A criminology student accused of killing four University of Idaho students was stopped by police twice as he and his father made a 2,500-mile, cross-country trip from Washington state to Pennsylvania in the vehicle that has been at the centre of the murder mystery probe, it has been revealed.
Suspected killer Bryan Kohberger, 28, drove from Pullman, Washington, to his home state of Pennsylvania last month to celebrate the holidays with his family.
On Friday, police swooped in on the family home in Chestnuthill Township, Monroe County, and arrested him for the 13 November murders of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin in Moscow, Idaho.
As a criminal justice PhD student at Washington State University – just across the Idaho-Washington border from Moscow – Mr Kohberger lives just 15 minutes from the King Road home where the murders took place.
In the aftermath of the murders, he had stayed in Pullman, Washington, and continued with his studies for several weeks before setting off on the 2,500-mile drive to Pennsylvania sometime in December.
However, his public defender has now revealed that Mr Kohberger did not make the journey alone.
Jason LaBar told CNN that Mr Kohberger’s father had travelled to Washington state to meet his son before Christmas – weeks after the violent quadruple homicide – so that they could make the cross-country drive home together.
The father and son travelled in the suspect’s white Hyundai Elantra – the vehicle that has been at the centre of the murder investigation for several weeks. They were pulled over by police twice as they passed through Indiana, Mr LaBar told KTVB. Mr LaBar said he wasn’t sure if the stops resulted in citations but said one was for speeding and the other was for following a car ahead too closely.
Sometime during the journey east, investigators began tracking Mr Kohberger’s movements across the US.
“Sometime right before Christmas we were zeroing in on him being in or going to Pennsylvania,” a law enforcement source told CNN.
Two separate witnesses also recalled seeing the two men at an auto repair shop in Pennsylvania on 16 December when the pair stopped off to get the Hyundai Elantra serviced.
One individual, who did not want to be identified, told CNN that they had a friendly conversation with both Mr Kohberger and his father at the business.
During that encounter, the suspect appeared “a little awkward” but did not appear suspicious, they said, adding that he had spoken of his ambitions to work in behavioural criminal justice and become a professor.
Mr LaBar said that the father and son then arrived at their family home in the Pocono Mountains around 17 December.
An FBI team kept Mr Kohberger under surveillance in the area for several days before his arrest on Friday (30 December).
The white Elantra driven by Mr Kohberger was seized from his parents’ home at the time of his arrest.
Investigators had been searching since early December for the occupant of a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra which has been spotted in the “immediate area” of the crime scene at the time of the murders.
The vehicle had been captured on surveillance footage near the King Road home at around 3am or 4am on 13 November.
Two law enforcement sources told CNN that the net closed in on Mr Kohberger when the Elantra seen near the crime scene was traced back to him.
His DNA was then matched through genetic geneology techniques to DNA found at the crime scene, the sources said.
Investigators have not suggested that Mr Kohberger’s family are implicated in the murders in any way.
Moscow Police Chief James Fry indicated in Friday’s press conference that Mr Kohberger is the sole suspect in the killings and that police are not seeking anyone else in the case.
On Sunday, Mr Kohberger’s parents broke their silence, saying that they “care deeply” for the victims and their families but will continue to support their son and brother as the legal process moves forward.
“First and foremost we care deeply for the four families who have lost their precious children. There are no words that can adequately express the sadness we feel, and we pray each day for them,” the family said in a statement.
“We will continue to let the legal process unfold and as a family we will love and support our son and brother.
“We have fully cooperated with law enforcement agencies in an attempt to seek the truth and promote his presumption of innocence rather than judge unknown facts and make erroneous assumptions. We respect privacy in this matter as our family and the families suffering loss can move forward through the legal process.”
The motive for the murders remains unclear and the murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – is yet to be recovered.
Moscow Police have kept the details about what led them to the suspect under wraps and the criminal complaint will remain sealed until Mr Kohberger is extradited back to Idaho.
No obvious link has been found between the victims and the suspected killer and it is unclear if he knew any of the four students prior to the murders.
However, Kaylee Goncalves’ father Steve Goncalves told ABC News that he had found unnamed connections between the suspect and the daughter – but was not ready to reveal what these potential ties were.
Mr Kohberger’s public defender has indicated that the 28-year-old plans to fight the allegations and will waive his extradition hearing to expedite his transport to Idaho in order to focus on “resolving these matters as promptly as possible”.
Mr Kohberger moved to Washington to begin the criminology graduate program at Washington State University in August and had just completed his first semester.
Before this, he studied criminology at DeSales University – first as an undergraduate and then finishing his graduate studies in June 2022.
While there, he studied under renowned forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland who interviewed the BTK serial killer and co-wrote the book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer with him.
He also carried out a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.
He reached out for participants on Reddit, with the survey resurfacing in the wake of his arrest.
“In particular, this study seeks to understand the story behind your most recent criminal offense, with an emphasis on your thoughts and feelings throughout your experience,” the post said.