Newly released court documents filed by police in Moscow, Idaho, reveal how investigators tracked down Bryan Kohberger, who has been arrested and charged with the brutal stabbings of four University of Idaho college students — a case that has captured international attention and sent shockwaves through the small college town.
The affidavit written by Brett Payne, a police corporal in Moscow, Idaho, was made public minutes before Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminal justice doctoral student at nearby Washington State University, was due to appear in court after being extradited Wednesday from Pennsylvania, where his parents live and where he was arrested.
He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary in the Nov. 13 attack that claimed the lives of three roommates, Xana Kernodle, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, as well as Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, who was sleeping over for the night.
The affidavit reveals that one of the unharmed roommates who was at the murder scene at the time of the stabbings actually came face to face with the supposed killer, who she described as being clad in a mask and black clothing.
The affidavit also details how investigators used DNA evidence from a knife sheath left at the scene, as well as video surveillance tracking a white Hyundai Elantra, to connect Kohberger to the murders. Cellphone data additionally showed that he was in the area of the victims’ home on the night of and the afternoon after the attack — as well as multiple times in the months leading up to the murders.
Witness from within the home
A woman who lived at the off-campus rental home where the four University of Idaho students were killed detailed to investigators her terrifying encounter with a home intruder on the night that her peers were brutally stabbed in their beds.
The roommate, who wasn’t harmed in the attack, told investigators that she opened the door to her second-floor bedroom at around 4 a.m. after hearing crying and was “frozen” in shock as a man she didn’t recognize walked past her toward their sliding glass door. She went back into her bedroom and locked the door.
She described the man as about five-feet, 10 inches-tall and “not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows,” according to court documents seen by ABC News.
Police detailed their most comprehensive series of events yet as to what took place within the home during the murders, which they say unfolded between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m.
According to the affidavit, one of the surviving roommates woke up around 4 a.m. from what sounded like Goncalves playing with her dog on the third floor. A little while later, the roommate said “she heard who she thought was Goncalves say something to the effect of ‘there’s someone here,'” the documents read.
The roommate opened her door when she heard the comments, but she didn’t see anything and returned to her room.
“She opened her door a second time when she heard what she thought was crying coming from Kernodle’s room,” the affidavit reads. She also heard a male voice “say something to the effect of ‘it’s OK, I’m going to help you.'”
That’s when the roommate said she saw the figure in a mask walk past her.
At about 4:17 a.m. a security camera close to Kernodle’s room picked up the sounds of a barking dog and “distorted audio of what sounded like voices or a whimper followed by a loud thud,” the affidavit reads.
A shoe print believed to be from the intruder was found outside one of the surviving roommates’ room, documents showed.
DNA evidence and cell records
Authorities say they found DNA from a tan leather knife sheath left on the bed of one of the victims and were able to match it with Kohberger after taking DNA from his family’s home.
The affidavit, prepared by Officer Payne, describes how he arrived at the murder scene on Nov. 13 and noticed the knife sheath laying on the bed next to Mogen. Police were able to recover male DNA left on the button snap of the sheath, which had a U.S. Marine Corps insignia on it.
“The sheath was later processed and had ‘Ka-Bar’ ‘USMC’ and the United States Marine Corps eagle globe and anchor insignia stamped on the outside of it,” Payne wrote.
The murder weapon, which police believe to be a large fixed-blade knife, still has not been recovered.
On Dec. 27, four days before Kohberger was arrested, police recovered trash from his parents’ home in Pennsylvania and a lab was able to determine that the DNA from the trash was the father of the person who left DNA on the knife sheath, according to the documents.
Surveillance footage captured near the home showed a white sedan — later identified as a Hyundai Elantra — driving by the home three times in the early hours of Nov. 13, returning a fourth time at about 4:04 a.m. The car was next spotted on surveillance cameras leaving King Road 16 minutes later “at a high rate of speed,” Payne wrote.
The same car was later spotted on a different camera headed toward Pullman, where the suspect lived while attending Washington State University.
Kohberger’s phone records placed him near the crime scene on the night of the attack, according to documents seen by The Rolling Stone. His cell phone was also pinged at least three times near the home on the afternoon after the murders, indicating that he went back to the scene of the crime.
When police dug deeper into his phone records, they revealed that Kohberger had travelled to the area of the victims’ residence at least a dozen times between late June and the night of the killings.
Investigators haven’t disclosed a possible motive or said whether they think Kohberger knew any of the victims.
Kohberger was arrested at his parents’ home in eastern Pennsylvania on Dec. 31 and agreed to be extradited to Idaho. His attorney in Pennsylvania, Monroe County chief public defender Jason LaBar, said Kohberger was eager to be exonerated and described him as “an ordinary guy.” He said Kohberger would be represented by the chief public defender in Idaho’s Kootenai County once in the state.
Latah County prosecutors have said they believe Kohberger broke into the victims’ home intending to commit murder.
— with files from The Associated Press