Monday, February 6, 2023

A white sedan: Vital clue in Idaho murders

The white sedan passed a gray three-story rental home on a cul-de-sac in Moscow, Idaho. Then again and once more.

This was unusual behavior in the hilly residential neighborhood in the quiet hours before dawn. And according to a police affidavit released Thursday, surveillance video showing the vehicle that night in November was key to uncovering the gruesome mystery of the murder of four University of Idaho students inside the home.

After a panicked community demanded answers, investigators reviewed security video of the neighborhood — including footage of a speeding car after the murders — to get an idea of ​​the killer’s possible movements, according to the affidavit.

Finally, the document added, police were able to narrow down what was at first vaguely known as a white sedan, which was registered to Brian Kohberger, a 2015 Hyundai Elantra who was a graduate of Washington State University. (WSU) is a 28 year old doctoral student in Criminology. , across the border in Pullman, Washington. Additional testing showed a match between Kohburger and DNA at the crime scene, he explained.

Kohberger had a preliminary hearing in an Idaho court on Thursday following his extradition from Pennsylvania, where he was arrested last week. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although Jason LaBar, the public defender representing him in Pennsylvania, has said he is eager to be acquitted and should not be tried “in the court of the public.”

“Tracking public movements is an important technique when a suspect has not been identified,” said Mary D. Fann, professor of criminal law at the University of Washington. “You can see motion in public even when there is not probable cause to obtain a warrant. We live in an era of ubiquitous cameras. This is an excellent account of what can happen if audiovisual data is joined.

Moscow police officer Brett Payne wrote that the car was first recorded at 3:29 a.m. on November 13 from the home Kaylie Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Zana Kernodl and Ethan Chapin were found stabbed to death in their room. affidavit.

The vehicle passed twice more, and the fourth time was recorded at 4:04 a.m., Payne wrote. It was not seen on the footage again until 16 minutes later when it went away.

Payne wrote, “This is a residential neighborhood with a very limited number of vehicles moving in the morning.” “Upon reviewing the video, only a small number of cars entered and exited this area during this period.”

An FBI forensic examiner determined the car was likely a 2011 to 2013 Hyundai Elantra, although he later said it could be a model year as far back as 2016, according to the affidavit.

Surveillance footage from the WSU campus provided more promising information: A similar vehicle left downtown shortly before 3:00 a.m. on the day of the murder and reappeared on cameras in Pullman shortly before 5:30 a.m., the affidavit indicated. it was done .

On 25 November the Moscow Police Department asked the regional police to search for a white Elantra. After three nights, a WSU police officer inquired about any white Elantras on campus.

One result showed one with a Pennsylvania license plate and registered Kohburger. Within a half hour, another precinct officer located the vehicle parked at Kohberger’s apartment complex. It turned out that he had a Washington state registration tag. According to the affidavit, five days after the murders, Kohberger changed registration from his home state of Pennsylvania to Washington.

Investigators now had a name to go by, and subsequent investigations turned up more clues. Kohburger’s driver’s license listed him as 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and 185 pounds (84 kg), and his license photo showed that he had bushy eyebrows—a characteristic of the assailant given by a surviving roommate. All details as per details, as per affidavit.

Further investigation revealed that Kohberger was pulled over by a Latah County, Idaho, police officer while driving an Elantra in August. Kohberger gave the officer a cell phone number.

Already having that number, Payne obtained a search warrant for the phone’s historical data. Location data shows the phone was near his home in Pullman until about 2:42 a.m. the morning of the murders. Five minutes later, the phone began using cellular resources located southeast of the home, according to the affidavit, consistent with Kohberger’s southeast trip.

According to the affidavit, no other location data was available from the cell phone as of 4:48 a.m., suggesting that Kohberger may have turned it off in an attempt to avoid detection during the attack. At this point, the phone began to take a roundabout route to Pullman: it went south to Genesee, Idaho, then west to Uniontown, Washington, and north to Pullman, just before 5:30 a.m.—about the same time as White. The sedan appeared on city surveillance cameras.

The reason for the attack is yet unknown.

According to the affidavit, Kohberger opened a mobile phone account on June 23, and location data showed he had traveled to the neighborhood where the victims had been killed at least a dozen times prior to the attacks. The affidavit shows that all these visits took place late at night or early in the morning, and it was one of those visits when the police stopped him on 21 August.

According to the affidavit, the cell phone data also included another chilling detail: The phone returned to the victims’ neighborhood hours after the attack, around 9:00 p.m. But although one of the surviving housemates had seen a strange man inside shortly after 4:00 a.m. and heard crying, the murder was not reported to the police until later that day, and there were no police reports at the scene. There was no response. 00 am.

Although police felt Kohberger, with his 2015 Elantra, was a person of interest for November 29, they issued a press release on December 7 asking for the public’s help in finding a white 2011-13 Elantra. He suggested that the said vehicle was near the house on the morning of 13 November and that any of its occupants “may have important information to share regarding this case.”

It was not clear why police issued such a request, but law enforcement agencies sometimes use such public statements to mislead suspects and prevent them from knowing they are under suspicion. . Tips poured in and investigators soon announced they were reviewing a pool of approximately 20,000 possible vehicles.

Kohberger apparently remained at WSU until mid-December, when he moved with his father to his parents’ home in Elantra, Pennsylvania. While driving through Indiana, Kohberger was stopped twice that same day for failing to keep his distance.

According to the affidavit, on December 27, Pennsylvania police recovered trash from the Kohberger family home and sent DNA evidence to Idaho. He said the evidence matched DNA found on the sheath button of a knife recovered at the crime scene.

Kohberger is charged with first degree murder and four counts of burglary. The status of the case is to be heard on January 12.


Associated Press writer Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

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