In the weeks after four University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death in a home near campus, the investigation appeared to be at a standstill, prompting public outrage against police.
According to court documents, a group of local and state police officers as well as a slew of FBI agents were diligently searching throughout the holiday season for the alleged killer.
Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old PhD student in criminology at a nearby university who has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary, was the target of investigators’ efforts weeks before they made an arrest on December 30.
John Miller, a CNN law enforcement analyst and former deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, stated, “I bristled in the days after the arrest when people questioned whether police had the right man because a PhD candidate in criminal justice would be too smart for this crime.” “People questioned whether police had the right man.” Based on this case, you could teach a master’s class on conducting a complex criminal investigation.
We can’t say that there isn’t a threat.
Moscow, a small college town on the Idaho-Washington border that had not reported a murder in seven years, was shaken by the brutality of the November 13 killings. The bodies of Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were discovered in rooms on the second and third floors, with the door to the off-campus residence open. Police say that two other young women were in the six-bedroom, three-story rental at the time, but neither of them were hurt.
When she arrived at the scene, Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told CNN that she saw “lots of blood on the wall.” She said that each body had multiple stab wounds, probably from the same weapon. On the hands of one victim, what appeared to be defensive stab wounds.
The public was initially informed by Moscow police that the attack was targeted and that there was no community threat. However, days later, Police Chief Jason Fry reversed his position: He stated, “We cannot assert that there is no threat to the community.” A lot of students started to leave town.
The criticism grows in volume.
The investigation into the crime and some of the leads they were following were kept under wraps by authorities. Law enforcement officials claimed for several weeks that neither a suspect nor the murder weapon had been located.
Ethan Chapin’s father, Jim Chapin, made the following statement on November 16: “further compounds our family’s agony after our son’s murder” due to the university and local police’s lack of information.
The statement read, “I urge officials to speak the truth, share what they know, find the assailant, and protect the greater community” in memory of Ethan and his three dear friends who were killed in Moscow, Idaho, as well as all of our families.
Critics and relatives of the victims became even more critical of the apparent lack of progress in the case as frustrations grew.
On November 22, nine days after the murders, Idaho State Police spokesman Aaron Snell stated, “It takes a while to put together and piece together that whole timeline of events and the picture of really what occurred.” Due to the fact that it is a criminal investigation, the public is unable to view much of this. However, I can assure you that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
He stated, “We all want to help, but we can’t help if we don’t have any real substantial information to work from.”
Goncalves responded, “They’re not sharing much with me,” when asked about what he had heard from the local police. He suggested that the Moscow police might not be able to share everything.
Police in the area are willing to “take it on the chin.”
According to a probable cause affidavit released Thursday in the case against Kohberger, one piece of information that was initially not made public was that a review of surveillance footage from the area surrounding the home brought to the attention of investigators a white sedan that was later identified as a Hyundai Elantra.
According to the affidavit, by November 25, local law enforcement had been informed to look for such a vehicle. Additionally, a few days later, officers spotted a white Elantra registered to Kohberger at Washington State University, where the suspect was a graduate student in the criminal justice program.
Experts say that any hint to the public about a suspect or the various leads that police are following can cause an investigation into a complex quadruple homicide to unravel. This was just one part of the work that was done behind the scenes.
We don’t want to give suspects any information or frighten them enough to make them run away. Joe Giacalone, adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired NYPD sergeant who directed the department’s homicide school and the Bronx cold case squad, stated, “We don’t want them trying to get rid of evidence or destroy things.”
Giacalone stated, “There are a lot of people in the public who need to apologize to the police department.” That Moscow, Idaho, police chief was beaten, but he carried on.”
Miller concurred: In order to keep the case clean and the investigation going, they were willing to take criticism from the public, the press, and local critics on the chin.
Witness account was only made public after the arrest.
According to the probable cause affidavit, one of the two survivors of the attack told investigators that she saw a black-clad masked man in the house the morning of the attack, which provided a crucial clue that the police did not disclose.
According to the document, D.M., the roommate, claimed that that morning she “heard crying” in the house and a male voice saying, “It’s ok, I’m going to help you.” According to the document, D.M. stated that she then observed a “figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her.”
According to the affidavit, “D.M. described the figure as 5′ 10″ or taller, male, not very muscular, athletically built, with bushy eyebrows.” While D.M. was still in a “frozen shock phase,” the male walked by her.
The affidavit stated that the information on Kohberger’s driver’s license that was reviewed by investigators at the end of November proved to be in line with the description provided by the surviving roommate, specifically his height and his “bushy eyebrows.”
According to the affidavit, investigators were able to obtain phone records using information from Kohberger’s driver’s license and plate. These records indicated that Kohberger’s phone was near the residence of the victims at least 12 times between June 2022 and the present.
According to the document, those records also showed that Kohberger’s phone was near the crime scene once more after the killings, between 9:12 and 9:21 a.m.