The man accused of murdering four University of Idaho students in November had thoroughly cleaned the interior and exterior of his car and was also seen wearing surgical gloves multiple times before being apprehended, a law enforcement source tells CNN.
Bryan Kohberger, 28, is currently the sole suspect in the gruesome stabbings of students Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, who were found dead inside their off-campus house in Moscow, Idaho, on November 13.
Kohberger, who was pursuing a PhD in criminal justice at Washington State University at the time of the killings, “cleaned his car, inside and outside, not missing an inch,” according to the law enforcement source.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was briefed on observations made by investigators during four days of surveillance leading up to Kohberger’s arrest at his family’s Pennsylvania home on December 30.
As Kohberger now remains behind bars in Idaho awaiting his January 12 status hearing, new details have emerged elucidating some of the suspect’s movements in the days leading up to his arrest.
A surveillance team assigned to Kohberger was tasked with two missions, according to multiple law enforcement sources: keep eyes on Kohberger so they could arrest him as soon as a warrant was issued, and try to obtain an object that would yield a DNA sample from Kohberger, which could then be compared to DNA evidence found at the crime scene.
Kohberger was seen multiple times outside the Pennsylvania home wearing surgical gloves, according to the law enforcement source.
In one instance prior to Kohberger’s arrest, authorities observed him leaving his family home around 4 a.m. and putting trash bags in the neighbors’ garbage bins, according to the source. At that point, agents recovered garbage from the Kohberger family’s trash bins and what was observed being placed into the neighbors’ bins, the source said.
The recovered items were sent to the Idaho State Lab, per the source.
Last Friday, a Pennsylvania State Police SWAT team then moved in on the Kohberger family home, breaking down the door and windows in what is known as a “dynamic entry” – a tactic used in rare cases to arrest “high risk” suspects, the source added.
On Thursday, Kohberger had his initial court appearance in Idaho after he was booked into the Latah County jail Wednesday night following his extradition from Pennsylvania. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. He did not enter a plea at the hearing.
Victim’s father says suspect ‘was hunting them’
Steve Goncalves, whose daughter Kaylee was among those killed, told CNN’s JIm Sciutto in an interview that aired Friday morning he has no reason to think his daughter was the killer’s target in particular.
“Nobody understands exactly why but he was stalking them, he was hunting them,” Goncalves said. “He was a person looking for an opportunity and it just happened to be in that house. And that’s hard to take.
“She had her phone right next to her and she couldn’t call 911. So these were just girls that went to sleep that night and a coward, you know, a hunter that went out and he picked his little opponent that was girls, that’s probably why the house was targeted.
“None of these girls deserved this,” Goncalves said. “The real problem we have is we have an individual that thought it was okay to attack other human beings. That’s what I’m going to focus on.”
He said, “I’d be a little bit surprised if there wasn’t a clearer touch point that would suggest that he was interested in one or two of the people more than he was the others.”
Goncalves was in the courtroom for Kohberger’s appearance.
“He knows I want him to look me in the eye. So he didn’t. He didn’t give me that opportunity,” Goncalves said. “He’s scared to look at me in the eyes and start to understand what’s about to happen to him. You know, he picked the wrong family. We’re not scared of a conflict. We’re not running. We’re coming at him.”
University of Idaho official ‘relieved’ after arrest
In an interview with CNN, University of Idaho Provost and Executive Vice President Torrey Lawrence said he was “relieved” that there is someone in custody in connection with the killings.
“I think I speak for many in our community that there’s a great sense of relief,” Lawrence said. “But it’s bittersweet because this is still a horrible tragedy but it’s a step forward, and we’re happy to see it move forward.”
The official added that it was “disturbing” to read new details about the case that were revealed in court documents released Thursday, including that the suspect appeared to have visited the area multiple times before the killings.
With classes set to start next week, Lawrence said the university is keeping heightened security on campus “so people feel comfortable.”
“There’s been a significant law enforcement presence here for the last two months since the incident and we felt like just pulling that away immediately would be kind of shocking,” he said. “We just felt like it was the right thing to do to keep it at a heightened level.”
The evidence against the suspect
Authorities spent nearly two months investigating before they were able to name publicly a suspect, a task that grabbed national attention and rattled the victims’ loved ones as well as the community – which had not recorded a murder in years.
Still, the public’s view of the case remains mired with questions. As of late Thursday, it remains unclear what motivated the killings. It’s also unclear how the suspect entered the house after authorities said there was no sign of forced entry or why two roommates who were inside the residence at the time of the killings survived the attacks.
Here’s how investigators narrowed the search to Kohberger:
- DNA: Trash recovered from Kohberger’s family home revealed that the “DNA profile obtained from the trash” was linked to DNA on a tan leather knife sheath found “laying on the bed” of one of the victims, according to a probable cause affidavit released Thursday. The DNA recovered from the trash is believed to be that of the biological father of the person whose DNA was found on the sheath, according to the affidavit.
- Phone records: Authorities found the suspect’s phone was near the victims’ Moscow, Idaho, home at least a dozen times between June 2022 to the present day, according to the affidavit. The records also reveal Kohberger’s phone was near the crime scene hours after the murders that morning between 9:12 a.m. and 9:21 a.m, the document says. The killings were not reported to authorities until just before noon.
- A white sedan: A Hyundai Elantra was seen near the victims’ home around the time of their killings. Officers at Washington State University identified a white Elantra and later learned it was registered to Kohberger. The same car was also found at the suspect’s Pennsylvania family home when he was arrested last Friday. The suspect’s university is about a 10-minute drive from the Idaho crime scene.
Roommate reveals she heard crying the day of attacks
One of two roommates who were not harmed in the attacks said she saw a masked man dressed in black inside the house on the morning of the killings, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Identified as D.M. in the court document, the roommate said she “heard crying” in the house that morning and also heard a man’s voice say, ‘It’s OK, I’m going to help you.’” D.M. said she then saw a “figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her,” the affidavit continued.
“D.M. described the figure as 5’ 10” or taller, male, not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows,” the affidavit says. “The male walked past D.M. as she stood in a ‘frozen shock phase.’
“The male walked towards the back sliding glass door. D.M. locked herself in her room after seeing the male,” the document says, adding the roommate did not recognize the male.
CNN’s Rob Frehse, Elizabeth Joseph, Jason Kravarik, PJ Ken Tillis, Ray Sanchez and Veronica Miracle contributed to this report.