Attorneys for Bryan Kohberger file alibi defense in Idaho student homicide case

Attorneys for Bryan Kohberger met the Wednesday deadline to file their client’s alibi defense in the murder case against him in the deaths of four University of Idaho students in November 2022.

In a 10-page filing near the end of the day, Kohberger’s attorneys added extra details about where their client said he was at the time of the early morning knife attack at an off-campus house in Moscow.

“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 stars,” the alibi defense filing reads. “He drove throughout the area south of Pullman, Washington, west of Moscow, Idaho, including Wawawai (County) Park.”

Kohberger moved to Pullman in June 2022 to attend graduate school at Washington State University, according to the filing. In July, after “he explored many areas of the Palouse” as an avid runner and hiker, the park on Wawawai Road nestled 18 miles southwest of Pullman in Colton, Washington, “became a favorite location.”

Kohberger’s running and hiking decreased on account of his busy class and work schedule once the fall semester started, according to the document signed by Anne Taylor, Kohberger’s lead public defender. But his nighttime drives increased, she added.

Data from Kohberger’s cellphone, including photographs of the night sky taken on several different late evenings and early mornings — including in November — backs his alibi, Wednesday’s filing said.

“This is supported by data from Mr. Kohberger’s phone showing him in the countryside late at night and/or in the early morning on several occasions,” Taylor wrote.

In addition, Kohberger’s cellphone data will show that he did not travel east on Washington Route 270, otherwise known as the Moscow-Pullman highway, in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, the filing said. Therefore, the white sedan police allege was captured on video on the state highway near the corner of Airport Road at the Washington-Idaho state line could not have been Kohberger’s 2015 Hyundai Elantra, the defense argued.

Kohberger, 29, is accused of fatally stabbing the four U of I students between 4 and 4:25 a.m. at a King Road house in Moscow — a three-story structure demolished late last year. The victims were seniors Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21, and junior Xana Kernodle and freshman Ethan Chapin, both 20.

At the time, Kohberger was a graduate student of criminal justice and criminology at WSU in Pullman, about 9 miles west of Moscow over the state line. Police allege that he made at least 14 visits to the cell tower coverage area of the King Road house — including twice on the day of the four students’ deaths — according to the probable cause affidavit for Kohberger’s arrest.

After a nearly seven-week manhunt, Kohberger was taken into custody in eastern Pennsylvania at his parents’ home while visiting them during winter break from school. A Latah County grand jury unanimously indicted him in May 2023 on four counts of first-degree murder and a felony burglary charge.

Defense plans to call cellphone data expert to testify

Wednesday’s court filing provided additional information surrounding Kohberger’s alibi defense submitted by his attorneys last year. In an August court filing, the defense said that Kohberger was out on an overnight drive by himself, as had long been his habit, the morning of the students’ deaths.

That prior alibi filing came after prosecutors demanded that Kohberger’s attorneys issue the defense a month earlier. In their initial response, the defense team said it was still “investigating and preparing his case.”

Wednesday’s filing said the defense plans to call an Arizona-based cell tower data expert named Sy Ray to testify and partially corroborate their client’s alibi. The defense continues to wait on the state for unspecified evidence through the legal process known as discovery to offer greater basis for the alibi, Taylor wrote.

“If not disclosed, Mr. Ray’s testimony will also reveal that critical exculpatory evidence, further corroborating Mr. Kohberger’s alibi, was either not preserved or has been withheld,” Taylor’s filing said.

A date has not been set for Kohberger’s capital murder trial. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if he is convicted by a jury.