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University of Idaho killings: Four clues that led to Bryan Kohberger’s arrest

As Bryan Kohberger made an appearance Thursday in an Idaho court, officials unsealed the affidavit that laid out the evidence for his arrest in the November slaying of four University of Idaho students.

The document details the investigation that followed the discovery on Nov. 13 of the students in a home near the campus in Moscow, Idaho: Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen. All were dead of “sharp-force injuries,” apparently inflicted by a fixed-blade knife.

The evidence cited includes:

The housemate’s statement

In addition to the three young women killed, two other women shared the home at 1122 King Road. (Chapin was Kernodle’s boyfriend and was spending the night.) One of the housemates, identified as D.M., told investigators what she observed in the house early on the morning of Nov. 13, a Sunday:

All of the housemates were home by 2 a.m. Kernodle, Chapin, Goncalves and Mogen were in bedrooms on the second and third floors; Kernodle went downstairs to accept a DoorDash food delivery around 4 a.m. and returned to her room.

Around 4 a.m., D.M., in her second-floor bedroom, was awakened by noise that she thought was coming from a third-floor bedroom. In the approximately 15 minutes that followed, she looked out of her bedroom door three times — once when she heard someone say “something to the effect of ‘there’s someone here’” and two more times when she thought she heard crying.

On the third time D.M. went to her door, she saw a stranger in the house: a man dressed in black, with a mask covering his mouth and nose. He walked toward a sliding glass door at the back of the house. D.M. went into her bedroom and locked the door.

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Her report, plus phone records and noise captured at 4:17 by a security camera at a neighboring house, led investigators to believe the murders occurred between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. The surviving housemates discovered the bodies in the afternoon.

The car

A white Hyundai Elantra with no front license plate was seen on surveillance video from King Road several times from 3:29 a.m. to 4:20 a.m. on the morning of the murders.

Examining video from nearby communities, officers noted a car of the same type in the area of the Washington State University campus, about 8 miles away in Pullman, at 2:44 and 2:53 a.m. on Nov. 13, and again around 5:25 a.m. that morning.

On Nov. 29, Washington State campus police reported a white 2015 Hyundai Elantra had been found outside student housing. It was registered to Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old doctorate student in criminology. At that time, it had Washington license plates on the front and rear. It was later found that Kohberger had requested those plates on Nov. 18, a few days before his Pennsylvania plate (on the rear only) was due to expire.

Reports from law enforcement databases in mid-December indicated Kohberger was driving the Elantra across the country: It was seen in Colorado on Dec. 13, in Indiana on Dec. 15 and in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania — where Kohberger’s parents live — on Dec. 16.

Bodycam video from a traffic stop on Dec. 15, 2022, in Hancock County, Indiana, shows Bryan Kohberger, right, and his father, who were driving from Pullman, Wash., to Albrightsville, Penn.(Hancock County Sheriff’s Office via VFAB) 

The phone

Records from the Latah County sheriff’s department documented that Kohberger had been driving the Elantra when he was pulled over in Moscow on Aug. 21. He gave the deputy the number of his mobile phone.

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On Dec. 23, investigators received records showing the location of that phone in previous months. On the morning of the murders, it was located near Kohberger’s home until 2:47 a.m., when it disconnected from the network — either because it was turned off or put in airplane mode or because it was out of the coverage area. At 4:48 a.m., it connected to a network again on a highway near Moscow, and then was tracked back to Pullman, arriving there around 5:30.

The records also indicated that, in the five months before the murders, the same phone had been in the area of the King Road house at least 12 times — all in the late night or early morning.

The DNA

A leather knife sheath found next to Mogen’s body yielded a man’s DNA. Items taken on Dec. 27 from the trash at Kohberger’s parents’ home were sent to the Idaho State Lab, and on Dec. 28 analysts found DNA that was declared with high certainty to be that of the biological father of the man whose DNA was on the knife sheath.

On Dec. 29, investigators requested an arrest warrant for Bryan Kohberger. Officers arrested him in the early hours of Dec. 30, breaking doors and windows to enter his parents’ home. He has been charged with the four murders, as well as burglary.

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