(BBC News) A criminology graduate has been arrested in the mysterious killings of four university students in the state of Idaho last month, police say.
Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was detained in Pennsylvania, over 4,000 km from the crime scene.
The University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death in their beds in a rental home near the campus on Nov. 13.
Police say the suspect lived in a town near where the murders occurred.
Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, and Madison Mogen were discovered dead from multiple stab wounds in their home in the small college city of Moscow, northern Idaho.
Some of the students, who were all 20 or 21 years old, had defensive injuries.
A post-mortem examination found the four were probably asleep when they were attacked. There was no evidence of sexual assault, police say.
In the weeks after their deaths family members of the victims have voiced frustration with the investigation’s progress.
Kohberger was arrested near the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Friday by state police and FBI agents. He was traced at his parents’ home in Albrightsville, officials told CBS.
Latah County prosecutor Bill Thompson told a news conference on Friday the accused faces four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary.
The suspect, who is expected to be extradited to Idaho, has already appeared before a judge, and was remanded in custody without bail.
Moscow police confirmed at the same news conference that the suspect was a PhD student in criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University.
Its campus in the town of Pullman, Washington— where the suspect was living — is a 16-km drive across the border to Moscow.
“This was a complex and extensive case,” said an emotional police chief James Fry. “These murders have shaken this community and no arrest will ever bring back these young students.
“However, we believe justice will be found through the criminal process.”
Police did not disclose any motive, saying it was necessary to keep certain details private in order to secure a conviction at trial. They said they were investigating whether the suspect knew the victims.
Fry said they had so far reviewed more than 19,000 tips from the public.
Earlier this month, a big break in the case may have come after investigators asked the public for help finding a white Hyundai Elantra car that was seen near the victims’ home on the day of the murders.
Police say that an Elantra has been recovered, but the murder weapon has yet to be found.
The police chief refused to comment on Friday about reports that the suspect had asked arresting officers if anyone else had been arrested.
“What I can tell you is we have an individual in custody who committed these horrible crimes, and I do believe our community is safe,” he said. “But we still need to be vigilant, right?”
Unnamed law enforcement officials told U.S. media that DNA evidence links Kohberger to the crimes.
He is listed as an assistant instructor for three undergraduate criminal courses at Washington State University, according to the Idaho Statesman.
He had no known prior arrest record in Idaho, Washington, or Pennsylvania, the newspaper reported, adding that he had been cited by police for not wearing a seatbelt last August in the Idaho county that includes Moscow.
The arrest comes on the same day that a memorial service was held for Goncalves and Mogen at a church in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.