvania police to recover "trash from the Kohberger family residence" in Albrightsville, where authorities said they found genetic evidence that linked him to the Moscow murders.
  • Police claimed they have video of Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra near the crime scene when the killings on Nov. 13 and evidence that his cellphone was on and near the Moscow house early that morning.

Shanon Gray, an attorney for the Goncalves family, said his clients were understandably shaken seeing the suspect in person.

“It’s obviously an emotional time for the family, seeing the defendant for the first time,” Gray told reporters outside court.

“This is the beginning of the criminal justice system, and the family will be here for the long haul.”

Marshall ordered police, attorneys and officials directly connected to the trial this week not to speak publicly or share any information about Kohberger's prosecution outside courtroom walls.

The parties, "investigators, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and agents of the prosecuting attorney or defense attorney," are "prohibited from making extrajudicial comments, written or oral, concerning this case," Marshall ordered.

Kohberger arrived in Latah County on Wednesday after a cross-country trip from northeastern Pennsylvania, where he was arrested on Friday.

In addition to the murder allegations, Kohberger was also charged with burglary — breaking into the home in this small college town — with the intent to commit a felony.

At the time of the slayings, Kohberger was a doctoral student, studying criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University in Pullman, a short drive over the state line from Moscow. A WSU official has said Kohberger is no longer enrolled.

Kohberger was ordered held without bail, and his next pretrial hearing was set for Jan. 12.

Deon Hampton reported from Moscow, Idaho, and David K. Li from New York City.