Suspected mass killer Bryan Kohberger should “get an F in his criminology class” after the damning affidavit laid out evidence linking him to the murders of four University of Idaho students, according to a prominent criminal defence attorney.
Duncan Levin, the former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and attorney at Levin & Associates who has represented clients including Harvey Weinstein and Anna Delvey, spoke exclusively to The Independent about the strength of the criminal case against the 28-year-old PhD student.
Based on the evidence outlined in the probable cause affidavit, Mr Levin said that Mr Kohberger did a poor job of “covering his tracks” and that the prosecution has a “very strong case” against him.
“In short he should get an F in criminology class,” he said. “He did not do a good job of covering his tracks.”
Mr Kohberger, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial, is facing the death penalty for the murders of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin at a student rental home in Moscow, Idaho, on 13 November.
He was tied to the murders through DNA evidence, cellphone data, an eyewitness account and his white Hyundai Elantra, according to the bombshell probable cause affidavit released earlier this month.
At the time of his 30 December arrest, Mr Kohberger had just completed his first semester as a PhD student in criminal justice at Washington State University.
For years, he had shown a keen interest in criminals and the criminal mind, studying criminology at DeSales University in his home state of Pennsylvania – first as an undergraduate and then finishing his graduate studies in June 2022 – before moving to the Washington-Idaho border town of Pullman to begin his PhD program.
While at DeSales, he studied under renowned forensic psychologist and leading expert on the BTK killer Katherine Ramsland and also carried out a research project seeking “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.
But, despite the suspect’s knowledge of the criminal justice system, Mr Levin said that the affidavit indicates investigators were able to find several “damning pieces of evidence” all pointing to him as the lone suspect.
“It’s an exceedingly detailed probable cause affidavit and frankly it’s pretty surprising that the prosecutors would include the level of detail they included in it,” he said.
“Usually probable cause affidavits are very bare bones as at the early stage of the investigation the police and prosecution don’t want to lay out the entire case to the defence.
“Here it was unusually detailed and I have to say looking at it it is a perfect case of where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
He added: “There’s so many damning pieces of evidence. The information here all points to Kohberger as the only person to have committed the crime.”
The DNA evidence is one “very, very important piece of information,” Mr Levin said.
The affidavit revealed for the first time that a knife sheath had been left behind at the crime scene on the bed next to the bodies of Mogen and Goncalves.
DNA found on the sheath was matched to Mr Kohberger, using DNA obtained from trash taken from his parents’ home and a genetic genealogy database.
As well as the DNA evidence, cellphone data suggests that Mr Kohberger stalked the student home at least 12 times in the run-up to the night of the murders, according to the affidavit. The exact dates and times of these instances were not revealed in the affidavit but all bar one were in the late evening or early morning hours.
At the time of the murders, investigators believe Mr Kohberger then turned his cellphone off in order to try to avoid detection.
However, cellphone data places him close to the home on King Road at around 9am on 13 November – suggesting that he returned to the scene of the crime just hours after allegedly murdering the four victims at around 4am.
One of the victims’ surviving roommates was also able to partially describe the killer to investigators after she came face to face with him in the home. Her description matched that of Mr Kohberger.
He was also tracked down through his white Hyundai Elantra, after investigators said a vehicle matching that description was spotted at the crime scene at the time of the murders.
On their own, each piece of evidence can be picked apart at trial, said Mr Levin – but altogether it makes an “extremely tight case”.
“Any one of these could be drawn apart and attacked but when you put all of these strands together, you get an extremely tight case so far and it is still ongoing,” he said.
“We don’t know for example if there’s more DNA in the Elantra. I expect the prosecution will take his car down to the studs and you can’t possibly clean a car well enough these days to outsmart technology.”
Further evidence – and the cases that both the defence and the prosecution plan to lay out – will likely remain under wraps until Mr Kohberger’s next court appearance in the summer.
The preliminary hearing was scheduled for 26 June at the request of Mr Kohberger’s attorneys.
The entire week has been set aside for the hearing – when evidence of the case against Mr Kohberger will be laid out for the first time in court and when he is likely to enter a plea on the charges.
Until then, Mr Kohberger will be held behind bars at Latah County Jail after the judge ordered him to be held without bail.
The motive for the murders is unknown and it remains unclear why Mr Kohberger allegedly targeted the victims, with no known connection between the four students and the suspect. The murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – is also yet to be found.