Criminology student accused of Idaho murders was ‘tracked for days’ before arrest

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A 28-year-old criminology student charged with the murder of four Idaho University students, was tracked for days driving his white Hyundai Elantra across the country before being arrested.

Details of the extensive surveillance operation targeting Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, showed that he had been identified thanks to genetic genealogy, a source told CNN.

The technique matching DNA found at the crime scene with samples from family members on public databases has become a vital tool in police investigations.

Kohberger, a graduate student, had put out a questionnaire for his research asking people who have committed crimes what they thought and felt during the act.

He had become isolated from classmates after making offensive statements on social issues, according to the New York Times, and was described by one high-school fellow as a “bully”.

University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves (second from left, bottom) and Madison Mogen (second from left, top), Ethan Chapin (center) and Xana Kernodle (second from right) were stabbed to death in their beds as they slept

Credit: ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

It is seven weeks since the bloodied bodies of the murdered students were found at the house they shared in the college city of Moscow, northern Idaho.

In this period investigators carried out 300 interviews and sifted through 20,000 tips.

Police in the college town which had not seen a murder since 2015 had come under fire for the slow progress of the investigation.

It was not until early December that police announced they were keen to speak to the occupants of a white 2011-13 Hyundai Elantra seen in the area at the time.

About 22,000 similar cars existed and they were not fitted with advanced tracking technology found on more recent models which would have made it easier to identify the vehicle.

It was the DNA evidence and records showing Kohberger was the owner of a white Hyundai which enabled police to focus on the car.

The Hyundai was tracked for four days as it was driven across the country to his parents’ house in Pennsylvania, 2,500 miles away from the murder scene.

Victims Madison Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21

Credit: ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

Police had also put the house under surveillance as they continued to gather evidence they needed to make an arrest.

Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson appealed to the public to come forward with any information they have.

“This is not the end of this investigation. In fact, this is a new beginning,” he said.

Kohberger has been charged with burglary and the murder of Xana Kernodle, 20, Ethan Chapin, 20, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, and Madison Mogen, 21, whose bodies were discovered on November 12.

He is being held without bail in Pennsylvania pending a hearing on Jan 3 where police in Idaho will seek his extradition.

Kohberger’s lawyer, Jason LaBar,  said he would deny the charges.

“Mr. Kohberger is eager to be exonerated of these charges and looks forward to resolving these matters as promptly as possible,” Mr LaBar, the Monroe County chief public defender told CNN.

He added that Kohberger will not oppose his extradition to Idaho.