Idaho Murders Suspect Had Job Interview With Local Police Chief

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Records show that Bryan Kohberger, now charged with murdering four University of Idaho students, had been interviewed for a position at the nearby Pullman Police Department.

The man charged with fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students was interviewed for a job seven months before the killings by the chief of a nearby police department, according to newly released records.

Bryan Kohberger had an online meeting with the police chief in Pullman, Wash., where Mr. Kohberger lived at the time of the slayings, according to emails between Mr. Kohberger and the chief, Gary Jenkins. Chief Jenkins has since been hired as the campus chief of police at Washington State University in Pullman, where Mr. Kohberger was a Ph.D. student studying criminology.

“It was a great pleasure to meet with you today and share my thoughts and excitement regarding the research assistantship for public safety,” Mr. Kohberger wrote in the email on April 12, 2022, which was released in response to a public records request by The New York Times. The chief responded shortly after: “Great to meet and talk with you as well.”

At the time, Mr. Kohberger was finishing his master’s degree studies at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and preparing to start his first semester in a Ph.D. program in criminology in Washington. The emails indicate that he was among four candidates who had applied for the research assistant position at the police department.

It is unclear from the newly released records whether Mr. Kohberger was hired for the job, and the city of Pullman has declined to answer questions about whether he got the position. The job was set to begin on Aug. 22. The murders occurred on Nov. 13.

Records describe the job as a “graduate research assistantship” created by the university to support local police agencies. The research assistants were to “coordinate activities with their respective police department.” That included database design, management, analysis of agency data, report writing, grant writing and providing supervision to undergraduate research assistants.

The killings rattled the community of Moscow, Idaho, a small college town that had not recorded a murder in seven years. The victims — Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20 — had all spent a typical Saturday night near the University of Idaho campus, going to a party or a bar before returning home in the early hours.

Authorities arrested Mr. Kohberger at the end of December but have not detailed a motive in the attacks. Mr. Kohberger has said through a lawyer that he expects to be exonerated.

Here is what else is known so far.

Search Warrant

Shortly after arresting Mr. Kohberger, investigators seized a number of items from his apartment, including a computer tower, possible hair strands, a disposable glove, and items that had red or brown stains, according to records.

In the search warrant documents, the authorities said one item was a “collection of dark red” spotting, while a pillow had a “reddish/brown stain.” Investigators also collected receipts, mattress covers and the dust container of a vacuum cleaner.

The search warrant application said that the rental house near campus where the four victims were found in November had a significant amount of blood from the victims, “including spatter and castoff” blood, which results when blood flies from a moving object. Investigators said they believed it was likely that any killer at the scene would have had blood evidence on his body or his clothing. They said they hoped to find trace evidence in the suspect’s apartment. They did not describe the results of any testing in the documents.

Investigators said in their search warrant application that they had hoped to find hair strands that could link the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, to the scene of the crime, either through the victims or through a dog that was present at the house where the killings occurred. Police said one of the items collected from Mr. Kohberger’s apartment was a “possible animal hair strand.”

The documents say the police also searched Mr. Kohberger’s office at Washington State University, where he was a graduate student and teaching assistant, but did not seize anything in that search.

David Ryder/Getty Images

One key item in the case that did not appear in the documents was a weapon. Investigators have been searching for a long knife that they believe was used in the attack. A knife sheath was found at the scene of the crime, and a DNA sample was recovered from it that investigators believed to be Mr. Kohberger’s DNA.

Shortly after Mr. Kohberger was arrested on Dec. 30, the police chief in Moscow, Idaho, said that investigators had not yet found a murder weapon.

Mr. Kohberger has said through a lawyer that he looks forward to being exonerated. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for June.

THE ATTACK

Investigators said that all four victims and two other people who lived in the house were back home before 2 a.m. on Nov. 13.

More than an hour later, the authorities said, a white car appeared in surveillance video in the neighborhood. The victims’ home was on a dead-end street, but the white car — identified by investigators as a Hyundai Elantra — could be seen passing by the house several times, including at 4:04 a.m., when the car returned and did a three-point turn in the road near the house.

One of the victims, Ms. Kernodle, appears to have been awake at the time, having just received a DoorDash order. Her phone also indicated that she had been using the TikTok app, investigators said.

One of the surviving housemates reported being awake around that time as well; she told the police that she had heard sounds upstairs that she thought were Ms. Goncalves playing with her dog upstairs. She told investigators she also heard what sounded like crying coming from Ms. Kernodle’s room, down the hall from her own on the second floor, along with a male voice saying something to the effect of, “It’s OK, I’m going to help you.”

At 4:17 a.m., according to investigators, a security camera in the area captured distorted audio of what sounded like a whimper and a loud thud. A dog was heard barking.

The surviving roommate said that she looked out her bedroom door to check on the activity in the house, and was shocked to see a man in black clothing and a mask walk past her toward a sliding-glass door at the back of the house. The roommate told the police she went back into her room and locked the door; what she did next was unclear. The police were not called to the scene for more than seven hours.

At about 4:20 a.m., the white Elantra could be seen in video footage speeding away from the neighborhood, investigators said.

Later that day, the four victims were found stabbed to death in two bedrooms.

THE HUNT

Investigators who arrived at the crime scene soon found a key piece of evidence: a knife sheath that was lying on the bed next to Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves.

Later, as they began searching for the white Elantra seen in the surveillance footage, the police at nearby Washington State University found a white Elantra registered there, identifying the owner as Mr. Kohberger. Investigators said his physical features matched the description of the attacker offered by one of the surviving roommates.

Shortly before Christmas, investigators obtained phone records showing that on the night of the killings, Mr. Kohberger’s phone had stopped connecting to the cellular network at 2:47 a.m., when he was in Pullman, where the Washington State campus is.

Investigators suggested that the phone might have been shut off to shield Mr. Kohberger’s location. When the phone reconnected at 4:48 a.m., it was south of Moscow and followed a route back to Pullman.

Mr. Kohberger’s phone was in Moscow, in the area near the crime scene, later that morning, investigators said. The phone’s history also reflected that it had been in the area of the house 12 times in the months before the murders, according to the affidavit.

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Indiana police officers pulled over Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old student at Washington State University, two weeks before he was arrested for the killing of four University of Idaho students.Hancock County Sheriff’s Department

By the end of December, Mr. Kohberger had returned to his parents’ house in Pennsylvania, after driving with his father on a cross-country road trip. The police went there and retrieved garbage from the house, collecting a DNA sample. The results showed a strong probability that the elder Mr. Kohberger was the father of whoever had left DNA on the knife sheath found at the crime scene.

The police arrested Bryan Kohberger soon afterward, in a predawn raid on Dec. 30. He was later extradited to Idaho.

THE SUSPECT

As a teenager, Mr. Kohberger wrote online about his struggles with dissociation, suicidal thoughts, a lack of emotion and minimal remorse. In 2018, he described to a friend a nearly lifelong struggle with depression, but said he was doing well and had stopped using the heroin that he had turned to when he felt suicidal.

Later, he developed an interest in criminals, telling one friend that he saw himself one day working with high-profile offenders. He enrolled at DeSales University, a Catholic institution in Center Valley, Pa., where he studied in part under Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist whose books include “The Mind of a Murderer” and “How to Catch a Killer.” He received a bachelor’s degree from DeSales in 2020 and completed a master’s degree in June 2022.

Last year, in a post on Reddit, a user who identified himself as Bryan Kohberger asked people who had spent time in prison to take a survey about their crimes. The survey listed Mr. Kohberger as a student investigator working with two professors at DeSales, and it asked respondents to describe their “thoughts, emotions and actions from the beginning to end of the crime commission process.”

In recent months, Mr. Kohberger had been studying at Washington State University in Pullman, just across the state line from the University of Idaho.

In the days before the killings, one classmate recalled, Mr. Kohberger had been highly engaged in a discussion about forensics, DNA and other evidence that prosecutors use to win convictions. In the days after the killings, records show, he was still grading papers in his job as a teaching assistant.

Rajah Bose

After the killings, Mr. Kohberger and his father, who had traveled from Pennsylvania, began a drive back to their family home in what Mr. Kohberger’s initial public defender said was a trip that had been planned since the start of his studies at Washington State. During that trip, according to police body camera footage, they were pulled over twice in the span of a few minutes in Indiana for traffic violations. Each time, they were let go with a warning.

At that point, Mr. Kohberger had a new Washington State license plate on his car, something he obtained five days after the killings, records show.

Jason LaBar, a public defender in Pennsylvania who initially represented Mr. Kohberger when he was arrested there, said Mr. Kohberger’s parents and sisters want justice for the victims, but are also standing behind Mr. Kohberger, who continues to communicate with them by phone from jail in Idaho.

“They believe in his innocence until proven otherwise,” Mr. LaBar said.

Mr. LaBar said family members had no early indication that Mr. Kohberger might be linked to the crime. About a month after the killings, Mr. Kohberger’s father joined his son in Washington State to drive with him back to the family home in Pennsylvania for winter break. At that time, Mr. LaBar said, the Kohbergers were aware of the November murders just across the border in Idaho that had attracted national attention, but had no inkling that their son would be linked to the case.

In the days before the arrest, the authorities asked the public for help finding a white 2011, 2012 or 2013 Hyundai Elantra that had been seen near the crime scene, but Mr. LaBar said the family did not think twice about that request because the white Elantra driven by Mr. Kohberger was a later model.

“They had no concerns that it was Bryan,” he said. “He was acting ordinary. They didn’t suspect something was wrong.”

Rajah Bose

THE VICTIMS

Madison Mogen, who went by Maddie, was a senior from Coeur d’Alene who was majoring in marketing. Her grandmother, Kim Cheeley, said Ms. Mogen had always been a gentle and caring person who kept many long-term friendships and close ties with an extended family.

Ms. Mogen’s boyfriend, Jake Schriger, said she had been excited for graduation next year and had talked about wanting to explore other parts of the world. Ms. Mogen always spread positivity and brought acts of kindness to others, Mr. Schriger said, adding that he hoped people would remember her for the love she had given to others.

Ms. Mogen’s father, Ben Mogen, said he did not believe that anyone who had a personal relationship with Ms. Mogen or her friends would be involved in killing them.

“If you knew them, then you loved them,” he said.

Kaylee Goncalves, who was from Rathdrum, Idaho, had been set to graduate early in December and had planned to move to Austin, Texas, with one of her close friends in June. The friend, Jordyn Quesnell, said Ms. Goncalves had secured a position with a marketing firm and was excited to explore more of the country.

“We wanted that adventure,” Ms. Quesnell said. “I would be like, ‘Let’s go do this,’ and she’d be like, ‘Down!’”

Alivea Goncalves, Ms. Goncalves’s older sister, said Kaylee and Ms. Mogen had served as bridesmaids for her wedding.

Ethan Chapin, from Conway, Wash., was one of a set of triplets and had spent much of Nov. 12, the day before the killings, with both of his siblings, who are also University of Idaho students, their mother, Stacy Chapin, said. In the evening, they all attended a dance held by his sister’s sorority, she said.

“My kids are very thankful that it was time well spent with him,” Ms. Chapin said. “He was literally the life of the party. He made everybody laugh. He was just the kindest person.”

Mr. Chapin played basketball in high school and was known by friends and family members for always having a big smile, ever since he was a baby. Ms. Chapin described her son as “just the brightest light.”

Xana Kernodle grew up in Idaho but had spent time in Arizona in recent years, according to an interview that her father, Jeffrey Kernodle, gave to an Arizona TV station.

Mr. Kernodle told the station that his daughter was strong-willed and had enjoyed having an independent life in college.

He said his daughter had apparently tried to fight her attacker, an account backed up by the coroner. Mr. Kernodle expressed shock that his daughter could have been killed while at home with friends.

“She was with her friends all the time,” Mr. Kernodle said.

Serge F. Kovaleski and Anushka Patil contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy, Sheelagh McNeill and Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

This post was originally published on NY Times

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