Bryan Kohberger's phone pinged at Idaho murder scene hours after killings and 12 times prior: investigators

Bryan Kohberger's phone pinged at the scene of the Nov. 13, 2022, quadruple homicide in Moscow, Idaho, just hours after the murders of four college students took place and at least 12 times prior to the massacre, according to an affidavit released Thursday.

Investigators determined that the phone registered to Kohberger, who is charged with four counts of murder and burglary after he allegedly stabbed the University of Idaho students with a KA-BAR knife between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Nov. 13, pinged at the crime scene around 9 a.m. that same day.

The suspect — a 28-year-old criminology Ph.D. student at Washington State University in nearby Pullman, Washington — also apparently visited the King Road residence where the murders took place, right off the University of Idaho campus, at least a dozen times prior to the brutal murders, according to authorities.

All of those visits, except for one, were in the late evening or early morning, according to the affidavit.

"Further review indicated that the 8458 Phone utilized cellular resources on November 13, 2022, that are consistent with the 8458 Phone leaving the area of the Kohberger Residence at approximately [9] a.m. and traveling to Moscow, ID," the affidavit states. "Specifically, the 8458 Phone utilized cellular resources that would provide coverage to the King Road Residence between 9:12 a.m. and 9:21 am."

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Kohberger was ordered held without bond Thursday for allegedly stabbing Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Ethan Chapin, 20; and Xana Kernodle, 20, multiple times. Two of the victims' roommates survived but heard strange noises near the victims' rooms and witnessed a masked suspect that morning.

Police linked the "8458 Phone" that pinged near the crime scene to Kohberger because the suspect identified it as his phone during an Aug. 21, 2022, traffic stop in Moscow. He was driving a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra at the time — the same vehicle he was driving during an Oct. 14, 2022, traffic stop by Washington State University police. Upon review of that footage, police determined he was the sole owner of the car. He changed his license plates on Nov. 18, 12 days before they were set to expire.

On Dec. 23, 2022, investigators obtained a "search warrant" for "records for the 8458 Phone from AT&T" indicating that the phone "is subscribed to Bryan Kohberger at an address in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania and the account has been open since June 23, 2022."

The phone Kohberger allegedly used initially pinged at his apartment in Pullman, Washington — about a 10- to 15-minute drive from King Road in Moscow — around 2:47 a.m. the morning of the murders. The connection was then disabled until 4:48 a.m., at which point his phone pinged in various locations south of Moscow and then again in Pullman around 5:30 a.m., leading investigators to determine that the suspect may have been trying to deter police. 

"Based on my training and experience, and the facts of the investigation thus far, I believe that Kohberger, the user of the 8458 Phone, was likely the driver of the white Elantra that is observed departing Pullman, WA and that this vehicle is likely Suspect Vehicle 1," Moscow police officer Brett Payne wrote in the affidavit.

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"Additionally, the route of travel of the 8458 Phone during the early morning hours of November 13, 2022, and the lack of the 8458 Phone reporting to AT&T between 2:47 am and 4:48 am is consistent with Kohberger attempting to conceal his location during the quadruple homicide that occurred on King Road in Moscow," he added.

Additionally, the phone registered to Kohberger was traced to the King Road murder scene "on at least twelve occasions prior to Nov. 13," according to investigators, citing the phone records obtained through a search warrant.

"All of these occasions, except for one, occurred in the late evening and early morning hours of their respective days," the affidavit states.

RELATED: Moscow murders: Police chief believes suspect Bryan Kohberger acted alone

Kohberger's motive for allegedly killing the four students and friends remains unclear. The affidavit also states that the suspect, who was masked at the time of the murders, walked right past one of two surviving roommates who lived on the first floor of the Moscow residence after she apparently heard crying.

Moscow police, who worked the case in partnership with the FBI and the Idaho State Police, announced Dec. 7 that they were looking for a white 2011 to 2013 Hyundai Elantra spotted near the crime scene at the time of the murders. 

RELATED: 'Look at the pattern': Former FBI special agent details how officials identified suspect in Idaho slayings

It was the first major clue that tight-lipped law enforcement officials released, and the car search soon took center stage in their investigation.

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