Accused student slayer Bryan Kohberger appeared in an Idaho court Thursday for allegedly stabbing four young people from the University of Idaho to death — allowing authorities to finally release the document that convinced a judge to issue his arrest warrant.
The probably cause affidavit sheds much-needed light on the seven-week investigation by Moscow, Idaho police and FBI that many believed to be going cold before the shock arrest was made.
Here’s everything we learned from the police file:
A forgotten sheath became a key clue:
While surveying the crime scene, officers discovered an empty sheath of a knife in the house where Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21 were fatally stabbed.
“I noticed what appeared to be a tan leather knife sheath laying on the bed next to Mogen’s right side,” officer Brett Payne wrote in the document, adding the sheath had “Ka-Bar,” “USMC” and “the United States Marine Corps eagle globe and anchor insignia.”
After sending it the Idaho state lab, police found a DNA sample of the killer left on the button snap — which turned out to be the only one left behind.
A footprint was barely a step forward
During a second processing of the off-campus house that became a crime scene, police said they found a “latent shoe print” that seemed to resemble a “Vans type shoe sole.”
While the footprint helped them better understand the killer’s path out of the house, it didn’t lead much further.
After conducting their crime scene analysis and clearing many of the immediate people in the victims’ lives, police turned to surveillance footage of the road and neighborhood in the college town where the students lived.
They spotted a white sedan — which they later learned was Kohberger’s vehicle — that seemed suspicious.
The car traveled near the students’ house in Moscow, Idaho, beginning at 3:29 a.m. the morning of the Nov. 13 murders, cops learned.
At 4:04 a.m., the car circled the area for the fourth time. It was seen again leaving the ara around 4:20 a.m. at “a high rate of speed,” investigators wrote.
The car’s movements matched the estimated time of the murders, which they determined happened sometime around 4 a.m. and not after 4:30 a.m.
Investigators then got hold of video footage of Washington State University Pullman, where Kohberger was studying for his Ph.D in criminology, and saw a white Elantra that was headed east towards the direct of University of Idaho just before 3 a.m. on the night of the murders.
At around 5:25 a.m. that same morning, the Elantra was spotted returning to Kohberger’s campus.
Here’s the latest coverage on the brutal killings of four college friends:
An FBI forensic examiner with 35 years of law enforcement experience then analyzed the footage and determined the car was a white Hyundai Elantra made between 2014-2016, the affidavit said.
A call for help
After the case seemed to be stalling, police made a call for help that proved crucial, the affidavit revealed.
On Nov. 25, they asked people to be on the look out for a white Hyundai Elantra in the area.
Four days later, police officers at Washington State University Pullman alerted investigators they found one in the parking lot of student housing, according to the document.
The vehicle was registered to Bryan Kohberger.
‘Airplane mode’ only goes so far
Once police had Kohberger’s name, authorities looked at Kohberger’s phone records.
They observed his phone didn’t ping near the crime scene between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., but officers knew that didn’t necessarily absolve him.
“Individuals can either leave their cellular telephone at a different location before committing a crime or turn their cellular telephone off prior to going to a location to commit a crime,” the affidavit states.
To dig deeper, they got a search warrant for his phone records between midnight Nov. 12 and midnight Nov. 14.
That’s when things started getting interesting.
Police said Kohberger’s phone pinged around 2:47 a.m. the night of the murder in Pullman, where he lived. The phone then went silent until approximately 4:48 a.m., when it suddenly showed the pinged on the highway just south of Moscow.
Kohberger’s phone showed him turning west, and then going north toward his apartment in Pullman around 5:30 a.m.
Cops saw this circuitous route as proof of “Kohberger attempting to conceal his location during the quadruple homicide,” the affidavit said
Garbage turned out to be gold
By Christmas, police had Kohberger’s car near the scene of the crime and his cell phone data, but they still hadn’t linked him to the DNA evidence found on sheath.
So, they sent FBI agents to dig through his parent’s trash on Dec. 27..
The next day, a DNA analysis conducted in the Idaho State Lab showed a match between the family’s garbage and the sheath.
On Dec. 29, authorites asked a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Bryan Kohberger.
He was arrested in an early morning raid on Dec. 30.
A surviving roommate’s tale — and lingering question
Besides shedding light on how police came to arrest Kohberger, the affidavit offered some new chilling details about his alleged behavior.
One of the two surviving roommates in the University of Idaho murder house, Dylan Mortensen, came face to face with the killer just after he stabbed the four students to death, the document revealed.
Mortensen “saw a figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her,” the affidavit said. She stood in a “frozen shock” as he walked past her and towards the sliding glass doors.
She then locked herself in her room.
Before she saw the killer, Mortensen, 21, told police she woke up around the time of the murders and thought she heard Goncalves say “there’s someone here.”
Mortensen “opened her door a second time when she heard what she thought was crying coming from Kernodle’s room.”
Then, “she heard a male voice say something to the effect of ‘It’s ok, I’m going to help you.’”
But the affidavit didn’t explain why Mortensen and the other surviving roommate, Bethany Funke, 21, didn’t call the police until more than seven hours after the killing.
The crime appeared to be planned — and Kohberger may have relished in it
Cellphone data obtained by investigators also revealed the Kohberger’s phone pinged near the murder house at least 12 times in the months before the massacre.
“All of these occasions, except for one, occurred in the late evening and early morning hours of their respective days,” the affidavit said. The data suggested he might have been staking out the crime and stalking the victims.
Worse, police said his phone pinged at the house around 9:15 a.m. the day of the crime, just hours after he allegedly killed the four students.
They believe he returned to the scene of the crime, perhaps to catch a glimpse of his work.
An aspiring cop
Hidden among the gory details of the affidavit was a stunning sentence: “These records also showed Kohberger wrote an essay when he applied for an internship with the Pullman Police Department in the fall of 2022.”
The alleged murderer, it turned out, had applied to work for his local police force in Washington. One of the people who interviewed him for the role ended handing over his notes on Kohberger to the Idaho police.
Kohberger didn’t seem to get the job, but apparently told the Pullman cops he had an “interest in assisting rural law enforcement agencies with how to better collect and analyze technological data in public safety operations.”