Idaho Murders Investigation: Bryan Kohberger 'Vanished' for 14 Hours While Under FBI Surveillance: Report
"[S]ources in law enforcement would confide with a bristle of embarrassment, not long after the car had pulled out of its space in the graduate housing parking lot ... in Pullman, Washington, they lost it," reports Air Mail.
The Idaho murders investigation almost hit a major snag just two weeks after authorities classified Bryan Kohberger as a "person of interest," according to a new report.
On Dec. 13, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation lost Kohberger, reports Air Mail.
That is the day that Kohberger headed back home to Pennsylvania from Washington with his father, Michael, who had flown cross-country to join his son on another cross-country trek — but this time by car.
"[S]ources in law enforcement would confide with a bristle of embarrassment, not long after the car had pulled out of its space in the graduate housing parking lot ... in Pullman, Washington, they lost it," reports Air Mail. "For several alarming hours—or more? the authorities are keeping the precise details of this screwup close to the vest—the chief suspect in a quadruple homicide that had shocked the nation had seemingly vanished."
Air Mail reports that Michael spoke about the trip with the mechanics who serviced his son’s car around the holidays.
It is Michael who suggested that the two head off early on the morning of Dec. 13, states the report.
Michael allegedly told the mechanics that he assumed the pair would head down I-90, a trip that would have taken approximately 36 hours.
“But Bryan, according to what his father told people, insisted the northern route across I-90 promised wintry conditions," reports Air Mail. “Better to head away from the weather even if it added hours, or even a day, to the trip.”
So, according to Air Mail, Kohberger allegedly “buttonhooked south, toward Colorado, where he’d pick up I-70."
That added an additional six or seven hours to the pair's travel time, according to a route maps.
The FBI did not yet have the DNA sample or cellphone records that would ultimately be presneted to the judge who signed off Kohberger’s arrest warrant however, so they needed to “keep a watch” on Kohberger, reports Air Mail.
The report does not detail the events that precipitated the FBI losing Kohberger, only the aftermath.
“A mood of panic rapidly escalated into one of despair. Frantically, they began to search the records of automated license-plate readers (A.L.P.R.’s) in nearby states. It was an exercise in futility: Nothing. Not a single hit,” writes Air Mail reporter Howard Blum,
Police got a big break however 14 hours later, reports Blum, when Kohberger’s new Washington state plates were captured in Lomo, Colorado, by a number plate recognition device.
Agents then tailed Kohberger back home to Pennsylvania, reports Air Mail, and hit yet another hurdle when law enforcement stopped the Ph.D. student twice for tailgating in the span of 20 minutes in Indiana.
“The agents were frustrated, and they were angry. The possibilities were too dangerous,” reads the report.
"The main problem, shared law-enforcement officials with an arm’s-length familiarity with the F.B.I.’s surveillance operation, was the watchers’ helpless passivity. All they could do was observe from a distance—and wonder."
Two weeks later, Kohberger would be arrested and extradited, and in June he will be formally charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of four University of Idaho students: Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20.
His public defender in Pennsylvania released a statement, saying: “Mr. Kohberger has been accused of very serious crimes, but the American justice system cloaks him in a veil of innocence… He should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise—not tried in the court of public opinion.”
Members of law enforcement are not able to respond to requests for comment due to a nondissemination order filed in the case.
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