Update in Bryan Kohberger Case Raises Question About Witnesses

On the same day that accused Idaho murder suspect Bryan Kohberger was indicted by a grand jury, the state issued an order sealing the names of witnesses who have testified in the case.

Kohberger, 28, is accused of fatally stabbing four University of Idaho students—Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20—in the early morning hours of November 13 in an off-campus rental home in Moscow, Idaho.

Charged with one felony count of burglary and four felony counts of murder in the first degree, he is expected to enter his plea at 9 a.m. Monday, Shanon Gray, an attorney for the Goncalves family, confirmed to Newsweek.

According to the motion made Wednesday and signed by prosecuting attorney William Thompson, the Third Judicial Court in the county of Latah has reportedly received numerous complaints from potential or prospective witnesses, as well as families and associates, regarding being harassed both in person and via social media—in addition to threats and what appears to be intimidation.

“Given this, and the broad publicity surrounding these proceedings, the State respectfully submits that releasing the names of the witness who appeared before the grand jury would invite additional harassment, intimidation and possible threats, and undermine not only the integrity of this case, but the parties’ prospective rights to a fair trial with an impartial jury,” the motion states.

The sealing of witnesses was agreed upon by Kohberger’s defense counsel and also approved Wednesday.

Bryan Kohberger sits as his attorney, public defender Anne Taylor, right, speaks during a hearing in Latah County District Court on January 5, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. On Wednesday, a judge approved a motion by prosecutors to seal witnesses who have testified in front of the grand jury.
Ted S. Warren/Getty

FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer called the motion “telling.”

“Who else testified that had such important knowledge that we did not know about?” she tweeted Wednesday.

Coffindaffer told Newsweek via phone that the motion leads her to believe it will be upheld and sustained. She also said the public will never likely know which witnesses appeared before the grand jury, with authorities keeping it a “secret.”

“My only question is, were there other witnesses called that we didn’t anticipate other than law enforcement officers; other than individuals that know about the cellphone data; other than scientists, (or) the two roommates?” she said. “Is that something that they’re concerned about getting out?

“Or is it just merely that they want to keep those witnesses that did testify—even though we would expect that—from being further harassed by media and other individuals?”

Some assumptions of individuals who may have testified and are having their identities protected include the victims’ roommate Dylan Mortensen, who is identified in the affidavit only as D.M and may have encountered the murderer reportedly around 4 a.m. on the night of the killings.

Another individual is Bethany Funke, another roommate who currently resides in Nevada and last month agreed to meet with Kohberger’s attorneys for a sit-down interview. She made the decision following pressure from defense counsel to forcefully testify in the case’s preliminary trial, due to their claiming that she had information “exculpatory to the defendant.”

Other individuals could have been the DoorDash driver, who delivered food to victim Xana Kernodle at about 4 a.m. the same night. The driver was soon identified by law enforcement. A forensic review of Kernodle’s cellphone showed that she was likely awake and used TikTok at approximately 4:12 a.m.

There is also the Uber driver who drove Goncalves and Mogen home that night, Coffindaffer said.

“If any of those people testified, particularly the DoorDash person and other others that, you know, their name and identifying information isn’t well known, I could see the prosecution saying, ‘Listen, we do not want that out there because we don’t want the media on their doorstep. We don’t want prank calls made to them.’

“There is a big camp of people…that are really defending Brian Kohberger. I mean, everything from people that want to marry him, to people who vehemently think he’s innocent, are pointing the fingers at multiple other people. And some of those people, you never know what they’re capable of if they get their hands on the names of these witnesses.”

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