Bryan Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra will be the key to the case against him, according to a former CIA officer.
Kohberger, 28, is accused of breaking into a rental home in Moscow, Idaho, in the early hours of November 13 and fatally stabbing Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20.
The four were students at the University of Idaho and at the time of the slayings, Kohberger was a Ph.D. student at Washington State University (WSU) in nearby Pullman. He has not yet entered a plea to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary, but a previous lawyer said he was “eager to be exonerated.” A preliminary hearing is scheduled for late June.
Police searched Kohberger’s Hyundai Elantra as well as his family’s home following his arrest at his family’s home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania.
They took a door panel, seat cushions, headrests, a seat belt, a visor, and brake and gas pedals from the car, according to court documents unsealed earlier this month. Police also seized hiking boots, a shovel, goggles, gloves, floor mats, a band aid, maps, documents, and other items from the vehicle.
That evidence will be crucial to the prosecution’s case, Tracy Walder, a former CIA officer, and FBI agent told NewsNation.
“I’ve always felt that the car was the key to this case and I’ve said that really all along,” she said.
“They did say in that warrant that became unsealed that the car really had been disassembled completely by law enforcement.”
She said investigators would be searching for any “biological evidence” that might have been left in “the nooks and crannies” of the car and checking if the vehicle had been tampered with in an attempt to cover up any crime.
“And so I really do think that is what is going to be the most damaging, and the largest amount of ammunition that the prosecution has in this case,” she added.
Experts have previously told Newsweek how prosecutors could use Kohberger’s vehicle to make the case against Kohberger.
If investigators have identified blood or any other trace evidence from the victims in Kohberger’s vehicle, that “would be huge,” Joseph Giacalone, adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said.
“If they can uncover evidence of trying to get rid of evidence, such as bleach, that will also be damaging for the defense.”
Investigators honed in on Kohberger as the suspect in the killings after searching for a white sedan that was seen near the home at the time of the killings.
According to the probable cause affidavit, investigators narrowed the vehicle down to the 2011-2016 white Hyundai Elantra and told regional law enforcement to be on the lookout for a vehicle matching that description.
On November 29, a WSU officer found a 2015 Hyundai Elantra registered to Kohberger. Another officer that day saw Kohberger’s vehicle in a parking lot, looked up his name, and noted he had switched his car registration from Pennsylvania to Washington on November 18—five days after the murders.
The affidavit said investigators looked at Kohberger’s history and saw he had given a deputy a cell phone number during an August traffic stop. They used surveillance footage and cell phone data to sketch out a possible travel route on the night of the killings.
FBI agents later surveilled Kohberger as he made a cross-country drive with his father in the Elantra to his parent’s home in Pennsylvania in mid-December.
He was arrested after DNA recovered from the trash discarded from the family’s home was connected to DNA found on a knife sheath found at the crime scene.
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