Authorities have finally released key details in the case of Bryan Kohberger, the primary suspect in the murders of four University of Idaho students. According to an affidavit unsealed Thursday, Kohberger, 28, allegedly left behind DNA evidence at the crime scene on a knife sheath and was caught after authorities used cell phone data and video footage to connect him to the car seen near the scene at the time of the crime.
Kohberger had his first Idaho court appearance Thursday, after agreeing to be extradited from Pennsylvania, where he was caught. He was arrested on Dec. 30 after a six-week investigation by the Moscow, Idaho Police Department. A DeSales University graduate and criminology graduate student at Washington State University, Kohberger is accused of stabbing University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022. Goncalves, Mogen, and Kernodle were active members of the University of Idaho’s greek life and shared a house together with two other girls. Chapin was dating Kernodle and was sleeping over at the time of the murders. Investigators found that Kohberger’s studies were focused on criminology and murders, but police have yet to release any motive or possible connection between Kohberger and the students. Since the November murders, few details about the case have been released by authorities, which sparked major debate and speculation online about the killer’s identity. Idaho authorities are continuing to keep information close, with a judge issuing a gag order that limits the amount of information attorneys and police can share with media outlets. At least one full page of the affidavit released Thursday was also redacted.
Though a murder weapon has not yet been found, according to a court affidavit released Thursday, police found a tan leather knife sheath stamped with “Ka-Bar” and “USMC” that had one source of male DNA left on the snap of the knife sheath.
On Nov. 13, police were called to the house around 11:58 a.m after a roommate called 911 under the belief that one of the girls in the house was unconscious. When police arrived, the bodies were discovered. According to the affidavit released Thursday, one of the roommates, identified as D.M., told police she was awoken several times throughout the night and opened the door to her bedroom. At one point, D.M. said thought she heard crying from Mogen’s room and a voice that said something that sounded like “it’s OK, I’m going to help you.” When D.M. opened her door a third time around 4:17 am, she told police she saw a figure around 5’10” with bushy eyebrows “clad in black clothing and a mask.” The figure walked toward her while she stood in a frozen state but walked out of the sliding door — and at which point D.M. said she locked herself in her room. The police were called almost seven hours later. Authorities also found a diamond-shaped pattern shoe print left at the crime scene, similar to a pair of Vans sneakers, which they say match a path D.M said the suspect took.
During the investigation, the Moscow Police Department asked for the public’s help in identifying a white Hyundai Elantra they believed was related to the killings. Early Wednesday morning, ABC News reported that Indiana State Police pulled Kohberger and his father over twice while the pair were driving in the same white sedan, but let the two off with a warning.
“At the time of this stop, there was no information available on a suspect for the crime in Idaho, to include identifying information or any specific information related to the license plate state or number of the white Hyundai Elantra which was being reported in the media to have been seen in or around where the crime occurred,” state police told ABC News.
According to the affidavit, the suspected vehicle was tracked using video footage until it was last seen at 4:20 am on Nov. 13 driving southbound on Walenta Drive. The road leads to Pullman, Washington, and police noted it is often used to traverse the roughly 10 miles between the two college towns. Video footage from Washington State University and several cameras captured a sedan without a visible front license plate leaving and returning to the area around the time of the murder. Police investigated 2014-2016 white Elantras registered at the school and found a vehicle was registered to Kohberger. The address on file was three-quarters of a mile from the last camera that captured footage of the Elantra. Kohberger also fit some of D.M.’s description of the suspect.
Authorities say they used phone records and cellular data records to place Kohberger near the crime scene at least 12 times the morning before the homicides took place. Cell phone pings also place Kohberger’s cell phone in the area at least three times during the afternoon of Nov. 13, indicating he went back to the house after the murders took place. After police obtained a search warrant for the Kohberger residence, police matched DNA found from trash at the Kohberger family residence to the DNA left at the scene and issued the arrest warrant.
According to police, Kohberger applied for a fall 2022 internship with the Pullman Police Department and wrote in an essay he was interested in assisting “rural law enforcement agencies with how to better collect and analyze technological data in public safety operations.”
Kohberger has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary and could face life in prison or the death penalty. Rolling Stone reached out to Kohberger’s public defender, who was unable to give a statement because of the court-issued gag order. Gag orders are used in Idaho law to prevent any information from leaking that might affect a fair trial.
“These murders have shaken our community and no arrest will ever bring back these young students. However we do believe justice will be found through the criminal process,” Chief Fry said Friday. “Be assured the work is not done. This is just getting started.”
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Correction: This story previously stated that the murders occurred on Nov. 12. They happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 13.