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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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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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