Like Idaho quadruple murder case, Utah police have used forensic genealogy

Jan 3, 2023, 5:15 PM | Updated: Jan 6, 2023, 12:20 pm
the suspect arrested for the idaho murders is pictured...
FILE: Booking photo for Bryan Kohberger. (Monroe Co. Correctional Facility)
(Monroe Co. Correctional Facility)

SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, law enforcement in Utah solved a 10-year-old cold-case homicide using a DNA technique similarly used to track down a suspect in the quadruple-murder case in Idaho.

Bryan Kohberger, 28, is accused in the murders of student-roommates Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, who were found dead Nov. 13 inside an off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho.

Kohberger is a criminology student at Washington State University, nine miles from the University of Idaho in Moscow.

On Tuesday, Kohberger waived extradition at a Pennsylvania courthouse to be transported to Idaho to face charges.

A 2011-2013 white Hyundai Elantra, which police had been searching for and was reportedly spotted in Moscow, Idaho, around the time of the murders, was found at the home of Kohberger’s parents in Pennsylvania, where he was arrested Friday.

Kohberger and his father, Michael, were pulled over twice in Indiana — for speeding and tailgating — while driving from Pullman, Wash., to Pennsylvania, Kohberger’s public defender Jason LaBar, told ABC News on Monday.

Kohberger’s DNA was reportedly found at the scene of the four murders. The DNA was run through a public genealogy database to find potential matches to family members. Subsequent investigative work by law enforcement led to his identification as the suspect, a source told CNN.

Link to Utah cold case murder

Dave Cawley, investigative journalist and host of the KSL podcast “COLD,” joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the DNA aspect of the Idaho investigation.

Cawley said law enforcement in Utah used the same DNA process to find the killer of Sherry Black who was stabbed to death in 2010 inside her home and bookstore, B&W Billiards and Books in South Salt Lake. Adam Durborow, who confessed to killing Black, was sentenced of life without the possibility of parole in 2022.

“Law enforcement investigators turned to a technique that’s really come into play in the last number of years called forensic genealogy where they take that DNA. They look for basically the closest family member they can find — a relative in one of these databases,” Cawley said. “And then work backward from that person to try to identify the suspect.”

The DNA evidence helped identify a suspect, but the vehicle description and its location in Pennsylvania further narrowed the scope of the Idaho investigation, Debbie added.

“It really does strengthen the case against a particular individual if you can get it to that point,” Cawley said.

Other reading:

U of U police searching for suspects after forceable entry



Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Like Idaho quadruple murder case, Utah police have used forensic genealogy