Idaho Murder Suspect Caught Weeks Later

DNA evidence provides answers to the arrest of a suspect


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

Six weeks after the deaths of four University of Idaho students, police have arrested Bryan Kohberger, 28.

Kohberger was a student at Washington State University and was seeking a PhD in criminology. After intensive detective and forensic science work, Kohberger is the suspected for the murder of Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Ethan Chapin, 20, and Xana Kernodle, 20, that occurred on Nov. 13.

A 19-page affidavit written by Officer Bryan Payne was released to the public on Jan. 5, after the arrest of Kohberger it described the process and evidence that lead the officers to him. An affidavit, as described by Cornell Law School is, “a sworn statement a person makes before a notary or officer of the court outside of the court asserting that certain facts are true to the best of that person’s knowledge.”

The affidavit began describing the crime scene’s contents, including the apartment where the murders took place. Also provided is a statement from Dylan Mortensen, referred to in the document as D.M., one of two surviving roommates. Mortensen encountered the murderer; she described him as “athletically built” and having “bushy eyebrows” before locking herself in a closet.

After receiving statements and security footage from around the residence, the forensic team came in to process the crime scene for evidence. DNA found on a sheath was taken to be processed in the crime lab. After processing the scene the second time, a latent footprint was found; the bottom print of the shoe was found to be like that of Vans shoes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reviewed the security camera footage and revealed a white sedan (labeled in the affidavit as “Suspect Vehicle 1”) that drove by the crime scene three times before the attack and eventually drove past another 12 times after the crime had been committed.

A forensic examiner, with more than three decades of experience and training in the identification of vehicles, identified the vehicle to be a 2014-2016 white Hyundai Elantra. The car information was relayed to Washington State University after seeing the car in their security footage.

The car was registered in the Washington State University system, belonging to Kohberger. After running the license plate, officers saw Kohberger’s driver’s license picture that matched Mortensen’s description of the murderer.

The car’s movement from the security cameras matched the cellphone pings connected to Kohberger’s phone. The phone was then turned off for the crime, with officers suspecting it was done to avoid cell tower tracking.

On Dec. 27, 2022, Pennsylvania officers collected trash from Kohberger’s family home that was sent to Idaho State Lab to compare DNA from the sheath at the crime scene. 

“On December 28, 2022, the Idaho State Lab reported that a DNA profile obtained from the trash and the DNA profile obtained from the sheath, identified a male as not being excluded as the biological father of the suspect profile.” the affidavit further described that the DNA evidence concluded 99.998% of the male population was not the suspect’s father.

At the end of the affidavit, a request for the arrest warrant was made for Kohberger. Kohberger was arrested on Dec. 30 in Pennsylvania, on four counts of murder and one count of burglary.

On Jan. 4 Kohberger was sent back to Idaho to be tried for the crimes. Jason LaBar, Kohberger’s attorney stated, “(Kohberger) is eager to be exonerated of the charges and looks forward to resolving these matters as promptly as possible.”

The Independent reports that Kohberger’s status hearing took place on Jan. 12 in Latah County, ID, and the preliminary hearing will not take place until June 26. Idaho prosecutors have the option to seek Kohberger  the death penalty.