Bryan Kohberger’s DNA found on knife sheath left behind by killer in Idaho student’s bedroom, say police

A statement from Moscow Police Officer Brett Payne was released on Thursday in support of Mr Kohberger’s arrest affidavit, revealing new details about the murders and the crime scene

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 05 January 2023 19:33 GMT
Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohberger appears in court for the first time

Bryan Kohberger’s DNA was discovered on a knife sheath that the killer left behind in the bedroom of one of the four slain University of Idaho students, according to investigators.

Court documents were released on Thursday in support of Mr Kohberger’s arrest, revealing new details about the brutal murders and the bloody crime scene.

One document, written by Moscow Police Officer Brett Payne, reveals that the killer left a tan leather sheath from the murder weapon on victim Madison Mogen’s bed next to the 21-year-old’s butchered body.

The sheath allegedly contains the DNA of a single male – the 28-year-old criminology PhD student now charged with the four murders.

“The sheath was later processed and had ‘Ka-Bar’ ‘USMC’ and the United States Marine Corps eagle globe and anchor insignia stamped on the outside of it,” the officer writes.

“The Idaho state lab later located a single source of male DNA (suspect Profile) left on the button snap of the knife sheath.”

Investigators were able to trace the DNA evidence to Mr Kohberger by matching it to DNA found on trash recovered from his family home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania.

The document also reveals that Mr Kohberger was linked to the murders through his white Hyundai Elantra and through cellphone data.

The Washington State University (WSU) student’s vehicle had been captured on surveillance footage driving from his home in Pullman, Washington state, to the King Road home around the time of the murders – and then back again, the documents state.

Investigators believe that Mr Kohberger turned his cellphone off on the night of the murders in order to try to avoid detection.

However, cellphone data places him close to the home on King Road at around 9am on 13 November – suggesting that he returned to the scene of the crime just hours after allegedly murdering the four victims at around 4am.

Prior to the 13 November massacre, investigators also believe that he stalked the victims’ home at least 12 times.

Cellphone records show that his phone pinged in the area of the King Road home on at least twelve occasions prior to the time of the murders. The exact dates of these instances were not revealed in the documents but all bar one were in the late evening or early morning hours.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died
Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died (Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)

One incident was identified on 21 August, when the suspect was stopped by police just minutes from the home where he allegedly knifed the four students to death three months later.

A citation from Latah County Sheriff’s Office, obtained by The Independent earlier this week, reveals that the traffic stop took place at around 11.40pm at the intersection of West Pullman Road and Farm Road in Moscow. The record shows he was stopped for failing to wear his seatbelt – just 1.7 miles and a five-minute drive from the home on King Road where the victims were murdered.

The newly-released court documents also reveal chilling new details about where the four victims’ bodies were found inside the bloodied home and how one of the surviving roommates had a close encounter with the killer – but her life was thankfully spared.

According to Officer Payne’s account, Mogen and her best friend Kaylee Goncalves were both found stabbed to death together in Mogen’s single bed in her bedroom on the third floor.

The bodies of young couple Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were both found in Kernodle’s bedroom on the second floor of the property, with the 20-year-old woman found on the floor.

In an eerie revelation it has emerged that Goncalves’ pet dog Murphy was found unharmed in Goncalves’ bedroom, which is also on the third floor, the officer wrote.

Two other roommates survived the attack – with one being in her second-floor bedroom close to where Kernodle and Chapin were knifed to death.

That roommate saw the masked killer leaving the home and overheard him telling his victims “I’m going to help you” before knifing them to death, according to her chilling account.

The survivor gave a terrifying account to police about how she heard the killer inside the home and had a lucky escape as he walked right past her bedroom after he had just murdered four of her friends.

The survivor, identified as D.M. in the documents, told investigators that the four victims – the three women who lived at the home and Kernodle’s boyfriend who was visiting – were all back at the King Road home from their respective nights out at around 2am and in their rooms at around 4am on 13 November.

At aroudn 4am, Kernodle then received a DoorDash order to the home.

Bryan Kohberger looks toward his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor, during a hearing in Latah County District Court on Thursday
Bryan Kohberger looks toward his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor, during a hearing in Latah County District Court on Thursday (AP)

D.M. told investigators that she had gone to sleep in her bedroom on the second floor of the three-floor home and was woken by what sounded like Goncalves playing wilh her dog in one of the third-floor bedrooms.

A short time later, D.M. said that she heard someone believed to be either Goncalves or Kernodle saying something to the effect of “there’s someone here”.

Minutes later, D.M. said that she looked out of her bedroom for the first time but did not see anything. She then opened her door for a second time when she heard what she thought was crying coming from Kernodle’s room, the documents state.

At that point, she said she heard a man’s voice saying something to the effect of “it’s ok, I’m going to help you”.

When she opened her door for a third time minutes later, she said she saw “a figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her”.

As she stood in a “frozen shock phase,” she said the man – who she did not recognise but who had “bushy eyebrows” – walked past her and headed towards the back sliding glass door of the home.

The witness said that she then locked herself in her room.

Around the time that the roommate witnessed the suspect, a security camera near the home picked up the sound of a whimper followed by a loud thud. A dog was also heard barking numerous times starting at 4.17am, the documents state.

The release of the documents comes as the suspected killer appeared in court in Idaho for the first time charged with the murders of the four students.

The 28-year-old criminology PhD student was led into Latah County Courthouse just before 9.30am PT on Thursday morning for his initial appearance before the Latah County Magistrate Court judge.

He was ordered to be held without bail as the victims’ sobbing families looked on and he remained expressionless throughout.

At the arraignment, he was read his rights and the charges against him and was served his arrest warrant.

He is being represented by public defender Anne Taylor – an attorney best known for securing the overturning of a murder conviction because of false statements made by Idaho police.

Bryan Kohberger is escorted to waiting police at Moscow-Pullman Regional Airport
Bryan Kohberger is escorted to waiting police at Moscow-Pullman Regional Airport (© Lewiston Tribune)

Mr Kohberger – who plans to fight the quadruple homicide allegations – was not asked to enter a plea at the hearing.

While the details of what led investigators to his door had been kept under wraps up until now, a source previously revealed that police deliberately pulled Mr Kohberger and his father over twice on their 2,500-mile journey from Washington to Pennsylvania so that officials could “look at his hands”.

The 28-year-old’s father had travelled to meet his son in Washington state – where he had just completed his first semester on the criminal justice graduate at Washington State University – before the pair began the drive to Pennsylvania together.

During that journey, the father and son were pulled over twice by police in Indiana on 15 December.

A law enforcement source told Fox News that police in Indiana had been asked by the FBI to pull the suspect over in his white Hyundai Elantra.

According to the source, the FBI was seeking images of the suspect’s hands as part of the investigation into the murder case.

It is not clear why images of Mr Kohberger’s hands were important to the investigation or if the officers managed to obtain anything of interest by carrying out the stops on 15 December.

Two weeks later on 30 December, the criminology student was arrested in an early-morning raid on his family home in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, where he had gone to spend the holidays. He was held in jail in Monroe County for six days before he waived his extradition rights at an extradition hearing on Tuesday and was flown from Pennsylvania to Idaho on Wednesday.

Bodycam footage from the two December stops was released this week, showing the suspect appearing startled to be pulled over by the officers in his white Hyundai Elantra – a vehicle at the centre of the murder investigation and something believed to have ultimately led to his arrest.

Footage from the first stop was released by the Hancock County Police Department on Wednesday, showing the Kohbergers being pulled over at about 10.44am.

In the footage, Mr Kohberger is seen in the driver’s seat and his father in the passenger seat.

The deputy tells the suspect that he was following too closely to a vehicle in front.

During the stop, Mr Kohberger and his father tell the officer about a “mass shooting” which had recently taken place at WSU. “Yeah, there was a mass shooting,” one of the men says.

Mr Kohberger then goes on to tell the deputy that he works at WSU, with his father interjecting that he is a PhD student.

One day earlier on 14 December, a man had barricaded himself in an apartment near WSU and threatened to kill his two roommates before being killed in a shootout with police.

The deputy let the Kohberger’s go without a ticket.

Minutes later, at about 10.50am, the pair were pulled over for a second time – this time by an Indiana State Police trooper.

In bodycam footage from that incident, the trooper again tells Mr Kohberger and his father that they were trailing too closely behind a truck.

The conversation is largely unintelligible due to road noise, but Mr Kohberger’s father is once again heard telling the officer that his son attends WSU and that there had been a shooting there recently.

Mr Kohberger’s concern over the shooting at his son’s college indicates his lack of awareness that his son would soon be arrested for a quadruple murder.

The father and son also tell the officer that they have just been pulled over by another trooper.

Idaho murders: County police release footage of Bryan Kohberger traffic stop

The Indiana State Trooper told Mr Kohberger and his father that he was not giving them a ticket or warning but urged them to be “giving yourself plenty of room” on the road – letting the suspect go.

Indiana State Police said that, at the time of the stop, the trooper had no information linking Mr Kohberger to the murders in Moscow.

However, according to the source, the stop was actually all part of the investigation to collect evidence on the suspect.

It was sometime during this cross-country journey that investigators had begun tracking Mr Kohberger’s movements.

After days of surveillance, a team of agents swooped on the Kohberger’s Pennsylvania family home in Chestnuthill Township, Monroe County, on 30 December and arrested him for the murders.

His white Hyundai Elantra was also seized during his arrest.

Since early December, Moscow Police had been seeking the public’s help in tracking down a white Hyundai Elantra which had been spotted in the “immediate area” of the crime scene at the time of the murders.

Just five days after the murders – on 18 November – Mr Kohberger changed the licence plates on his vehicle.

Licensing records released on Wednesday show that the 28-year-old criminology student registered his vehicle in Washington state on 18 November.

Prior to this, the car had been registered by Mr Kohberger in Pennsylvania, with the plates still fitted with Pennsylvania plates when he was pulled over in another police stop back in August.

Mr Kohberger is now being held in the Latah County Jail in Moscow on four counts of first-degree murder and one burglary charge.

Officials have so far remained tightlipped about Mr Kohberger’s connections to the four victims and it is not clear if he knew or interacted with them prior to allegedly killing them.

Police sources told CNN that the Washington State University PhD student and teaching assistant was linked to the savage attack when the white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene was traced back to him. His DNA was then also matched through genetic geneology techniques to DNA found at the crime scene, the sources said.

The murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – is yet to be found.

As a criminal justice PhD student at Washington State University, he lived just 15 minutes from the victims over the Idaho-Washington border in Pullman.

He had moved there from Pennsylvania in August and has just completed his first semester.

Before this, he studied criminology at DeSales University – first as an undergraduate and then finishing his graduate studies in June 2022.

While there, he studied under renowned forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland who interviewed the BTK serial killer and co-wrote the book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer with him.

He also carried out a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.

He reached out for participants on Reddit, with the chilling survey resurfacing in the wake of his arrest.

“In particular, this study seeks to understand the story behind your most recent criminal offense, with an emphasis on your thoughts and feelings throughout your experience,” the post said.

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