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Court documents reveal details about the killings of 4 University of Idaho students


We're learning new details about the brutal killings of four University of Idaho students in November. Court documents indicate one of the surviving roommates saw someone wearing a mask inside the house in Moscow, Idaho, on the morning of the attack. The suspect, Bryan Kohberger, has yet to enter a plea. NPR's law enforcement correspondent Martin Kaste says police already had an idea of who the suspect could be early into the investigation.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: When Kohberger was charged, we got a look at an affidavit that lays out how they identified him and their reasons for arresting him now. It turns out that back in November, they'd already identified a white sedan from surveillance video. This was a car that was captured by security cameras driving around in the middle of the night in the area of the killings. Less than two weeks after the murders, a campus officer at Washington State University found the same kind of car there. WSU is about 20 minutes away across the state line from the University of Idaho. And that car was Bryan Kohberger's.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. What other evidence do they have against him?

KASTE: Well, the car seems to be what brought him to their attention. But they took their time to build up other evidence. They say they have some cellphone location records showing his phone on the move that night until about an hour before the crime. It stops pinging towers, then starts again after the crime with a location south of Moscow. And police say that would be consistent with somebody turning off his phone to avoid leaving a trail. Also, perhaps most significantly for a potential trial, the police say they have DNA. They say they found male DNA on an empty leather sheath for a knife found at the scene. They say that DNA shows strong family ties to another sample that they got from the garbage outside his family's home in Pennsylvania, presumably a sample from his father. Now that he's in custody, though, Bryan Kohberger, they'll likely want to test him directly, take a sample directly, and make sure that's a match.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, he was a student, right?

KASTE: Yes, but not at the same university as the victims. He just moved to Pullman, Wash., where he was starting a Ph.D. program in criminology at Washington State University. That's a short drive away. He was a teaching assistant there. He had an interest in forensics. The faculty there have not commented so far about their experience with him. And we have no real information about anything out of the ordinary in terms of his academic career there.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So Kohberger has been extradited. He's in jail in Moscow. What's the reaction there been?

KASTE: Well, relief, of course, that there is a suspect in custody. This is a place where murders are extremely rare. And people were afraid. One of the things we learned from this affidavit is that one of the surviving roommates in that house says she heard crying and a thud from the victim's rooms. She didn't realize what was happening. And then she opened her door. And she saw someone dressed in black with a mask on leaving the house. So this was a terrifying experience in this community. And, I think, now that he's in custody, facing trial and the possibility even of the death penalty, because it's Idaho, the students in this community are more likely to feel at least a little bit safer now coming back to classes.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's law enforcement correspondent Martin Kaste. Martin, thanks.

KASTE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.