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Making the Case Against Bryan Kohberger

(L to R) Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, and Xana Kernodle

(L to R) Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, and Xana Kernodle

The Arrest of Bryan Kohberger

The newly released arrest affidavit for Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old PhD student at Washington State University, was released in January 2023, providing more insight into why police believe he is responsible for the brutal murders of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Maddie Mogen, and Kaylee Goncalves.

The arrest came as a surprise to many, as it was previously believed that the police had no leads or suspects in the case. However, Kohberger was apprehended at his family's home in Chestnuthill Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania on December 30th.

Evidence at the Scene

It was widely assumed that the police had obtained DNA evidence from the perpetrator, as it is highly unlikely that someone could commit such a heinous act without leaving behind biological traces such as blood, hair, saliva or skin. The affidavit revealed that DNA was found on the button of a leather knife sheath.

According to Brett Payne, an officer with the Moscow Police Department, when he and his colleagues entered the second floor of 1122 King Road, they found Xana Kernodle's body on the ground inside one of the bedrooms. It was evident that she had been killed with "an edged weapon" as stated in the probable cause affidavit.

Ethan Chapin’s body was also discovered in the same room as Kernodle’s. He, too, had been stabbed. Upon ascending to the third floor of the house, officers spotted a dog in one of the bedrooms, which belonged to Kaylee Goncalves. In another room, the bodies of Goncalves and Maddie Mogen were discovered in the same bed with “visual stab wounds.” On the bed beside Mogen lay a tan leather knife sheath.

A KA-BAR knife similar to the one believed to have been used in the Idaho student murders. — Source: NY Breaking

A KA-BAR knife similar to the one believed to have been used in the Idaho student murders. — Source: NY Breaking

Officer Payne stated:

“The sheath was later processed and had ‘Ka-Bar’ ‘USMC’ and the United States Marine Corp eagle globe and anchor insignia stamped on the outside of it. The Idaho state lab later located a single source of male DNA (suspect Profile) left on the button snap of the knife sheath.”

On December 27, 2022, law enforcement in Pennsylvania collected a bag of garbage left outside the Kohberger residence in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania. The Idaho State Laboratory discovered that the DNA found on items within the trash closely matched the DNA found on the knife sheath.

“On December 28, 2022, the Idaho State Lab reported that a DNA profile obtained from the trash and the DNA profile obtained from the sheath, identified a male as not being excluded as the biological father of Suspect Profile. At least 99.9998% of the male population would be expected to be excluded from the possibility of being the suspect’s biological father.”

The Car

In early December, investigators announced that they were searching for a 2011-2013 white Hyundai Elantra, claiming that the person or people in the car may possess "critical information to share regarding this case." The police department stated in a press release that even small pieces of information could help solve the case.

It was later discovered that the car was actually a 2015 model. The Hyundai was first seen on surveillance footage near the victims' rental home at 3:26 am on November 13, lacking a front license plate, which is required in Washington but not in Pennsylvania.

The car was then captured on multiple cameras as it passed by the residence several times, eventually leaving the area at a high speed at 4:20 am. The vehicle is believed to have exited the neighborhood at Palouse River Drive and Conestoga Drive, leading into Whitman County and eventually to Pullman, Washington.

A still shot of Bryan Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra taken by police body cam during a traffic stop in Indiana in December — Source: TMZ

A still shot of Bryan Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra taken by police body cam during a traffic stop in Indiana in December — Source: TMZ

Surveilling Bryan Kohberger

Both Moscow and Pullman are located approximately 10 miles apart and are known for being college towns. It is common for students to travel between the two towns, with some saying that Moscow offers better bars than Pullman.

In fact, Kohberger’s vehicle was spotted on surveillance cameras traveling north, away from the Washington State University, at around 2:44 a.m. on November 13, 2022, the morning of the murders.

Then, at approximately 5:25 a.m., the white Hyundai was picked up on five surveillance cameras in Pullman and on the Washington State University campus.

On November 25, the Moscow PD requested that area law enforcement agencies be on the lookout for white Hyundai Elantras in the area. Upon querying white Elantras registered at Washington State University, Police Officer Daniel Tiengo discovered a white 2015 Elantra registered at the school with a Pennsylvania license plate. That vehicle was found to be registered to Bryan Kohberger.

Around 1 a.m. that same day, an officer at WSU located a 2015 white Elantra in the parking lot while looking for vehicles matching the MPD’s description. Upon running the license plate, the officer found that the car was registered to Bryan Kohberger with a Washington tag.

This led the officer to pull up Kohberger’s driver’s license, allowing him to get a physical description of the man now under the microscope of law enforcement: He was white, 6' in height and weighing 185 pounds. The officer also noted that Kohberger had bushy eyebrows, which would become a vital detail in the killings later on.

Bryan Kohberger

Bryan Kohberger

Further investigation revealed that in August 2021, Kohberger was pulled over while driving a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra with a Pennsylvania license plate set to expire on November 30, 2022. He provided the officer with his phone number, which was found to be issued by AT&T.

In October 2022, Kohberger was pulled over again in his car, still displaying the Pennsylvania license plate. Five days after the murders, Kohberger registered the car in Washington state and received a new license plate. He was last seen driving the car in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, where his family lived, on December 16.

Right Place at the Right Time

The cellphone evidence clearly shows Kohberger's whereabouts on the morning of the murders and in the weeks prior to the attacks.

However, when investigators queried the cellphone number associated with Kohberger, they were unable to find his device utilizing any of cellular tower resources in close proximity to 1122 King Road between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. This is something the defense will inevitably pounce on in an effort to sever potential links between Kohberger’s location and 1122 King Road.

But ...

The lack of cell tower pings doesn’t mean Kohberger wasn’t near or in the house on November 13.

Court documents revealed Payne's logic in obtaining a search warrant:

“Based on my training, experience, and conversations with law enforcement officers that specialize in the utilization of cellular telephone records as part of investigations, individuals can either leave their cellular telephone at a different location before committing a crime or turn their cellular telephone off prior to going to a location to commit a crime. This is done by subjects in an effort to avoid alerting law enforcement that a cellular device associated with them was in a particular area where a crime is committed.

“I also know that on numerous occasions, subjects will surveil an area where they intend to commit a crime prior to the date of the crime. Depending on the circumstances, this could be done a few days before or for several months prior to the commission of a crime. During these types of surveillance, it is possible that an individual would not leave their cellular telephone at a separate location or turn it off since they do not plan to commit the offense on that particular day."

Payne applied for and received a search warrant for Kohberger’s phone records on December 23. Specifically, the officer intended to examine the suspect’s cellphone activity between midnight on November 12 and midnight on November 14.

Kohberger’s phone pinged several towers as he traveled back and forth between his home and 1122 King Road between 9 a.m. and 9:32 a.m. on November 13.

The alleged killer’s phone did not connect to a cell tower that provides service to Moscow on Nov. 14, but investigators believe it was in the area. The phone did not ping in Moscow after the 14th.

Stalking

If Kohberger is the perpetrator, it seems that the murders were not a spontaneous decision made on November 12 or 13. It is still unknown if or how Kohberger knew the victims, but his cellphone records indicate that he had been stalking them for weeks leading up to the attack.

On December 23, 2022, a search warrant was issued for Kohberger's cellphone records dating back to June 23, 2022, and the information obtained was disturbing.

While in the area on August 21, 2022, Kohberger was stopped by Latah County Sheriff’s Deputy CPL Duke.

On the morning of Nov. 13, Kohberger’s cellphone records indicate that he traveled from Pullman, Washington, to Lewiston, Idaho, via US Highway 195. The phone pinged in an area near Kate’s Cup of Joe coffee stand (it provides the address) in Clarkston, Washington.

Surveillance video also showed a white Elantra consistent to the one Kohberger was known to be driving traveling past Kate’s Cup of Joe at the same time cellphone towers detected Kohberger’s phone.

At approximately 12:46 p.m., cell towers again picked up the Elantra in Clarkston, this time at an Albertson’s grocery store. Kohberger was seen exiting the vehicle and then going inside, where he purchased several items before leaving at approximately 1:04 p.m. The affidavit goes on to say:

“Additional analysis of records for the 8458 Phone indicated that between approximately 5:32 p.m. and 5:36 p.m., the 8458 Phone utilized cellular resources that provide coverage to Johnson, ID. The 8458 Phone then stops reporting to the network from approximately 5:36 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. That is consistent with the 8458 Phone being in the area that the 8458 Phone traveled in the hours immediately following the suspected time the homicides occurred.”

It would be a huge coincidence if Kohberger’s vehicle was spotted near 1122 King Road a dozen times before the murders, on the morning of the murders, and then never again after November 13, 2022.

Maddie and Kaylee are seen in video footage just hours before the murders.

Maddie and Kaylee are seen in video footage just hours before the murders.

Witness

Early in the investigation, a video of Kaylee Goncalves and Maddie Mogen at a food truck was widely reported in the news. Although the video did not reveal any significant information, it did help to establish a general timeframe for when the two returned to 1122 King Road. Notably, the video showed that Kaylee and Maddie did not appear to be in any distress.

The video also provided insight into the timeline of the crimes. According to a ride share driver, the women were driven back to the King Road residence around 1:56 a.m. The affidavit states:

“On the evening of November 12, 2022, Chapin and Kernodle are seen by B.F. at the Sigma Chi house on the University of Idaho campus at 735 Nez Perce Drive from approximately 9:00 p.m. on November 12 to 1:45 a.m. on November 13. B.F. also estimated that at approximately 1:45 a.m., Chapin and Kernodle returned to the King Road residence. B.F. also stated that Chapin did not live in the King Road residence but was a guest of Kernodle.”

Meanwhile, Kaylee and Maddie were at the Corner Club bar in downtown Moscow. Surveillance footage from the bar showed the two women inside the establishment between 10:00 p.m. on Nov. 12 and 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 13. Kaylee and Maddie were spotted on surveillance at the food truck at approximately 1:30 a.m. and, as stated previously, were driven home around 1:56 a.m.

B.F. and D.M. (D.M. referring to surviving roommate Dylan Mortensen) both stated in interviews that the occupants of the house were home by 2 a.m. and in their rooms or asleep by 4 a.m. on Nov. 13. The one exception was Xana Kernodle, who received a DoorDash order at approximately 4 a.m.

D.M. went to bed in her southeast bedroom on the second floor of the house. She told investigators that she woke up to the sound of what she thought was her daughter, Kaylee, playing with her dog in a third-floor bedroom around 4 a.m. She then heard Kaylee say, "There's someone here."

However, it's possible that she heard her daughter's friend, Xana Kernodle, as Xana's phone records indicate she was using TikTok at that time. D.M. opened her door twice, first after hearing crying coming from Xana's room, and then a male voice saying "It's OK, I'm going to help you."

A security camera nearby recorded distorted audio of voices or a whimper, followed by a loud thud and a dog barking multiple times. D.M. opened her door for a third time and saw a person wearing all black and a mask walking towards her. She described the person as 5'10" or taller, male, athletic build, and bushy eyebrows. The person walked towards a sliding door and D.M. locked herself in her room.

The video referred to in the documents came from a “video canvass” in the area of the King Road residence. It goes into the the multiple surveillance videos of the white Hyundai traveling through the area and eventually to Pullman, WA that I detailed earlier.

Other Evidence

At the crime scene of 1122 King Road, investigators discovered a shoe print with a diamond-shaped pattern, similar to those found on Vans shoes. The print was identified using a presumptive blood test and a protein stain called Amino Black that detects cellular material. The print was located outside the bedroom door of the victim, D.M., which aligns with their statement about the suspect's path of travel.

A pair of Vans sneakers similar to the one that left a footprint at the scene of the Idaho student murders.

A pair of Vans sneakers similar to the one that left a footprint at the scene of the Idaho student murders.

Update 2023

Bryan Kohberger sent a gushing email to his local police chief in search of a job, months before he allegedly murdered four University of Idaho students.

Kohberger penned the missive to Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins in hopes of landing a three-year research assistant gig in public safety in early 2022.

It was also reported by Inside Edition that Bryan visited a restaurant where two of the victims had worked.

© 2023 Lawrence Lease