DNA found on a knife sheath, as well as video surveillance and cell phone records, led police to the man suspected of killing four University of Idaho students, newly released court documents show.
Police on Thursday released the probable cause affidavit used to arrest the suspect, who is not being named by The Daily Wire. Cpl. Brett Payne of the Moscow Police Department in Moscow, Idaho, arrived at the off-campus residence where Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21, were found murdered on November 13, 2022. While being led through the crime scene, Payne was shown a leather knife sheath lying on the bed next to Mogen’s body. The sheath contained the words “Ka-Bar” and “USMC” stamped on it, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps insignia.
The probable cause affidavit revealed that the Idaho State Lab was able to locate a single source of male DNA on the button snap of the knife sheath. On December 27, police in Pennsylvania confiscated trash from the suspect’s parents’ home in Albrightsville and obtained a DNA profile. The next day, the Idaho State Lab informed police that the DNA sample from the sheath, and the sample from the trash, contained DNA belonging to the suspect’s father.
One of the surviving roommates, Dylan Mortensen, told police that she was awoken at around 4:00 a.m. by what she thought was Goncalves playing with her dog upstairs. Not long after, Mortensen heard someone say, “there’s someone here.” Mortensen opened her door but didn’t see anything, so she went back in her room. She opened her door a second time and heard a male voice say, “it’s ok, I’m going to help you,” or something similar.
A security camera located on a property less than 50 feet from Kernodle’s bedroom picked up sounds of voices or a whimper followed by a thud at around 4:17 a.m. on November 13. A dog could also be heard.
Mortensen told police she opened her door a third time and saw a man wearing black clothing and a mask over his nose and mouth walking toward her. She said the man was 5’10” or taller, athletically built but not muscular, with bushy eyebrows. She said the man walked past her as she stood in a “frozen shock phase.” She said he walked out of the house, and she locked herself in her room.
Police also located a latent shoe print in the home.
Police were able to narrow the timeframe of the crime to between 4:00 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. and reviewed video footage taken in the area in the time before and after the murders are believed to have occurred. The footage showed a white Hyundai Elantra without a front license plate (front license plates are required in Washington and Idaho, but not in Pennsylvania, where the car was registered) in the area between 3:29 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. The vehicle can be seen passing the off-campus residence three times before coming back a fourth time around 4:04 a.m. and attempting to turn around on the road. The vehicle was next seen around 4:20 a.m. traveling away from the direction of the off-campus residence at high speed heading in the direction of a road that eventually leads to Pullman, Washington, where the suspect attended Washington State University (WSU).
Video footage from the WSU campus showed a white Hyundai Elantra leaving the area and heading toward Moscow at around 2:53 a.m. This vehicle was again observed on five cameras in Pullman and the WSU campus at around 5:25 a.m.
Police pulled records for white Hyundai Elantras registered at WSU on November 29 – just over two weeks after the murders were committed – and found one belonging to the man who was eventually arrested for the crime. Police reviewed the owner’s Washington state driver’s license and determined he matched the physical description of the suspect provided by one of the surviving roommates.
Police matched the suspect to the vehicle through two previous traffic stops in the months before the murders. They also learned that the suspect registered his vehicle in Washington and received Washington plates on November 18 – five days after the murders.
A license plate scanner observed the suspect’s sedan on December 13 in Loma, Colorado. On December 15, the vehicle was stopped by law enforcement in Indiana. By December 16, the vehicle was in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, the suspect’s hometown, where he was eventually apprehended.
Police also reviewed cell phone data to show the suspect’s phone did not ping any cellular towers near the crime scene during the relevant timeframe, but an expanded examination of cell phone data showed the phone stopped reporting data to the network at around 2:47 a.m. At that time, the white Elantra was leaving Pullman and heading toward Moscow. The phone next pinged at 4:48 a.m. in an area south of Moscow, heading back to Pullman. Cell records also showed that the suspect left his home in Pullman around 9:00 a.m. on November 13 and traveled back to Moscow.
Cell records dating back to June 2022 showed the suspect’s phone was in the crime scene area on at least 12 occasions before the murders – all but one in the late evening or early morning hours.
The suspect was arrested on December 30 and extradited to Idaho, where he awaits trial.