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Bryan Kohberger’s legal team says prosecution is withholding key evidence in Idaho murders case

Bryan Kohberger is facing four counts of murder and a felony burglary charge after the quadruple slaying on Nov. 13, 2022. A trial date has still not been set.
/ Source: TODAY

Attorneys for Bryan Kohberger, the man suspected of fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students in 2022, argued in front of a judge on May 2 that prosecutors were withholding key evidence.

Kohberger's legal team alleged prosecutors weren't handing over key pieces of evidence in discovery, including parts of a video that allegedly shows a vehicle matching Kohberger's car at the scene of the murders.

"The court should ask itself what is the state trying to hide here?" Anne Taylor, Kohberger's public defender, asked in court Thursday.

Image: Bryan Kohberger
Bryan Kohberger during a hearing at the Latah County Courthouse in Moscow, Idaho, in June 2023.August Frank / Lewiston Tribune via AP

In court, prosecutors denied they were keeping the materials from the defense.

"The characterization that we are just consciously withholding information to frustrate the defense is utter nonsense... I can tell you many of the things that the defense — the defendant has tried to itemize when we talk to our people who say that doesn’t exist," prosecutor Bill Thompson said.

Kohberger's attorneys asked for an upcoming hearing to discuss the surveillance video and other discovery materials to be open to the public, though Latah County Judge John C. Judge ruled with the prosecution to keep the May 14 hearing private.

About a year and a half since Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were found stabbed to death in their off-campus Moscow, Idaho home on the morning of Nov. 13, 2022, no trial date has been set, leading to frustration from the Goncalves family.

"This banter has been going on for 17 months. Then once you get a hearing, you have a hearing about the decision that was made at that hearing before the last hearing and there needs to be another hearing," the Goncalves family said in a statement on May 2. "This case is turning into a hamster wheel of motions, hearings, and delayed decisions. Not every motion needs a hearing."

More than six weeks after the slayings, police arrested Kohberger, then 28, in Pennsylvania. Kohberger was charged with four counts of murder and one count of felony burglary, and a judge entered a not guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf to the charges in May 2023.

The case has been stalled in pre-trial motions attempting to determine the trial's location and what evidence can be included, and no trial date has been set.

The Goncalves family said in February they were frustrated by the delays.

“We just want to know about the evidence,” Steve Goncalves said on TODAY. “There’s just a lot of unknowns. How long do you have to wait before you can find out about your own child’s life and what happened, who did this, and how do you hold them accountable?”

Here's what to know about the Kohberger case.

Judge rules juror survey can continue

Judge ruled in April that the defense could continue surveying potential jurors in Latah County, Idaho, as part of an effort to change the venue of the trial.

Latah County Judge John C. Judge initially ordered for the defense to stop contacting local residents about the trial, but reversed course on April 22, ruling that Kohberger’s attorneys “may continue its surveys without modification to the survey questions,” according to court documents obtained by NBC News.

At hearings earlier this month, prosecutors objected against the survey, which included questions about the trial.

Prosecutors argued some of the questions violated the judge’s gag order in the case, and accused a defense expert of intentionally tainting potential jurors.

Kohberger’s team has pushed for a change of venue, arguing that an impartial jury cannot be found in Latah County due to its small size and the enormous publicity the case has received.

NBC News analyst Danny Cevallos said on April 23 a change of venue is difficult to obtain.

“But if this survey really tends to show that Latah county potential jurors are just so completely biased against the defendant, then they may have a chance of moving it,” Cevallos said on TODAY.

Goncalves' family expressed their frustration with the way the case was being handled in an April 23 statement to NBC News.

“The survey is a ruse being used by the defense in an attempt to keep the trial out of Latah County,” the Goncalves family said. “We pray the trial stays with the citizens of Latah County and justice is served.”

Kohberger’s defense: He has a ‘habit of going for drives alone’

Attorneys for Kohberger submitted an alibi to the court on April 17 saying he was “out driving alone” on the night of the slayings, according to court documents.

According to Idaho state law, defendants using an alibi must give the state notice of the details of the alibi, and a judge set an April 17 deadline for Kohberger’s attorneys.

“Mr. Kohberger was out driving in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022; as he often did to hike and run and/or see the moon and the stars,” Kohberger’s attorneys wrote in the filing obtained by NBC News.

Kohberger’s attorneys wrote in the filing they will offer expert testimony to cast doubt on prosecutors’ evidence placing Kohberger near the scene of the crime, including cell phone data. No witnesses were listed in the filing.

Judge previously appeared skeptical of Kohberger’s alibi when his defense attorney first raised it last year.

“The so-called alibi, not really an alibi,” Judge said during a hearing in August 2023. “You’re suggesting there might be some witnesses ... then, cough them up.”

In court documents filed Aug. 2, 2023, Kohberger’s Idaho defense attorneys gave an outline of his defense and alibi.

“Mr. Kohberger has long had a habit of going for drives alone,” his attorney Anne Taylor wrote in the filing. “Often he would go for drives at night. He did so late on November 12 and into November 13, 2022.”

Corroborating evidence that Kohberger was not at the scene of the crime will come from cross-examination of the state’s witnesses and presentation of defense experts at the trial, his attorney said.

“Mr. Kohberger is not claiming to be at a specific location at a specific time; at this time there is not a specific witness to say precisely where Mr. Kohberger was at each moment of the hours between late night November 12, 2022, and early morning November 13, 2022. He was out, driving during the late night and early morning hours of November 12-13, 2022,” Taylor wrote.

Taylor added: “At this time, Mr. Kohberger cannot be more specific about the possible witnesses and exactly what they will say.”

When is Bryan Kohberger’s trial?

Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial in late August, delaying the trial originally scheduled for Oct. 2, 2023. This means it will be some time before the case sees the courtroom.

Pretrial hearings scheduled for Sept. 22, 2023, were also postponed until Oct. 26 because of an unspecified illness, further delaying proceedings.

The state of Idaho also asked the court to prohibit cameras in the courtroom ahead of the trial, which was opposed by a coalition of journalists, including NBC News. A judge declined the state’s request on Oct. 26, 2023.

Another outstanding issue is the investigators’ use of investigative genetic genealogy (or IGG) to track down Kohberger ahead of his arrest. IGG is a newer practice that includes the use of genetic information from DNA databases available to the public, such as Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

The prosecution has argued that they’re not using the IGG portion of their investigation as part of their current case against Kohberger. On the other hand, the defense has argued that anything in this case is relevant.

In January 2024, the mother of Kaylee Goncalves spoke to NBC News correspondent Liz Kreutz on TODAY about the anxiety surrounding the long wait for a trial date to be set.

“We know if they don’t push for this summer, we’re looking at a year, over a year, and that’s mind-boggling,” Kristi Goncalves said. “It’s sickening.”

At a hearing on Feb. 28, Judge John Judge said he wanted to hear the arguments on a potential change of venue before ruling on a trial date.

After Judge and the defense team speculated about March 3, 2025, Judge noted, “I am not really happy about ... setting the trial in 2025. It seems so far away.”

Judge added at the Feb. 28 hearing that he was “not persuaded” that the trial needed to move to a different location.

The hearing on a change of venue is scheduled for May 14, 2024.

There is still no date on the calendar for a trial.

Who is Bryan Kohberger?

Kohberger leaves after an extradition hearing in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 3, 2023.
Kohberger leaves after an extradition hearing in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 3, 2023.Matt Rourke / AP

Kohberger is suspected in the deaths of Chapin, 20, Mogen, 21, Kernodle, 20, and Goncalves, 21 — four University of Idaho students who were killed in a home near campus Nov. 13, 2022.

Police and the local Latah County coroner believe the students were killed inside the house as they slept, though some had defensive wounds. The three women were roommates in the house, while Chapin was Kernodle’s boyfriend who was spending the night, authorities said.

Two other roommates who were unharmed later discovered the bodies and called 911 the next morning, police added.

Following Kohberger's arrest at his parents' home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, he was extradited to Idaho to face charges of four counts of first-degree murder and one felony burglary charge, authorities said.

At a hearing in May, Kohberger stood silent in court and a judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf on all of the charges.

Kohberger was a Ph.D. student at Washington State University, just across the state line in Pullman, Washington, in the criminal justice department, university officials confirmed in a statement Dec. 30, 2022.

They added that WSU Police Department had helped Idaho law enforcement officials search both Kohberger’s apartment and office on the WSU campus on the morning of Dec. 30, 2022.

At a Dec. 30, 2022, press conference, police confirmed that Kohberger maintained an apartment residence in Pullman as a student but is originally from Pennsylvania.

On Jan. 3, 2023, WSU officials told NBC News in an email that Kohberger is “no longer enrolled as a student at Washington State University” after finishing just one semester.

Kohberger did his undergraduate and master’s degree at Desales University, a private catholic university in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. He got his bachelor’s degree in 2020 and finished his graduate studies in June 2022, the school confirmed in a statement. He got his master’s degree in criminal justice, according to the school’s commencement announcement at the time.

After news of Kohberger’s arrest, internet denizens found a Reddit post where Kohberger apparently had asked volunteers for a graduate research project to “understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision making while committing a crime.”

DeSales University confirmed the email address listed on the post had belonged to Kohberger when he was a student there.

During hearings, a judge has allowed Kohberger to wear a suit and tie instead of jail clothing. On TODAY in January, one former county prosecutor in Idaho called the judge's decision “highly unusual."

“It’s not fun to see this person be able to sit with a nice, tidy haircut, nice clean shave, a suit,” Kristi Goncalves, the mother of Kaylee Goncalves, said.

Knife sheath, cell phone records and a white Hyundai Elantra

A probable cause affidavit, which detailed the evidence used to charge and arrest Kohberger, was unsealed on Jan. 5. In the affidavit, authorities laid out evidence linking Kohberger to the crime, including DNA samples, cell phone records and the movements of a white Hyundai Elantra.

According to the affidavit, a tan leather knife sheath with "Ka-Bar" and "USMC," along with U.S. Marine Corps insignia stamped on it, was located on a bed in the home next to Mogen’s body while processing the crime scene on Nov. 13, 2022.

Investigators were able to locate a "single source of male DNA" left on the button snap of the knife sheath, according to the affidavit.

Police recovered trash on Dec. 27, 2022, from Kohberger’s parents’ home, and the DNA from the knife sheath showed a connection to the DNA profile obtained from the trash, the affidavit stated.

The four victims in the University of Idaho slayings
The four victims in the University of Idaho slayingsTODAY/NewsConnect

Police said during a press conference Dec. 30, 2022, that the weapon used in the attack — believed to be a fixed-blade knife — has still not been located.

Investigators applied for search warrants for Kohberger's cell phone records, according to the affidavit, and the records showed Kohberger's phone traveling through Pullman, Washington, around 2:47 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2022.

The phone stopped reporting to the cellular network shortly after, and investigators wrote in the affidavit they believe Kohberger either disabled the phone or turned it off.

The phone didn't report to the network again until 4:48 a.m., according to the affidavit, which showed the phone heading from Idaho toward Washington.

Police in Moscow had previously announced that they have been searching for a white Hyundai Elantra as a possible piece of evidence.

After the Moscow Police Department asked law enforcement to be on the lookout for the white Hyundai Elantra on Nov. 25, 2022, a WSU officer searched the school database and found Kohberger’s registration to a student apartment complex in Pullman on Nov. 29 at 12:28 a.m.

Less than 30 minutes later, another WSU officer found Kohberger’s car in the parking lot of the building while searching for white Hyundai Elantras.

Law enforcement sought out any footage from the area the morning of the killings, and according to the court documents, police found footage of what they believe to be a white Hyundai Elantra involved in the slayings the morning of the incident at 3:25 a.m.

The vehicle passed by the victims' residence three times, starting at 3:29 a.m., according to the affidavit. The fourth time the car passed by the home was at 4:04 a.m., and it was then seen leaving the neighborhood at a high rate of speed at 4:20 a.m.

WSU cameras picked up the sedan departing Pullman the morning of the killings around 2:44 a.m. and heading east toward Moscow and returning about 5:25 a.m., according to the affidavit.

The two surviving roommates

The affidavit also revealed new details from interviews with the roommates who were home during the attack and survived. Both roommates spoke with investigators, according to the affidavit, and one said she came almost face-to-face with the suspect.

The roommate — Dylan Mortensen, who is identified in court documents as D.M. — said she first woke up around 4 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2022, when she heard what she thought was Goncalves playing with her dog.

"A short time later, D.M. said she heard who she thought was Goncalves say something to the effect of 'there’s someone here,'" the affidavit said.

She opened her door multiple times after hearing crying and a male voice, according to the affidavit, and after opening it for the third time, she saw a man wearing a mask that covered his nose and mouth, around 5 feet 10 inches and "not very muscular, but athletically built with bushy eyebrows," the court documents said.

Mortensen said the man walked past her toward a sliding glass door as she stood in a "frozen shock phase." After seeing the person, whom she did not recognize, she locked herself inside her room, she told authorities.

Public defender said Kohberger is ‘calm,’ believes he’ll be exonerated

In an interview with TODAY on Jan. 3, 2023, Jason LaBar, the chief public defender of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, said his client has been "calm" and easy to speak to during the four times he has visited Kohberger.

“He said this is not him,” LaBar told TODAY. “He believes he’s going to be exonerated. That’s what he believes, those were his words.”

LaBar represented Kohberger in the extradition, but not in his murder case.

Kohberger's family was "obviously shocked" when he was arrested, his lawyer said on TODAY.

"They don’t believe it to be Bryan. They can’t believe this," LaBar said.

He said that Kohberger's father had helped him drive across the U.S. from WSU back to Pennsylvania and hadn't noticed anything unusual about his son's behavior.

“Everything was ordinary, and he saw nothing unusual about it,” LaBar told NBC News.

In a statement sent to media outlets on Jan. 1, 2023, Kohberger's family expressed their condolences to the four families who lost their children in the incident.

"There are no words that can adequately express the sadness we feel, and we pray each day for them. We will continue to let the legal process unfold and as a family we will love and support our son and brother," the statement said. "We have fully cooperated with law enforcement agencies in an attempt to seek the truth and promote his presumption of innocence rather than judge unknown facts and make erroneous assumptions. We respect privacy in this matter as our family and the families suffering loss can move forward through the legal process."

What happened to the house on King Road?

Soon after Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial, the prosecution and investigators asked the University of Idaho for access to the home on King Road. The FBI visited for several days this fall, getting documentation "to construct visual and audio exhibits and a physical model of the home," according to an Oct. 31, 2023, release from the university.

Plywood covering the windows and doors were removed for the process and then re-covered, the release also said.

The house was demolished at the end of December 2023, leading to mixed reactions from the community.

EDITOR’S NOTE (Jan. 3, 2023 at 11:20 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story said Moscow PD announced at a press conference on Dec. 30 that Kohberger had been arrested "the night before." Police later clarified that Kohberger was arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 30.