Electronic Evidence: Picking up the Pieces

By: Robert B. Fried, Senior Vice President, Forensics & Investigations, Sandline Global

(Private Investigator in MI, NY, SC)

Electronic evidence, along with collaboration between law enforcement agencies, was crucial in linking suspect, Bryan Kohberger, to the murder of four University of Idaho students, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin, in the early morning of November 13, 2022.

Video Recordings / Records Databases

Bodycams from traffic stops, a license plate reader, and surveillance camera footage tied a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra to Kohberger and assisted in tracking his local and interstate travels. 

Video recordings from multiple sources identified a sedan vehicle travelling between Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho in the early morning of November 13, 2022. The make, model, year, and appearance of the vehicle was determined through examination of video recordings obtained by law enforcement.  It was a white Hyundai Elantra that was manufactured between 2014 to 2016 with no front license plate.

In bodycam footage obtained during traffic stops, prior to November 13, 2022, Kohberger is seen behind the wheel of a white Hyundai Elantra; during one of these stops, he provides his phone number to law enforcement – this later helped identify the phone’s service provider, and the address in Pennsylvania, associated with the account.

Law enforcement later searched records databases and determined that a Hyundai Elantra, with a Pennsylvania license plate was registered by Kohberger, with Washington State University. Records databases also indicated that the vehicle had a Pennsylvania plate (no front plate is required in Pennsylvania) prior to November 18, 2022, and then later, Washington license plates (front and back are required).  Additional database searches determined that Kohberger has relatives living in Pennsylvania.

Cellular Records

Cellular records helped track Kohberger’s activities prior to and after the murders.

Law enforcement had obtained cellular records that place Kohberger in the vicinity of the location of the murders, on 12 occasions prior to November 13, 2022.  Additionally, cellular records show Kohberger’s phone communicating with cellular resources in locations, consistent with the path of travel identified for the Hyundai Elantra, before and after the murders. It is also important to note that during the time of the murders, Kohberger’s phone did not communicate with cellular resources, which is indicative that he was in an area of poor coverage, or the more likely case, that he was trying to avoid being tracked.

Publicly Available Information

Content posted online provided law enforcement insight as to Kohberger’s academic background.

Law enforcement was able to examine online content related to Kohberger, including information posted to the Washington State University Website, where he was enrolled as a Ph.D student in Criminology. Additionally, Kohberger, posted a crime research study on Reddit.

Electronic evidence is vital in many cases, whether civil or criminal. This evidence can help identify individuals, vehicles, and locations that may be relevant to the case.  In this case, video recordings, records databases, and cellular records helped law enforcement to identify the suspect’s vehicle, his name, and associated addresses, and track his movements before, and after the very unfortunate events that transpired on November 13, 2022.