Search warrants detail how police tracked U of I murder suspect. Here’s all you need to know
In the nearly three months since Bryan Kohberger, the suspect charged in the fatal stabbings of four University of Idaho students, was arrested, the Idaho Statesman has continued in-depth coverage of the case.
Kohberger was arrested at his parents’ house in Pennsylvania on Dec. 30. He faces four counts of felony first-degree murder and a felony burglary charge in the Nov. 13 attack that took the lives of University of Idaho seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington.
Here’s what we know and what has happened since the weekend of Nov. 12-13, 2022.
What are the latest developments?
The Idaho Statesman analyzed dozens of search warrants detailing how police pursued and gathered the evidence leading to Kohberger’s arrest. Police sent warrants to some of the largest companies in the world, including Google, Apple, Walmart, Amazon and Meta — parent company of Facebook and Instagram — to piece together information from them.
Idaho search warrants show Moscow homicides police work before Bryan Kohberger’s arrest
Idaho lawmakers on March 14 approved the funding of $1 million from the state’s general fund to cover costs related to the investigation. The money will help cover Idaho State Police services, increased security, a shuttle service, counseling services, a vigil, media consulting, and a security review, according to Statesman reporting.
The Statesman also broke down a rare neurological disorder known as visual snow syndrome that Kohberger reportedly suffers from. People with visual snow report seeing small, moving dots across their vision, as well as suffering migraines and a ringing in the ears. Old friends of Kohberger’s would mention that he would talk about it “all the time,” and an account on the online forum Tapatalk that seems to be Kohberger’s talks in-depth about the disorder.
Along with continued coverage, the Statesman has prepared a timeline of events from the hours before the stabbings to Kohberger’s return to Idaho. You can read that timeline here.
What else has happened since Kohberger’s arrest?
A search warrant from the Pennsylvania police and FBI was unsealed on Feb. 28, revealing that more than 70 items were taken from the home of Kohberger’s parents in the Poconos. Among the items seized were black clothing, four medical-style gloves, a Glock 22 handgun with three empty magazines and its record of sale, a Smith & Wesson pocket knife, a Taylor cutlery knife with leather sheath, and an unlabeled knife.
Knives, black clothing: Unsealed warrants reveal what PA police took from Kohberger home
The owner of the house at 1122 King Road, where the four victims were killed, donated it to U of I. The university plans to demolish the house by the end of the spring semester, a university spokesperson told the Statesman. There are no plans for what will replace the house on that property, but the school is working with students and others to devise a plan for future development to honor the four students.
A gag order issued by Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall in early January preventing communication about the case from “investigators, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and agents of the prosecuting attorney or defense attorney” was updated Jan. 19.
The updated order prohibits attorneys who are representing a witness or victim’s family from discussing the case, in addition to the parties who were already prohibited. More than two dozen news outlets, including the Statesman, have filed a petition with the Idaho Supreme Court to remove the order.
Kohberger objected Feb. 9 to another motion to remove the order in his case. Kohberger’s defense team argued that he has a right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury,” which could be threatened by “pretrial expression.”
Kohberger also recently affirmed his support for court-appointed public defender Anne Taylor, who once acted as the defense attorney for a parent to one of the four victims. The Statesman reported that Taylor’s representation of the parent posed potential conflict-of-interest questions.
Moscow stabbing suspect Bryan Kohberger objects to a motion to loosen the gag order
The Statesman’s Kevin Fixler visited Kohberger’s hometown in Pennsylvania, talking to several old school friends and acquaintances. You can read the full story here; some of the topics broached include Kohberger’s alleged history with drug use, his “desire to be an alpha” among peers, and how his arrest has affected that area of eastern Pennsylvania.
Who is Bryan Kohberger?
He is a 28-year-old Ph.D. student who was studying criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University. He finished his first semester in December. Police said in a news conference that Kohberger lived by the university in Pullman, about a 9-mile drive from Moscow and the University of Idaho.
Washington State University’s fall course catalog listed Kohberger as an assistant instructor for three undergraduate criminal justice courses. All three courses finished Dec. 9, according to the catalog, almost a month after the killings.
Court records show Kohberger is originally from Albrightsville, a hamlet in the Pocono Mountains near Chestnuthill Township in northeastern Pennsylvania. He graduated from Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania with an associate degree in psychology in 2018.
Who is Bryan Kohberger? What we know about suspect in the University of Idaho homicides
Kohberger next attended DeSales University in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and a master’s degree in criminal justice in May 2022. At DeSales, he conducted a survey as part of a research project seeking information from people who had committed crimes.
Among the questions in the survey were, “Did you prepare for the crime before leaving your home?” and, “How did you leave the scene?”
A review of court records in Washington, Idaho and Pennsylvania showed no criminal history for Kohberger, aside from an August 2022 infraction for failing to wear a seat belt in Latah County, where U of I is located.
Kohberger’s father flew to Washington state and accompanied his son on a drive back to Pennsylvania for the holidays, something that had been planned all along, according to Jason LaBar, the attorney who represented Kohberger in Pennsylvania for his extradition. While on the cross-country road trip, the pair were twice pulled over by police in Indiana, each time for following too closely. They were issued warnings in both traffic stops, according to Indiana State Police and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Police released the body-camera footage from both stops, each showing Bryan Kohberger driving a white Hyundai Elantra with Washington plates.
What do those who know Kohberger have to say about him?
Kohberger was “gregarious and outgoing,” one of his classmates at Washington State told the Statesman. The classmate, Ben Roberts, said that Kohberger was “a little more eager” than others to present himself to people.
Roberts said that Kohberger would sit front and center in class and participate in every discussion — until a discussion about the Moscow homicides.
“He was completely silent,” Roberts said.
Other students told the Statesman that Kohberger “talked down to LGBTQ+ individuals, those who are in a marginalized community, those who were disabled, and women.” They also noted Kohberger said he “believed in traditional marriage” and got visibly upset when a colleague hung a pride ally flag on their office door.
A former high school classmate told NBC’s “Dateline” and ABC’s “20/20” that Kohberger was overweight as a teenager and she believes that girls used to bully him. The classmate, Casey Arntz, said that she stayed in touch with Kohberger after high school.
One of Kohberger’s students at Washington State, Hayden Stinchfield, told “Dateline” and “20/20” that Kohberger was unapproachable as a teaching assistant and would grade students harshly. Stinchfield noted that Kohberger’s grading style became much more lenient in the final weeks of the semester, after Nov. 13.
Washington State faculty ultimately decided to pull Kohberger from his role and eliminate his funding from the Ph.D program, according to The New York Times.
Old friends of Kohberger’s from Pennsylvania also recalled to the Statesman his alleged heroin use during and after high school.
“I think drugs goofed him pretty bad. He was having a time,” Jack Baylis, who was in Kohberger’s inner circle in high school, told the Statesman.
Baylis, among other friends, also recall Kohberger undergoing a massive weight loss between his junior and senior year of high school. They said that Kohberger also became hyper-focused on what he ate to the point that he developed an eating disorder and had to be hospitalized.
Bryan Kohberger lived here: Pennsylvania friends, neighbors recall Idaho homicide suspect
What happened the weekend of the killings?
Shortly before noon Pacific time on Sunday, Nov. 13, Moscow police officers responded to a 911 call about an unconscious person at a house near campus. They walked in to find the four victims’ bodies. Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt reported that the students had been stabbed to death in the early morning hours with a large, fixed-blade knife.
The three female victims — Kernodle, Mogen and Goncalves — lived at the King Road home during the fall semester with at least two other roommates, both of whom were unharmed. The Statesman previously reported that all three female victims were current residents, but Kristi Goncalves, mother of Kaylee, told NBC that her daughter had recently moved out of the house and was back for the weekend to visit Mogen.
Chapin was staying the night with Kernodle, whom he was dating, according to family.
The probable cause affidavit, written by Moscow Police Cpl. Brett Payne, indicates that the stabbings most likely happened between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. Moscow police came to this conclusion following interviews with the two surviving roommates.
Autopsies confirmed that all four students died from multiple stab wounds. The autopsy also suggested that the victims were likely asleep when the attacks started; according to Payne’s account, he found the bodies of Kernodle and Chapin on the second floor. The affidavit is not clear on the location. Kernodle was on the floor.
Mogen and Goncalves were found in the same bed in Mogen’s third-floor bedroom.
Some victims showed defensive wounds, indicating they may have struggled against the attacker. None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, according to the coroner.
Kristi Goncalves told NBC that she initially received a call from a relative with connections in Moscow that “something bad happened to Kaylee.” Goncalves said she remained calm until someone from the Sheriff’s Office visited her house and told her what had happened.
What did the suspect do before and after the stabbings?
Moscow police used cellphone service data and security cameras throughout Moscow and Pullman to follow Kohberger’s suspected activities before and after the stabbings. According to cellphone pings at nearby cellular towers, Kohberger had visited the King Road area 12 times before the weekend the killings occurred, police say.
But according to telecommunications expert and former electrical engineer Ben Levitan, whom the Statesman interviewed, cellphone records can provide only someone’s estimated location, not pinpoint an exact location. Levitan said that the nearest cell tower to the King Road home covers an area of 27.3 square miles, so while cellphone data can show Kohberger switching between a tower that services Moscow and one that services Pullman, it doesn’t show his exact position.
At 2:42 a.m. Nov. 13, cellphone data shows Kohberger left his residence in Pullman, according to police. At 3:28 a.m., a white Hyundai Elantra with no front license plate was seen driving through Moscow. Between 3:29 a.m. and 4:04 a.m., security footage showed a similar vehicle driving past 1122 King Road several times.
At about 4:20 a.m., the vehicle was spotted leaving the King Road area at a high speed. Camera footage and cellphone pings show that car traveling south to Genesee before heading west toward Uniontown, Washington, and then north back to Pullman.
Cellphone data shows that Kohberger returned to the King Street area at about 9:12 a.m. Later that day, he also visited Clarkston, Washington, just across the Snake River from Lewiston, which is south of Moscow.
What were the victims doing before the attack?
Kernodle and Chapin were at a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house — less than a 600-foot walk from the house on King Road — and returned home at about 1:45 a.m. that Sunday, police said.
Goncalves and Mogen spent the evening at the Corner Club bar before stopping at a food truck parked downtown on the way home. They used a “private party” for a ride home from the food truck, police said. Both women were home at around 1:56 a.m., police said.
The ride-share driver who took Goncalves and Mogen home the morning of the killings also spoke to two media outlets. NewsNation and The Daily Mail each reported that the man, referred to by police as a “private party” in shuttling the two young women home, agreed to speak with them on the condition of anonymity.
He said that he was familiar with Goncalves and Mogen, as well as Kernodle, from prior ride-share trips, and that he noticed “nothing out of the ordinary about that night,” according to The Daily Mail.
Multiple calls were made from Goncalves’ and Mogen’s cellphones between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to a male who did not answer. Goncalves’ sister, Alivea Goncalves, said the calls were made to her sister’s ex-boyfriend, according to The New York Times. Her sister was known for frequently making late-night phone calls, she said.
According to statements made by the surviving roommates, all five roommates plus Chapin were home by 2 a.m. and in their rooms by 4 a.m., aside from Kernodle, who received a DoorDash order around 4 a.m.
According to surviving roommate Dylan Mortensen’s police interview, she was awakened at around 4 a.m. in her second-floor bedroom by what sounded like Goncalves playing with her dog in a room on the third floor. Mortensen also said that she thought she heard someone say, “There’s someone here.” Phone records show that Kernodle was likely awake and using TikTok at 4:12 a.m., police say.
Soon after, Mortensen said that she heard crying. Upon opening her door, she saw a figure clad in black walk past her and toward the sliding doors on the second floor. Mortensen described the figure as “5-foot-10 or taller, male, not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows.” The man wore a mask over his mouth and nose, she told police.
What other evidence do police have?
Police found a knife sheath left at the scene of the crime. According to the probable cause affidavit, DNA was taken from the knife sheath and sent to the Idaho State Laboratory, along with trash obtained from Kohberger’s parents’ house in Pennsylvania, where Kohberger was arrested.
When comparing the DNA found on the sheath to the DNA from the trash, test results “identified a male as not being excluded as the biological father” of the suspect. Specifically, “at least 99.9998% of the male population would be expected to be excluded from the possibility of being the suspect’s biological father,” investigators wrote in the affidavit.
DNA evidence likely key part of U of I murder case. How does testing, use in court work?
Police also seized more than a dozen items from Kohberger’s apartment in Pullman, according to two unsealed search warrants. Police executed the warrant on Dec. 30 and seized a black rubber glove; a vacuum dust container; red-stained bedding, a desktop computer tower; an Amazon Fire TV Stick cord/plug; a Walmart sales receipt and two receipts for Marshalls department store; and 13 possible hair strands.
Moscow Police Sgt. Dustin Blaker wrote in a statement seeking the warrant that it was likely that blood from the scene of the crime at the King Road residence “likely transferred to Kohberger’s person, clothing, or shoes.”
During Kohberger’s arrest in Pennsylvania, police also seized dozens of items from Kohberger’s parents’ residence and his car. According to the search warrant, police were seeking any dark clothing, shoes with a diamond-patterned sole, items that may contain blood or bodily fluids, and any sort of weapons.
Along with physical items, police also sent search warrants to several of the largest social media sites in the country, including Google and Meta, as well as Tinder, cell phone carriers and banks. The warrants showed how police tracked Kohberger, along with several other potential suspects whose names were redacted, and how police tried to find a connection between Kohberger and any of the victims.
Idaho Statesman reporters Sally Krutzig, Kevin Fixler and Angela Palermo contributed, as well as former Statesman reporter Mia Maldonado contributed.