Idaho killings suspect got new license plate days after murders
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Mike Baker
The man accused of killing four University of Idaho college students received a new license plate for his car five days after the murders, according to records released earlier this week.
The licensing documents in Washington state show that the vehicle driven by the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, was a white Hyundai Elantra, the type of vehicle that investigators had been seeking in recent weeks.
Police in Moscow, Idaho, had said that a white Hyundai Elantra from between 2011 and 2013 had been seen near the scene of the crimes on the night of the killings, Nov. 13. Kohberger’s car, a 2015 model, was registered Nov. 18, according to the licensing document. A vehicle history report shows the car had previously been registered in Pennsylvania, where Kohberger is from.
Kohberger, 28, had moved to Pullman, Washington, in recent months and began studying criminology in a doctoral program at Washington State University in August. He has said through a lawyer that he expects to be exonerated in the case. Kohberger’s new lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the license plate records.
On Wednesday, police in Indiana released new body camera footage showing that, two weeks before Kohberger was arrested, police there had pulled him over twice in a 10-minute stretch for tailgating. The traffic stops, on Dec. 15, came as Kohberger was driving across the country with his father for winter break in the same car for which he had obtained the new license plate.
During both stops, the suspect’s father mentioned a fatal police standoff that took place that morning near Washington State University, where his son was a student, and told the officer that he and his son had been discussing the “horrifying” incident.
The police shooting they were discussing does not appear to have any connection to the four fatal stabbings that occurred about a month earlier in Idaho, just across the border from the WSU campus. Kohberger is charged with four counts of murder in the stabbings.
Kohberger was the driver of the car during both stops, and the new footage is the most that the public has seen of him since he became the subject of intense scrutiny after his arrest. On Wednesday, Kohberger was flown by police from Pennsylvania, where he was visiting his parents after the road trip, to Idaho.
The Pennsylvania State Police plane touched down at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport in Washington state shortly before 6:30 p.m., and Kohberger was booked into the Latah County Jail in Moscow.
Kohberger’s father, Michael Kohberger, visited him in December and they drove across the country from the WSU campus in Pullman to their home in eastern Pennsylvania. During that trip, they were pulled over twice Dec. 15 for tailgating; in both traffic stops, the officers let the men off with a warning.
There is no indication that police in Indiana had any idea that Bryan Kohberger would be arrested for the murders, or that they were aware of police in Moscow saying that a white Hyundai Elantra had been seen near the crime scene on the night of the murders.
During the first stop, about 10:42 a.m., a deputy with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department pulled Kohberger and his father over along Interstate 70, just east of Indianapolis. The body camera footage released Wednesday captured the deputy asking where the two were headed. In response, Kohberger’s father tells him that they were coming from Washington and begins talking about the police standoff that was unfolding near the WSU campus that day.
Kohberger’s father tells the officer that there had been a “mass shooting.” He is corrected by his son, who says, “We don’t know if it was a mass shooting,” and refers to a SWAT team being called for the standoff. “It’s horrifying,” Kohberger’s father says in the video. That incident involved a man who police later said had barricaded himself in an apartment and threatened to kill his roommates before a police officer shot him to death.
At another point in the video, the father says, “We’re slightly punchy because we’ve been driving for hours.”
After about three minutes, the deputy says, “Do me a favor and don’t follow too close, OK?” and then returns Kohberger’s driver’s license and lets them go.
Just five minutes later, Kohberger and his father were pulled over again, this time by an Indiana state trooper who also said that they were tailgating. The audio from the trooper’s body camera is obscured by traffic noise, but Kohberger and his father could be heard telling the officer that they were just stopped minutes earlier. Again, the father brought up the incident that morning at WSU. The trooper wished them a safe trip and let them go with a warning.
Two weeks later, on Dec. 30, police in Pennsylvania carried out a pre-dawn raid of Kohberger’s parents’ home, arresting Kohberger on suspicion of carrying out the Idaho killings. They also searched his car and executed a warrant to obtain his DNA, officials said.
Kohberger had just completed his first semester at WSU, which is about a 15-minute drive from the crime scene. Classmates said he had shown an interest in the psychology of criminals as well as in forensics.
The murders of the four students — Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20 — and the arrest of Kohberger have rattled the neighboring college towns of Moscow and Pullman.
The stabbings took place in the early morning hours at a home along a dead-end street a five-minute walk from the University of Idaho campus. Police have said that the victims were most likely asleep when they were attacked. Two other roommates were in the home but apparently slept through the killings.
Friends and relatives of the victims are searching for any connection between the victims and Kohberger, but so far none has been disclosed.
Police have said that the surviving roommates realized something was wrong only late in the morning and believed that only one of their roommates had passed out. They called friends to the home and then someone called 911, after which police officers discovered the grisly scene.