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January 05, 2023

Police report gives chilling details about killings of University of Idaho students, describes pursuit of Bryan Kohberger

Detectives allegedly linked the Monroe County, Pennsylvania man to the homicides through his car and DNA on a knife sheath recovered at the scene

Investigations Homicides

Bryan Christopher Kohberger, the man chagred with fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students, appeared in court for the first time Thursday since his extradition from Pennsylvania. Newly unsealed court documents have shed more light on the investigation.

Bryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old Pennsylvania man and doctoral student accused of killing four University of Idaho students at an off-campus home in November, made his first court appearance Thursday since his arrest in the Poconos and extradition on homicide charges.

Police documents that became public after Kohberger was in court offer new details on the case, including a chilling account from one of the two women who also lived at the King Road home in Moscow, Idaho, and was physically unharmed. The University of Idaho in Moscow is about 10 miles west of Washington State University's campus in Pullman, where Kohberger is a Ph.D. student studying in criminology.

Here are some of the key findings included in the affidavit of probable cause, which alleges that on Nov. 13, in the early morning hours, Kohberger killed Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20. The full document is included at the bottom of this story. 

Roommate saw a masked man walk past her as he left the house

Two surviving roommates who had been living at the King Road home are Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke. In the police report obtained Thursday, they were identified by their initials as D.M. and B.F. Mortensen told investigators she had heard cries and other noises come from other rooms in the house the night of the killings. When she left her room to see what was going on, she said she came face to face with a man dressed in black and wearing a mask who police believe is the alleged killer.

The woman said she first had awoken suddenly around 4 a.m. on Nov. 13 when she heard noises coming from one of the upstairs bedrooms. Initially Mortensen believed it was the sound of Goncalves playing with her dog. Then she heard a voice say, "There's someone here."

Mortensen peered out of her bedroom, but initially did not see anything unusual, but when she opened the door a second time, she said she heard what sounded like crying coming from Kernodle's bedroom.

The she heard a male voice say, "It's OK, I'm going to help you," the police report states.

The crying continued and Mortensen looked out the bedroom door a third time. That's when she saw the man approaching her, police said. He was dressed in black clothing with a mask covering his mouth and nose. He had "bushy eyebrows" and stood about 5 feet, 10 inches, with an athletic build.

Mortensen told police that she stood in a "frozen shock phase" as the man walked past her toward a sliding glass door in the rear of the home and left. Mortensen then locked herself in her room, and she later told police that she didn't recognize the man she had seen.

Investigators believe the four homicides happened between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. Mortensen and Funke told authorities that Goncalves, Mogen, Kernodle and Chapin had been home by 2 a.m. and were either asleep or in their rooms by 4 a.m. 

Kernodle and her boyfriend, Chapin, had returned from a fraternity house on campus. Goncalves and Mogen had been out at a local bar.

DNA found on knife sheath allegedly linked Kohberger, police say

Investigators said they found Mogen and Goncalves stabbed to death on a bed inside a third-floor bedroom.

Next to Mogen there was a tan, leather, knife sheath with the U.S. Marine Corps insignia stamped on its outside, the police report states. A male's DNA was found on the button snap of the knife sheath.

That DNA allegedly matches some found on trash that police recovered on Dec. 27 from the home of Kohberger's parents, who live in the Poconos in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.

A lab in Idaho reported that the two DNA samples "identified a male as not being excluded as the biological father of (Kohberger)," the affidavit says. The lab said that at least 99.9998% of the male population would be expected to be excluded from the possibility of being Kohberger's father.

White Hyundai Elantra, cell phone records implicate Kohberger

As investigators worked to identify a suspect in the students' deaths, they focused on a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra that was spotted near the students' home on King Road. Surveillance videos captured by multiple cameras along King Road allegedly showed the car driving away from the students' home around 4:20 a.m.

By looking at additional video footage, investigators determined that the car had come from Pullman, Washington — the small college town where Kohberger resided — and later returned there around 5:25 a.m., the affidavit says.

On Nov. 29, police identified a matching white Elantra registered to Kohberger with a Pennsylvania license plate, with a residence listed in Pullman, the affidavit states. 

That same day, a Washington State University police officer found a matching vehicle at the Pullman address where Kohberger lived, investigators said. The vehicle had a Washington license plate, which Kohberger allegedly had obtained five days after the students were killed in Moscow. He had registered the vehicle in Washington.

Unlike Idaho and Washington, Pennsylvania law does not require both front and back license plates. Surveillance footage of the Elantra from before Kohberger got his Washington plate had shown the vehicle traveling in the area of the King Road residence without a front license plate, according to the criminal complaint.

Records of cell phone signal signals obtained by police allegedly lined up with Kohberger's movements in the Elantra between Pullman and Moscow.

The cell phone records were used to investigate whether Kohberger had potentially stalked the students at any point prior to their deaths. Cell towers providing coverage to the area near their home allegedly picked up Kohberger's phone on at least 12 occasions prior to Nov. 13, police said. Nearly all of those instances took place during late evening or early morning hours. And later on the morning the students were killed, the cell phone tower that covers the King Road residence again picked up Kohberger's phone between 9:12 a.m. and 9:21 a.m., police said. 

What comes next?

In the weeks after the slayings, Kohberger remained at Washington State University and kept a low profile as the investigation garnered national attention, according to investigators. He drove home to Pennsylvania for the holidays in the Hyundai Elantra, accompanied by his father, and arrived around Dec. 17. 

The father and son were stopped on the road twice by authorities in Indiana, who issued Kohberger verbal warnings for "following too closely" behind other cars. Indiana State Police released bodycam footage of the second stop, made Dec. 15, saying the trooper could not have known at the time that Kohberger was a suspect in the Idaho killings.

Kohberger waived his extradition hearing and was flown to Idaho by Pennsylvania State Police on Wednesday, after spending five days at the Monroe County Correctional Facility. He reportedly was threatened by an inmate there and also told a source inside the prison, "I didn't do anything," according to NewsNation.

Jason LaBar, the Idaho public defender representing Kohberger, said on the "Today" show this week that Kohberger denied killing the four students and believes he will be exonerated.

"That's what he believes. Those were his words," LaBar said. "So he's really been very easy to talk to, actually, and he's in a calm demeanor."

Kohberger is facing four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary. At his court appearance Thursday, a Latah County judge read the charges against him and denied him bail. The families of the victims sat in the first row of the courtroom. Kohberger only spoke when prompted by the judge to acknowledge the charges.

The affidavit of probable cause provided little details on a possible motive for the killings. Kohberger's arrest and educational background in psychology and criminal justice have intensified speculation about what prompted the attacks.

Kohberger will next have a status hearing in court Jan. 12 at 10 a.m.