Idaho murders: Veteran defense attorney lays out case Bryan Kohberger team could make, ‘holes’ in affidavit
MOSCOW, Idaho – Bryan Kohberger’s defense will seek to dismantle many parts of the probable cause police used to obtain warrants for his arrest in the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students, according to a high-profile defense attorney.
Idaho police laid out their case in a 19-page affidavit released just minutes before Kohberger’s initial court appearance last week, with allegations that included finding his DNA at the scene, they noted his car and phone circling around the victims’ home and discovered a “van-like” trail of blood in the suspected killer’s path.
“In this case, what I’ve noticed is that they have evidence and they’ve tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” California-based Lara Yeretsian told Fox News Digital. “But each piece of the puzzle seems to have problems and weaknesses and places where a defense attorney can poke holes.”
Yeretsian, whose past clients include Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, said relying on cell phone records can be a drawback unless prosecutors have something more tangible linking the suspect to the crime scene.
UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO TIME MURDER
Bryan Christopher Kohberger was seen for the first time since his arrest Friday outside the Monroe County Courthouse in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He is charged with the quadruple murder in Moscow, Idaho. (Live Image for Fox News Digital)
“For me, that’s never enough because you can be 10 miles away, 15 miles away, even sometimes depending on the range you cover,” she said.
As Fox News Digital has reported, Kohberger’s apartment is just 10 miles from the six-bedroom rental home on King Road.
He was studying for a Ph.D. at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, which is only about 7 miles away from the University of Idaho, where Maddie Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were students.
Yeretsian pointed to page 15 of the affidavit, which notes that Kohberger’s phone hit a cellphone tower in Moscow, but then says police do not believe he entered the city on that date.
“So you’re telling me in an affidavit that this is not credible?” she said. “How can a judge rely on this information?”
Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, along with two other female roommates in Kaylee Goncalves’ latest Instagram post, shared the day before the murder. (@kayleegoncalves/Instagram)
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However, she added that if prosecutors can prove that Kohberger’s phone was registered to the victims’ Wi-Fi router, that would put him much closer to the scene.
However, she continued, due to the short distance between his home and theirs, proximity alone does not prove the claims.
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Victims of the November 13 massacre at the University of Idaho. (Instagram @xanakernodle / @maddiemogen / @kayleegoncalves)
“What if he had a friend in the area to visit?” she asked. “There might have been a very innocent reason why he might have been in the area. I don’t know. You don’t know. For us, that’s not enough.”
As for the van-type footprint found inside the house, it’s an ordinary shoe, she noted.
A woman answers the door at 1122 King Road wearing Vans sneakers during a September police visit to a noise complaint. (Moscow Police Department)
Readers even noted that body camera video shows a woman answering the door wearing Vans sneakers when police showed up at the King Road home six weeks before the murders in response to a noise complaint.
Pat Diaz, a private investigator and former Miami-Dade homicide detective, also questioned the shoe reference.
“There could have been someone walking out that door,” he told Fox News Digital, though sneakers, like Kohberger’s white Hyundai Elantra, might not be the most practical for the hillbilly college town.
In addition to the two surviving housemates, police have also admitted that other students arrived at the house before police after the murders were discovered. It remains unclear whether police found a similar display after searching Kohberger’s apartment in Washington and his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, where he was arrested with the help of the FBI on Dec. 30.
Brian Kohberger in a Latah County courthouse for his initial appearance on January 5, 2023 (POOL)
Authorities have not publicly described the size of the shoe that made the print or acknowledged whether they recovered the sneakers themselves.
Judge Megan Marshall issued an injunction in the case last week, barring investigators and attorneys for both sides from making public comments about many aspects of the case.
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However, the limited information made public in the probable cause statement written by Moscow Cpl. Brett Payne will face intense scrutiny from Anne Taylor, the Kootenai County public defender appointed by the court to represent Kohberger.
Taylor will likely remove those blocks and try to convince the court that it was either insufficient to establish probable cause or that minor errors made the collection of some evidence inappropriate, she said.
A surviving housemate, identified in the affidavit as “DM,” told police she saw a masked man with “covered eyebrows” walk past her out the back door after hearing a series of alarming sounds.
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“It’s circumstantial — it’s like building blocks,” Yeretsian said of the prosecution’s case. “No one ever really saw his face. Dark eyebrows?” There are many boys who have their eyebrows covered.”
Diaz also dismissed the description of “bushy eyebrows” and the line about the suspect wearing a mask in a previous interview.
“What they had from eyewitness accounts could have been millions of guys who fit that profile or that description,” Yeretsian said Tuesday. “It adds a bit, he has to fit within that description, but it doesn’t set him apart.”
A yearbook photo of Bryan Kohberger in a high school law enforcement class doing a push-up. (Stephanie Pagones/Fox News Digital)
DM told detectives she thought she heard Goncalves “say something to the effect of ‘there’s someone here,'” according to the affidavit. She looked out her door, saw nothing, then told police she thought she heard crying coming from Kernodle’s room.
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“DM then said he heard a male voice say something to the effect of ‘it’s okay, I’ll help you,'” the statement continues.
She opened the door again and saw “a figure dressed in black clothes and a mask covering the mouth and nose of the person walking towards her.”
She told investigators she saw a male, athletic but not muscular and about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, Payne wrote in the affidavit.
“I’m thinking, OK, which one?” Yeretsian said. “I don’t understand it.”
DNA found on a knife sheath police recovered from the crime scene is not “tight enough,” she said, and police have not publicly disclosed a possible motive.
“It’s not one of those 100% things,” she said. “I don’t know how he got there. I don’t know if he ever visited these people. I don’t know if he knows these people.”
Yeretsian said Kohberger’s defense team will likely look at the possibility that there are other suspects who may have wanted to harm one or more of the victims.
“Have they talked to these people?” she asked. “Have they figured out what their alibi is? Have they looked at their cellphone page information? I’m sure the defense will be looking for all of that.”
Bryan Kohberger was detained by Indiana police on December 15, 2022 before being identified as a suspect in the murders of 4 University of Idaho students. (Hancock County Police Department)
On the other hand – the police likely have a stockpile of additional evidence that has not been made public. Prosecutors will use it in court against Kohberger — who could face the death penalty if convicted of just one of four counts of first-degree murder. He is also charged with aggravated burglary for allegedly breaking into the home with the intent to kill.
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Even before the order, Moscow police said for more than two months that they would not release any information that could threaten the integrity of their investigation.
“Law enforcement doesn’t want to give everything to the media and the public because they don’t want any person to know all the facts and then claim to be a witness,” Yeretsian said. “But we have a lot of information missing here, and we all know that couldn’t be all.”
More will appear in court.
Kohberger is due back before Judge Marshall on Thursday morning.
Michael Ruiz is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @mikerreports