Horrific slayings brought grief and anxiety to a the placid college town of Moscow, Idaho.
The city of Moscow, Idaho, had been on edge since four students at the University of Idaho were stabbed to death on Nov. 13 at a house near the campus. Residents mourned the victims — Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21 — and worried about the killer remaining on the loose.
Then the authorities arrested a 28-year-old criminology student from the nearby Washington State University, Bryan Kohberger, and on Thursday he made his first court appearance in Idaho, where a judge ordered him held without bail. I spoke to Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, a Times reporter covering the killings, about how they have affected life in Moscow.
Claire: Hi Nicholas, you traveled to Moscow, Idaho, after the police made the arrest. You were also there in November right after the killings. How has the city changed?
Nicholas: There’s relief after a time of so much fear. Students told me about putting rods in their windows to keep them closed, or about calling and receiving calls from their parents multiple times a day. Shortly after the killings, there was a wave of 911 calls about certain things, like hearing a scream, that might not have warranted a call in regular times. That kind of fear has settled down since the police made an arrest. This moment is also bringing a lot of grief and sadness. Now that the search may be over, what’s left is loss.
What impact did the killings have on the city more broadly?
Moscow is a beautiful college town. Students are employees at coffee shops. There are drive-throughs with sandwiches named after the college. There’s a water tower with the University of Idaho logo that looms over the town.
Now there are reminders of the killings pretty much everywhere. There are memorials outside of the crime scene and on campus. Outside a Greek restaurant where some of the victims worked, there are flowers sitting in the snow. Businesses have signs that say “Vandal strong,” a nod to the university’s mascot.
You reported after Thanksgiving that some students didn’t return to campus out of fear. Is that still the case now that winter break is coming to an end?
Students are starting to come back. The University of Idaho has instituted more security, such as more patrols in and around campus. The school is also offering self-defense classes and highlighting a program that gives students someone to walk with at night, so they don’t have to be alone in the dark. But people are still concerned.
There’s a deep desire to know why the police think that this man did this. The suspect has maintained his innocence and has said through a lawyer that he looks forward to being exonerated.
You were in the courtroom on Thursday when Kohberger was charged. What was the mood, and what can you tell us about what we learned that day?
It was tense. I was among a dozen or so reporters who got to the courthouse very early, around 5 a.m., to make sure we had a seat inside. I sat directly behind relatives of Kaylee Goncalves, one of the victims. They were comforting each other as they waited to see the suspect for the first time.
Earlier in the day an affidavit had been unsealed that contained a lot of new details about the crime. It included one chilling passage from the night of the killings, when a surviving housemate of the victims said she stood in “frozen shock” as a man dressed in black walked past her room. But it also left open some of the most burning questions: There is no indication about what the motive could be, and it did not explain why the killer did not attack the two other people living in the house.
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs is a reporter on the National Desk who writes about a range of topics with a focus on criminal justice. He grew up in Aurora, N.Y., a village smaller than a square mile (population: 607).
Related: Here are 10 things we learned from the affidavit.
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THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE
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THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
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NOW TIME TO PLAY
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Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Claire
Lauren Hard, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.