Prosecutors decided Monday to pursue the death penalty against Bryan Kohberger, the man charged with murder in the killing of four University of Idaho students in November.
The state found several aggravating factors to the stabbing deaths, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson wrote in a court record filed Monday. Idaho law requires such elements to exist beyond a first-degree murder charge to pursue capital punishment.
The state “has not identified or been provided with any mitigating circumstances sufficient to prohibit the triers of fact from considering all penalties authorized by the Idaho Legislature,” to include capital punishment, Thompson wrote. “Consequently, considering all evidence currently known to the state, the state is compelled to file this notice.”
The quadruple homicide incident in Moscow included more than one murder, Thompson noted — the first of five such aggravating factors he listed in the court record. The prosecution had 60 days from the date Kohberger entered a plea to submit the filing, known as a notice of intent to seek the death penalty.
The prosecution also determined the murders were “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity,” quoting from Idaho law.
The four victims were University of Idaho seniors Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncavles, both 21; and junior Xana Kernodle and freshman Ethan Chapin, both 20. Police found their bodies Nov. 13 at an off-campus home where the three women lived with two other housemates, who went unharmed. Chapin was Kernodle’s boyfriend and stayed over for the night.
Furthermore, Thompson wrote, Kohberger “exhibited utter disregard for human life” — another of the possible elements the state needs to prove for the 28-year-old former graduate student of criminology at Washington State University to be sentenced to death by a jury.
In addition, the four murders were committed in the midst of another crime, Thompson wrote. Kohberger is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary.
Finally, because of his alleged actions, Kohberger “has exhibited a propensity to commit murder, which will probably constitute a continuing threat to society,” the filing read.
Reached by the Idaho Statesman by email through attorney Shanon Gray, the Goncalves family thanked Thompson for his decision.
“The Goncalves family is grateful that the prosecutor’s office is pursuing the death penalty,” the statement read. “There is no one more deserving than the defendant in this case. We continue to pray for all the victims families and appreciate all the support we have received.”
If a jury convicts Kohberger at trial — currently scheduled to start Oct. 2 — it need only determine one aggravating factor exist in the deaths of the four victims. Jurors’ decision must be unanimous.