Q&A: Police chief speaks after arrest in Idaho stabbings

Idaho College Killings

(NewsNation) — Moscow Police Chief James Fry opened up to NewsNation in one of his first interviews since the arrest of a suspect in connection with the November stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students.

Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, was arrested in the early hours of Friday in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where he is being held while awaiting extradition. 

Q: It has now been 24 hours since Kohberger was identified as a suspect in the case. Have tips about him started to come in?

Fry: An hour into us releasing the name, we had over 400 people call on in. So we continue to ask for that. We continue to ask for more. Every tip, everybody that knew him, is only going to help us.

Q: Are the tips originating locally or from everywhere?

Fry: I don’t, I don’t know where they came from. You know, if it’s any indication of this case, they’ve come from all over the nation.

Q: It was on Dec. 7 or so, the Moscow Police asked for public information about a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra. Where in the timeline did Kohberger come onto your radar?

Fry: So that’s all part of those pieces that we have to hold until we can release information with the, you know, after he gets to Idaho, and the release of that information. But we’re bound to hold that.

Q: Moscow police said the Elantra occupant, or occupants of that car, may have critical information. Why plural?

Fry: Well, it’s part of our investigation. I said early on that we’re not gonna let any stone go unturned. And I meant that, and we’re following up on everything, just like we’re in this new phase now. And we’re gonna follow up to get to know who he is, and everything about him that we can.

Q: There are reports that the Elantra was tracked as the Idaho suspect drove cross-country. Can you elaborate on that or speak to reports of his DNA at the scene of the killings?

Fry: All those facts are still sealed. They will come out. I know, I know people are anxious for that. And we will have the answers to that. But in the time that we can give it. So I ask, once again, just be patient. I know I’ve asked that a lot of times, but we are bound by the law now.

Q: NewsNation reported Kohberger asked if anyone else was arrested upon his arrest? Have you been able to gather information about when he was taken into custody?

Fry: All that information will come out as well. You know, it’s part of that investigation, it’s part of that next step.

Q: Is the white Hyundai Elantra THE car, and is the search over now for any more white Elantras?

Fry: We believe it is THE car.

Q: Is the Elantra in Pennsylvania?

Fry: Yes.

Q: And is it done being processed?

Fry: I don’t know if it’s done, but it will be processed.

Q: A lot of evidence was coming out of Kohberger’s apartment in Pullman, Washington. Can you talk about what might be valuable?

Fry: I think every piece is valuable. And I don’t even know what was collected at this point in time. And as part of that further investigation that we’re going to hold. But I know that there was a search warrant (that) was served there.

Q: We know that the murder weapon has not been found. And is there a suspicion that it could have been at his apartment?

Fry: We don’t know. Like I said, we’re collecting everything. We’re doing our due diligence, and that’s why we get these search warrants, so that everything is secured through the court system and that we have the right to be where we’re at.

Q: In a local TV interview, you said you are still waiting for forensics results to come back. When did they come back? And was that the link to Kohberger?

Fry: We’re still waiting for stuff to come back. We’re still looking at everything. We’re still having things processed. And I couldn’t verify that right now, anyway. That’s part of that sealed piece. But there’s still items coming in from the lab.

Q: So the evidence we saw being gathered yesterday (Friday), that could take just as long to be processed?

Fry: That would be new information that we’ve collected and we’ll be processing that as well.

Q: NewsNation asked you during the Friday press conference about the house cleaning. You had said in your announcement that the house is going to be cleaned and turned back over to the management company. We watched those trucks come in, and then they pulled out of there real fast. What happened?

Fry: Like we said, we got a phone call, it was through the court, that we needed to stop and give a little bit more time. So we did that.

Q: Why was the decision made to release the house?

Fry: Well, at that point in time, we were ready to start that process. And then the court, like I said, someone from the court asked us to stop that process. So, we did. And we’ll continue to do as we’re asked there, and we’ll start the cleanup as soon as we can again.

Q: Why would the court want that process stopped?

Fry: You know, it could be many reasons. Could be for the defense counsel, it could be that they just want to hold it for a little bit. But it was a decision from the court.

Q: So it will remain under guard? Should it still be referred to as an active crime scene?

Fry: It’s still our crime scene at this point. So yeah, it’ll still be under security.

Q: Is Moscow being a small community a factor that a jury pool in this community would be harder to gather?

Fry: And that is one of the reasons that I stated that we are holding everything close. And we were protecting the integrity of the case. We want unbiased individuals. In this case, we want people to not know all the facts so that if there’s a jury selected from here, that we can get that pool.

Q: How hard would that be?

Fry: You know, I’m not sure, you know. We’ve had cases here before where they’ve been able to get a jury pool. But that’s happened with (Latah County prosecuting attorney) Bill Thompson and his team. So, it’d be a great question to ask Bill.

Q: As rumors and speculation gained momentum online, true-crime internet sleuths accused innocent people of the crime. Did police actively investigate these things? And how distracting was that?

Fry: We investigated every piece of this investigation. We looked at everybody that we believe was involved or not involved in any way that knew our victims. So, we were very active in that. And, you know, through that investigation, that’s where we get to the point where we can rule. It’s as important to rule people out as it is to keep them in the investigation. So, as we gathered information that has led us to believe that they were no longer a part of that, we rolled them out.

Q: Will the 911 call be released soon?

Fry: That will come as soon as, you know, Bill Thompson and his office feel that that is available for the public.

Q: Is it possible the scene may not be released until a trial?

Fry: I suppose that could happen. You know, there will be decisions made, by people that are probably higher up than me, that will need to make those decisions. But I suppose that is a possibility.

Q: How are you feeling?

Fry: Right now? A lot lighter. A lot of people speculated on my, my facial expressions and stuff. I’m genuinely a pretty upbeat, happy individual. So I smile naturally a lot. And a lot of people read into that. There was nothing to that, it was just probably me doing it naturally.

Q: Do you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders now that a suspect is in custody?

Fry: There always is, there’s always that weight of knowing that you have a person in custody. And I think that gives a great relief to your organization, gives a great relief to your community. And in this case, the state, the nation, and I think even the world.

Q: There has been a lot of criticism of the department throughout the investigation, as the department held so many details close to the vest. Do you feel vindicated?

Fry: What I feel is, is we did our job, and we did it right. And we said from the beginning, we’re going to protect the integrity of that case, we’re going to continue to do it right. And we’re not a prideful group. What we are is a group that we had a job to do. We did that. And we are happy that we did it the way we did it, because of the outcome.

Q: How hard was it to keep so many details close to the vest?

Fry: I think it’s always hard. It’s emotional at times. We want to give that information. We want to give the families some closure and give them information, we want to give our community. But it is so important to hold that information, and keep it right where it was, so that when we made an arrest, and now as we continue further, there’ll be more information that we’re going to hold till the end, because we want to get a conviction.

Q: Have you personally talked to the families?

Fry: I have, personally. It’s been a while. But I have talked to them on the phone throughout the first couple of weeks of this.

Q: Can you tell us about those conversations?

Fry: What I wanted to reassure them is that we were going to do everything we could to bring justice for them, for our four victims, and for everybody that’s involved. And we will try to answer any questions that we could through the process.

Q: What do you have to say to the rest of America, to the rest of the world? I mean, after all this scrutiny that this department has been put through?

Fry: I would challenge every police organization across the nation to know the importance, even with the pressures that are put on you, the importance of keeping the integrity of that case solid. It’s your job. It’s what we signed on to do. We sign on to make sure that we do it right. And I challenge other departments to do that.

Q: You’ve been quite emotional about this case. Do you still feel that same raw emotion? Do you feel like you’re really fighting this for these young people?

Fry: I think we always feel the emotion. You know, I’m a fairly emotional individual. If you’ve been around me, and you get to know me, I am that way. Because I care and I care a lot and a lot of us want to give the right answers and do it right. But it is it is difficult at times.

Q: Talk a bit about the counseling that’s been needed in this department.

Fry: Yeah. You know, we are building a family here. We started that years ago. And we want, you know, you want to take care of your family, you want to make sure that they’re healthy. So, we have brought in counselors, I’ve talked to counselors. I have a great relationship with my wife, who I can, you know, talk to about things. And we promote that. We want our officers to be healthy. We want our families to be healthy. We brought in counselors for the families as well, because we know that that is a solid base. The family becomes a solid base for an officer. And they’re the support system and we want that to be held.

Q: What was it about the case that required counseling?

Fry: I think there’s a lot of things, you know. It was four people murdered with the use of a knife. There’s, there’s things that you don’t forget when you go on any of these calls, and we don’t want that to build over time. So, we want to get them the help that they can get. We want to have a good solid structure to help them at home. So that when they come back to work, they are ready to serve our community.

Q: What now? We’re entering a whole new year and a whole new phase. What now?

Fry: Now we get to know who this individual is. We’re focused now on who he is. That’s why we keep asking people to send this information. If you’ve known him, if you’ve dealt with him at any point in time. This is now where we become a bit more laser-focused on one thing, and we’re going to find out as much information as we can. But we still need our community and people’s help.

Q: Is there anything specific that you’re looking for about him that would help you build your case?

Fry: We are looking at everything. And I’ve said that from the beginning. We don’t know what small tip may come in, and somebody may think is totally irrelevant, but … that ties something together for us. And we’re asking people to give us those pieces and let us work through those to see if that’s exactly what we need to help for this case.

Watch the full interview in the player at the top of the page.

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