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Probable cause affidavit in case of University of Idaho murders released

A red brick structure with the University of Idaho on it in gold letters. There is a planter in front with dead plants and snow in it.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

The probable cause affidavit in the case of State of Idaho v. Bryan C. Kohberger has been released. Kohberger is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November. He arrived in Idaho Wednesday night after his arrest in Pennsylvania last week.

The affidavit was written by Brett Payne, a corporal with the Moscow Police Department (MPD) who has been with the department for about four years. It documents the following:

  • accounts from the surviving roommates on the night of the murders – including disturbances and a physical description of the suspect
  • DNA evidence discovered on a knife sheath discovered at the scene
  • video footage of the suspect’s vehicle, as well as cell phone data, in the hours before and after the murders

You can read the entire probable cause affidavit here:

Payne wrote that when he and MPD Sergeant Blaker arrived at the home of the four University of Idaho students where the murders took place, Idaho State Police Forensic Team was on the scene and MPD Officer Smith walked Payne through the scene.

They started on the first floor and then upstairs to the second floor, where they went into the west bedroom which was later learned to be Xana Kernodle’s room. As Payne approached the room, he said he could see a body that was later identified to be Kernodle and the body of Ethan Chapin also in the room.

The affidavit says Kernodle was deceased with “wounds that appeared to have been caused by an edged weapon” and Chapin was also deceased with wounds later determined to be caused by “sharp-force injuries.”

Payne and Smith then went up to the third floor where they entered Madison Mogen’s room on the southeast corner of the home. Paye wrote he could see two females in the single bed, determined to be Kaylee Goncalves and Mogen. The affidavit states they both had visible stab wounds.

On the bed next to Mogen’s right side when viewed from the door, Payne wrote that he later noticed what appeared to be a tan leather knife sheath. The sheath was processed and the Idaho State Lab found a single source of male DNA on the button snap of the knife sheath.

The two surviving roommates, referred to as D.M. and B.F. in the affidavit, were interviewed by police after the investigation. D.M. says she went to sleep in her bedroom on the second floor and was woken up at about 4 a.m. by what she said sounded like Goncalves playing with her dog upstairs. She said she looked out her bedroom but didn’t see anything after she thought she heard Goncalves say something like “there’s someone here.”

Police say records of Kernodle’s phone showed this could have been Kernodle watching TikTok videos at about 4:12 a.m.

D.M. opened her door again when she thought she heard crying coming from Kernodle’s room. D.M. said she heard a male voice say, "it’s okay, I’m going to help you,” according to the affidavit.

A security camera on a neighboring home that was less than 50 feet from Kernodle’s bedroom picked up distorted audio of what sounded like voices or a whimper, followed by a loud third. A dog can also be heard barking starting at 4:17 a.m.

Police say D.M. opened her door a third time after she heard the crying and saw a person in black clothing and a mask that covered the nose and mouth walking toward her. She described the person as 5,10” or taller, male, not very muscular but athletically built and with bushy eyebrows. D.M. said the person walked by her as she stood in a “frozen shock phase” and towards the black sliding glass door, leaving the home.

Camera footage shows a white sedan, believed to be Kohberger’s, traveling west on Indian Hills Drive in Moscow at around 3:26 a.m. and west on Styner Ave. on Idaho State Highway 95 in Moscow at around 3:28 a.m.

The forensic examiner initially believed the vehicle to be a 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra, but upon further review, it was indicated it could also be a 2011-2016 Hyundai Elantra. In this video, police say it appeared the vehicle did not have a front license plate.

A review of more footage from multiple videos showed several sightings of the Elantra starting at 3:29 a.m. and ending at 4:20 a.m. The videos show the vehicle making three initial passes, then entering the area a fourth time at around 4:04 a.m. The Elantra is next seen leaving the area of the King Road residence at around 4:20 a.m. at a high rate of speed, according to the affidavit.

Investigators were given video footage on the Washington State University campus in Pullman, Washington. A review of that video shows that at around 2:44 a.m., a vehicle similar to the description of the Elantra was seen traveling north and around 10 minutes later, was seen traveling towards SR270, which connects Pullman to Moscow. The forensic examiner identified the vehicle seen in Pullman as being a 2014-2016 Hyundai Elantra.

Later at around 5:25 a.m., a description of the vehicle consistent with the Hyundai Elantra was seen on five cameras in Pullman and on WSU campus cameras, according to the affidavit.

On Nov. 25, 2022, MPD asked local law enforcement to be on the lookout for white Hyundai Elantras. On Nov. 29, WSU Police Officer Daniel Tiengo looked at white Elantras registered at WSU, the affidavit states. He found a 2015 white Elantra with a Pennsylvania license plate. The vehicle was registered to Bryan Kohberger.

The same day just before 1 p.m., WSU Officer Curtis Whitman was looking for white Hyundai Elantras and found a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra in a parking lot at an apartment complex that houses WSU students. Whitman also ran the car and it returned to Kohberger with a Washington tag.

During a traffic stop in Moscow on Aug. 22, 2022, Kohberger gave police a phone number ending in 8458 as his cell phone number. Police obtained search warrants to determine cellular devices that used towers in proximity to the King Road residence and they did not show the 8458 number using the towers between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Nov. 13, the day of the murders, according to the affidavit.

Payne wrote that based on his training, people can leave their cell phones at a different location or turn them off to avoid alerting police to a phone that was associated with them in an area where a crime is committed. Payne said he got a search warrant for historical phone records between Nov. 12 through 14 for the 8458 number. He found the phone was using cellular resources at Kohberger’s apartment in Pullman, south through Pullman following the movement of the Elantra.

At 2:47 a.m., the number stops reporting to the network, consistent with the phone being in an area without coverage, the connection is disabled (like putting the phone in airplane mode) or the phone is turned off, according to the affidavit. The number doesn’t report to the network again until approximately 4:48 a.m.

On Dec. 27, Pennsylvania agents recovered trash from the Kohberger family home in Albrightsville, PA. The evidence was sent to the Idaho State Lab for testing and a day later, the lab reported a DNA profile obtained from the trash and the DNA profile from the knife sheath identified a male as “not being excluded as the biological father of the suspect profile,” according to the affidavit. Payne wrote at least 99.9998% of the male population would be expected to be excluded from the possibility of being the suspect’s biological father.

Kohberger made his first appearance in Idaho at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2023. He was extradited back to the state on Jan. 4.

Find Katie Kloppenburg on Twitter: @KatieKloppen

Hello, I’m Katie and I’m a social media enthusiast here at Boise State Public Radio.