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News / Northwest

Judge responds to Bryan Kohberger’s request to receive some DNA records in University of Idaho murder case

By Kevin Fixler, Idaho Statesman
Published: January 12, 2024, 8:05pm

BOISE, Idaho — Defense attorneys for the man charged with murdering four University of Idaho students are set to receive some of the DNA records they sought after the judge in the case ordered the state turn over a portion of the information that prosecutors have acknowledged was used to initially identify Bryan Kohberger as the suspect.

Judge John Judge of Idaho’s 2nd Judicial District filed the order Thursday evening concerning the release of details about the use in the case of the advanced DNA technique known as investigative genetic genealogy, or IGG. The order published to a website that houses the Kohberger case’s court record Friday afternoon.

IGG involves taking DNA from a crime scene and submitting it to online genealogy services similar to 23andMe and Ancestry.com to build a family tree and locate criminal suspects.

A leather sheath for a Ka-Bar brand combat-style knife was found at the off-campus home where the U of I students were killed. Investigators located a single source of male touch DNA on the sheath’s button snap, which was later linked to Kohberger, police have said.

But which IGG records the defense will receive through the criminal legal process known as discovery is unclear. Judge’s order stated that only some of the information would be delivered — all of which is under seal.

“The specific material to be provided is set forth in a sealed order to protect the privacy of the IGG information, including individuals on the family tree,” Judge wrote.

For eight months — dating back to May — Kohberger’s public defense team has requested that prosecutors turn over the records. They include any documents held by the FBI, as well as those produced by Texas-based private laboratory Othram, which the defense has said performed DNA work during the homicide investigation for the Idaho State Police.

Led by Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson, prosecutors objected to providing the records to the defense on a number of grounds, including that they were in the FBI’s possession, and that prosecutors had never seen them. They requested a protective order to prevent the defense from accessing them.

The two sides made arguments before Judge in August and he ordered the prosecution to obtain all available IGG records from the FBI by the beginning of December. With those in hand by the deadline, Judge went about reviewing them behind closed doors to decide which ones he would allow to be turned over to Kohberger’s defense, and which ones would be withheld.

Kohberger, 29, is accused of stabbing the four college students to death at the home on King Road in Moscow in November 2022. The victims were seniors Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21, junior Xana Kernodle and freshman Ethan Chapin, each 20.

Against some of the victims’ families wishes ahead of a trial, the U of I, which took ownership of the Moscow home, demolished it two weeks ago. The King Road property was previously owned by U of I President Scott Green’s family until the early 1970s.

Kohberger was arrested in December 2022 and is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if Kohberger is convicted by a jury.

No trial date has been set after Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial last year. Prosecutors recently requested a trial date be scheduled for the upcoming summer.

Judge set the next pretrial hearing for Jan. 26 in his Latah County courtroom to discuss an updated schedule. In addition, he will hear arguments — most of which will be behind closed doors — from the defense that he reconsider his previous decision denying their efforts to throw out Kohberger’s grand jury indictment on several procedural grounds.

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