The mother of one of the four students murdered in Idaho has revealed that she was abandoned by her lawyer, who is now representing her daughter’s accused killer.
Cara Northington’s daughter Xana Kernodle, 20, was killed in November in the student house in Moscow, Idaho, which she shared with three friends.
On December 30, police arrested Bryan Kohberger, a PhD student in criminology at Washington State University in Pullman, eight miles from the Moscow residence.
Northington was at the time being represented for various drug charges by Ann Taylor, the chief public defender for Kootenai County.
On January 5, the day that Kohberger appeared before a judge in Idaho, Taylor officially dropped Northington – without telling her – to represent the 28-year-old.
‘I am heartbroken,’ said Northington, speaking to News Nation host Ashleigh Banfield.
Cara Northington, right, is seen on Wednesday evening speaking to News Nation host, Ashleigh Banfield
Northington’s daughter Xana Kernodle, 20, was murdered in her student home in Moscow, Idaho on November 13
‘Because I trusted her. She pretended that she was wanting to help me.
‘And to find out that she’s representing him – I can’t even convey how betrayed I feel.’
Ann Taylor, the chief public defender for Kootenai County, was representing Northington until January 5 – when she switched to representing Bryan Kohberger
She does not know whether she has a lawyer in her own case or represents her daughter.
Northington said she felt she had been abandoned by the prosecutors and, furthermore, was furious that police might have identified Kohberger as a suspect but not told them – allowing her other daughter, Jazzmin Kernodle, to continue her studies at Washington State University, alongside Kohberger.
‘The fact that they knew, and allowed Jazzmin to attend WSU – I’m just beside myself,’ she said.
‘She was adamant about still going to school, but I think if she had known Xana’s killer was there it would have been different.’
Northington, who has long battled addiction, said she only found out that Taylor was representing her daughter’s accused killer when a friend saw it on social media, and told her.
Taylor is seen with Kohberger on January 5 – the day Taylor stopped representing Northington
Prosecutors did not inform Northington that her counsel was no longer representing her
Taylor is seen with her 28-year-old client on January 5. He was a PhD criminology student at Washington State University, eight miles from the murder scene
Taylor had power of attorney over her affairs, amid her addictions, and Northington now does not know who controls her legal issues.
‘I had already signed that so she could help me,’ she said.
‘I don’t understand how she could do this.
‘I don’t know what goes on now – does she still have power of attorney?’
Some speculated that Taylor’s appointment to represent Kohberger was one of necessity, because in the small, remote county there was not an abundance of qualified public defenders.
Taylor is one of just 13 public defenders in Idaho approved by the state’s public defense commission to lead a capital punishment case. She’s also the only one in all of North Idaho.
Prosecutors have yet to indicate whether they will seek the death penalty in Kohberger’s case.
Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, said that Northington’s situation was ‘heartbreaking’.
He added: ‘It’s victimizing her again.’
Mark Geragos, a criminal defense lawyer based in Los Angeles, told Banfield that Taylor would have problems cross-examining Northington if, as expected, she is called as a witness in her daughter’s murder trial.
He said Taylor could bring on another lawyer for that specific part of the trial, but added that her previous representation of Northington would give Kohberger – if convicted – ample grounds for appeal.
He predicted a hearing would soon be called – before the next scheduled session, in June – to resolve the issue.
Aronberg added: ‘You should never have a situation like this.
‘It’s up to the court to make this right.
‘I think they will in the end, and no one wants this to be overturned on appeal.’
Mark Geragos (center) and Dave Aronberg (right) both said they expected a hearing to resolve the conflict of interest
Northington told Banfield that she felt she had been left in the dark about the case
Xana Kernodle and her boyfriend Ethan Chapin (left) were both killed along with friends Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves (right)
Kaylee and Madison were found on the top floor of the Moscow, Idaho home. College lovers Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were found in a second-floor bedroom while survivors Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke were sleeping on the first floor
Northington said that no one from the prosecutors’ office had contacted her, and that the only people ringing her were the media.
It was unclear why a liaison officer from the Victim and Witness Coordinator team had not got in touch.
She said she had not spoken to any of the relatives of the other three victims – although she would not be opposed to it – and nor had she spoken to the two other roommates who were in the house at the time of the murders.
Northington said that she had not heard any mention of Kohberger before his arrest.
‘I can’t imagine she had any connection with him,’ she said.
‘He’s quite a bit older than her or any of her friends.
‘I don’t know if they knew him.’
She said it was ‘possible’ that her daughter came across him at the vegan pizza restaurant, Mad Greek, where she worked.
Kohberger was reported to have eaten at the restaurant shortly before the murders – but the owner has since denied seeing him.
In the weeks after the murder of her daughter, Northington was active on Facebook groups dedicated to trying to find the killer.
She now knows, to her horror, that Kohberger was a member of the group.
‘That was shocking,’ she told Banfield.
‘I had no idea he was trolling the groups like that.
‘That was shocking to me.’
Members of the Moscow Police Department and Idaho State Police collect and remove the personal effects and property from the residence
Victims: pictured, the four Idaho students who were stabbed to death during the early morning hours of November 13. Ethan Chapin (center right), Xana Kerndole (right), Kaylee Goncalves (lower left) and Madison Mogen (upper left)
She said the discovery was ‘creepy, very creepy’.
‘I think it shows what a sick-minded person we’re dealing with,’ she said.
‘Someone who can do this has to be very sick in the head.
‘It’s a game to him.
‘That’s what I feel like – it’s a game he’s playing.
‘This is not a game – it’s real life.
‘And it makes me sick.’
Northington said she was ‘glad’ when he was arrested, adding: ‘It’s all been so much.’
She continued: ‘I have a lot of feelings… Bad feelings toward him, obviously.
‘I don’t know what to make of it all.
‘I watch social media all the time, and I see he’s trying to say he’s innocent.
‘It breaks my heart – there’s no remorse there.
‘He’s trying to pin it on somebody else.’
She said that, on seeing him in court, she struggled to comprehend what had happened.
‘I can’t believe there is somebody like him out there – who is capable of doing such a monstrous thing,’ she said.
‘There is no remorse, nothing.’
Asked what she would say to him, if she could speak to him, Northington replied: ‘I just want to know why.
‘Why did he do this? Why did he take these kids? Why? What did they do to him?
‘I can’t imagine them doing anything that deserved for him to murder them.’
She admitted she was struggling to cope, but said she believed she would get through it.
‘I have my friends around me and I watch a lot of Xana’s TikTok videos and that helps,’ she said.
‘Managing as best as you can, you know.’
She said her daughter, a marketing student, ‘was tough’.
‘She was strong. She was funny,’ she said.
‘She just could make you smile, no matter what.
‘She just had a quirkiness about her.
‘Not a lot of people possess that talent to light up a room, as she did.
‘You can see from her TikToks how carefree she was, and just funny.
‘I don’t think I will ever get over the grief of losing my child.
‘But she would want us to remember the good things.’