(NewsNation) — According to a probable cause affidavit released Thursday, 28-year-old suspect Bryan Kohberger returned to the scene of the Idaho college killings, a chilling detail that one law enforcement expert says isn’t unheard of.
“I think this is classic criminal behavior where they revisit the scene of the crime,” retired FBI Special Agent Bobby Chacon told NewsNation.
Chacon speculates that Kohberger went back to the house to see if there were ambulances or police cars.
“I think he went back to look for police… Sometimes the thrill, we’ve seen people stand behind police lines, at fires… I think that he was driving by to see basically the fruits of his actions,” Chacon said.
Kohberger, a 28-year-old Washington State University grad student studying criminology, is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in the early hours of Nov. 13, 2022.
In the immediate days, then weeks after the slayings, authorities searched for a suspect as the residents of Moscow, Idaho remained on edge.
Ultimately, surveillance cameras that captured a white sedan repeatedly cruising by the roommates’ home on a dead-end street led to a break in the case, according to the affidavit.
The 2015 Hyundai Elantra that investigators later traced to Kohberger first passed by the home at 3:39 a.m., less than an hour before Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in their bedrooms, according to the document.
The same vehicle would drive by four more times, the last pass made at 4:04 a.m., Moscow Police Cpl. Brett Payne wrote in the affidavit. Sixteen minutes after the car was captured on video for the fourth time, it sped away from the location.
A Washington State University police officer found a vehicle matching the Moscow Police Dept.’s alert for the white Elantra and linked it to Kohberger.
Kohberger’s driver’s license described him as 6 feet tall and 185 pounds, and his license photo showed him to have bushy eyebrows — all details consistent with a description of the attacker given by a surviving roommate, the affidavit said. Despite seeing a stranger in the home and hearing crying, police weren’t called until later that day.
More research revealed that Kohberger had been pulled over by a Latah County, Idaho, sheriff’s deputy in August while driving the Elantra. He gave the deputy a cellphone number.
Armed with that number, Payne obtained search warrants for the phone’s historical data. The location data showed the phone was near his home in Pullman until about 2:42 a.m. on the morning of the killings. Five minutes later, the phone started using cellular resources located southeast of the home — consistent with Kohberger traveling south, the affidavit said.
There was no other location data available from the phone until 4:48 a.m., suggesting Kohberger may have turned it off during the attack in an effort to avoid detection, the affidavit said. At that point, the phone began taking a roundabout route back to Pullman, traveling south to Genesee, Idaho, then west to Uniontown, Washington, and north to Pullman just before 5:30 a.m. — around the same time the white sedan showed back up on surveillance cameras in town.
It remains unclear why the victims were targeted.
Kohberger opened the account for the phone on June 23, the affidavit said, and location data showed that he had traveled to the neighborhood where the victims were killed at least a dozen times before the attacks. Those visits all came late in the evening or early in the morning, the affidavit said, and it was on one of those trips that he was pulled over by the sheriff’s deputy on Aug. 21.
After tracking Kohberger’s movements to Pennsylvania, police recovered DNA evidence from trash at the grad student’s family home that matched samples taken from the button snap of a knife sheath found at the Idaho crime scene.
Kohberger faces four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary. His next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.