A white sedan cruised past the three story rental home on a dead-end street in Moscow, Id., which was unusual for the residential neighborhood. According to a police affidavit, surveillance videos showing the vehicle that November night was key to unraveling the gruesome mystery of who killed four University of Idaho students inside the home. Investigators canvassed security footage from the neighborhood, including one recording of the car speeding away after the slayings, to get a sense of the killer’s possible movements. Police were able to narrow down what was at first known only vaguely as a white sedan to a 2015 Hyundai Elantra registered to Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old doctoral student in criminology at Washington State University, reports Associated Press. Further investigation matched Kohberger to DNA at the crime scene. Kohberger made an initial appearance in an Idaho courtroom on Thursday after his extradition from Pennsylvania, where he was arrested last week. “Tracking movements in public is an important technique when you haven’t identified any suspects,” said Mary Fan, a criminal law professor at the University of Washington. The car’s first pass by the home was recorded at 3:29 a.m. on Nov. 13, less than an hour before Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in their rooms. The vehicle drove by twice more and was recorded a fourth time at 4:04 a.m. It wasn’t seen on the footage again until it sped away 16 minutes later.
Surveillance footage from the Washington State University campus offered further tantalizing information: A similar vehicle headed out of town just before 3 a.m. on the day of the killings and reappeared on cameras in Pullman just before 5:30 a.m. On Nov. 25, Moscow police asked regional law enforcement to look for a white Elantra. Three nights later, a campus police officer ran a query for any white Elantras. A response reported such a car with a Pennsylvania license plate and registered to Kohberger. Within half an hour, another campus officer located the vehicle parked at Kohberger’s apartment complex. It came back as having Washington state tags. Five days after the killings, Kohberger switched the registration from Pennsylvania, his home state, to Washington. Investigators now had a name to go on. Kohberger’s driver’s license described him as 6 feet tall and 185 pounds, and his license photo showed him to have bushy eyebrows, all details consistent with a description of the attacker given by a surviving roommate. There was no other location data available from the phone until 4:48 a.m., suggesting Kohberger may have turned it off during the attack in an effort to avoid detection. It remains unclear why the victims were targeted. On Dec. 27, police in Pennsylvania recovered trash from the Kohberger family home and sent in DNA for evidence. The evidence matched the DNA at the crime scene, and Kohberger was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary. A status hearing is set for Jan. 12.