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The white sedan: How police found suspect in Idaho slayings

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The white sedan: How police found suspect in Idaho slayings

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The white sedan cruised past the gray, three-story rental home on a dead-end street in Moscow, Idaho. Then again. And again.

It was unusual behavior in the residential, hillside neighborhood in the quiet hours before dawn. And according to a police affidavit released Thursday, surveillance videos showing the vehicle that November night were key to unraveling the gruesome mystery of who killed four University of Idaho students inside the house.

With little else to go on as a panicked community demanded answers, investigators canvassed security footage from the neighborhood — including one recording of the car speeding away after the slayings — to get a sense of the killer’s possible movements, the affidavit said.

Eventually, the document said, police were able to narrow down what was at first known only vaguely as a white sedan to a 2015 Hyundai Elantra registered to Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old doctoral student in criminology at Washington State University, just across the border in Pullman, Washington. Further investigation matched Kohberger to DNA at the crime scene, it said.

Kohberger made an initial appearance in an Idaho courtroom Thursday following his extradition from Pennsylvania, where he was arrested last week. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, though a public defender who represented him in Pennsylvania, Jason LaBar, has said he is eager to be exonerated and should not be tried “in the court of public opinion.”

“Tracking movements in public is an important technique when you haven’t identified any suspects,” said Mary D. Fan, a criminal law professor at the University of Washington. “You can see movements in public even if you don’t have probable cause to get a warrant. We live in a time of ubiquitous cameras. This is a remarkable account of what piecing together that audiovisual data can do.”

The car’s first pass by the home was recorded at 3:29 a.m. on Nov. 13 — less than an hour before Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in their rooms, Moscow Police Cpl. Brett Payne wrote in the affidavit.

The vehicle drove by twice more and was recorded a fourth time at 4:04 a.m., Payne wrote. It wasn’t seen on the footage again until it sped away 16 minutes later.

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“This is a residential neighborhood with a very limited number of vehicles that travel in the area during the early morning hours,” Payne wrote. “Upon review of the video there are only a few cars that enter and exit this area during this time frame.”

A forensic examiner with the FBI determined the car to likely be a 2011-13 Hyundai Elantra, though subsequently said it could be a model as late as 2016, according to the affidavit.

Surveillance footage from the Washington State University campus offered further tantalizing information: A similar vehicle headed out of town just before 3 a.m. on the day of the killings and reappeared on cameras in Pullman just before 5:30 a.m., the affidavit said.

On Nov. 25, the Moscow Police Department asked regional law enforcement to look for a white Elantra. Three nights later, a WSU police officer ran a query for any white Elantras on campus.

One came back as having a Pennsylvania license plate and being registered to Kohberger. Within half an hour, another campus officer located the vehicle parked at Kohberger’s apartment complex. It came back as having Washington state tags. Five days after the killings, Kohberger had switched the registration from Pennsylvania, his home state, to Washington, the affidavit said.

Investigators now had a name to go on, and further investigation yielded more clues. 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.

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.

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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.

The cellphone data also included another chilling detail, the affidavit said: The phone returned to the victims’ neighborhood hours after the attack, around 9 a.m. But even though one of the surviving housemates had seen a strange man inside and heard crying after 4 a.m., the killings were not reported to police until later that day, and there was no police response at the scene by 9.

Though Kohberger, with his 2015 Elantra, had first come to the attention of WSU police by Nov. 29, it’s not clear how soon that information was relayed to the Moscow Police Department, which issued a news release on Dec. 7 asking for the public’s help in finding a white 2011-13 Elantra. The release suggested such a vehicle had been near the home early on Nov. 13 and that any occupants “may have critical information to share regarding this case.”

Law enforcement agencies sometimes use such public statements to throw off suspects and keep them from learning they are under suspicion. Tips poured in and investigators soon announced they were sifting through a pool of around 20,000 potential vehicles.

“I think they got a lot of flack for keeping their cards tight to their chest … so I was pretty elated when they caught this guy and all this evidence was revealed,” said Telisa Swan, a Moscow resident who put a sign thanking the police outside her business.

Kohberger apparently remained at WSU until mid-December, when he drove to his parents’ house in Pennsylvania, accompanied by his father, in the Elantra. While driving through Indiana, Kohberger was pulled over twice on the same day for tailgating.

On Dec. 27, police in Pennsylvania recovered trash from the Kohberger family home and sent DNA evidence to Idaho, the affidavit said. The evidence matched the DNA found on the button snap of a knife sheath recovered at the crime scene, it said.

Kohberger is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and felony burglary. A status hearing in the case is set for Jan. 12.

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Associated Press Correspondent Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, contributed.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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