Bryan Kohberger told a fellow student that he had researched his ancestry by submitting DNA for genetic testing — which could shed light on how investigators used forensic genealogy to track down the accused quadruple killer.
The Washington State University doctoral student, who is charged with murder in the gruesome deaths of four University of Idaho students, said in August that he had taken a DNA test on a classmate who lived in the same on-campus housing complex, the statesman of Idaho reported.
Kohberger, who was a student in the university’s criminology department, asked if the neighbor could identify his ancestral background, which the man suspected was Italy, the student told the newspaper.
But Kohberger replied that he was actually of German descent.
“He talked about his ancestors. He had some sort of DNA test. I don’t know how he got this far. … It was just interesting to him,” the neighbor told the Statesman.
The paper noted that the detail could shed new light on reports that authorities used DNA evidence to identify Kohberger as a suspect in the brutal November 13 murders in nearby Moscow, Idaho.
A surveillance team that followed Kohberger to Pennsylvania apparently extracted DNA from the crime scene, ran it through a public database and used genetic genealogy techniques to link the sample to the student through his relatives, CNN reports.
“What most likely happened is that the crime scene was a mess and DNA evidence was left everywhere,” Pete Yachmetz, a security consultant and former FBI agent, recently told The Post. “So what they did was get all the DNA evidence they could find and analyze it.”
Here’s the latest coverage of the brutal murders of four college friends:
Using the technique, researchers first identify the victims’ DNA and “then they look for DNA from someone who shouldn’t have been there,” he said.
In probes like the Idaho massacre, the DNA samples are often run through the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the FBI’s national DNA database, Yachmetz said.
Kohberger’s arrest report indicates he left the “brown leather knife sheath” of the unidentified murder weapon at the scene of the murders.
The Idaho State Lab identified male DNA on the button closure of the scabbard, which was later linked to the suspect after genetic material was recovered from trash outside his family’s home in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the neighbor also revealed that Moscow detectives contacted him after finding his mobile number in Kohberger’s phone.
He said authorities asked him “how we met, what his personality was, things like this,” but declined to go into further detail.
The neighbor said he also provided detectives with a screenshot of a text conversation between the two men.
The screenshot, reviewed by the Statesman, included a phone number with the Eastern Washington area code.
“Hey (neighbor)! How is your semester so far?” read a Sept. 21 text that appeared to be from Kohberger, the paper reported, adding that the neighbor said he was too busy to answer.
University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found stabbed to death in their off-campus home on Nov. 13.
A preliminary status hearing for Kohberger is scheduled for June 26.