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Families of slain University of Idaho students blast murder trial’s delay

Families of slain University of Idaho students blast murder trial’s delay

Families of the University of Idaho college students killed in an apartment house in November 2022 voiced frustration Friday after a judge this week suggested the highly anticipated murder trial likely won’t begin until 2025.

“We want to start healing, we do, we want to find justice and try to move on from this horrible tragedy so please, please, start making some decisions, get to work and quit playing the delay game,” the families of two of the four victims, Kaylee Goncalves and Xana Kernodle, said in a statement.

Bryan Kohberger, 29, was initially set to be tried in October on four counts of first-degree murder, but waived his right to a speedy trial as his lawyers attempted to have the indictment dismissed.

Legal wrangling between Latah County prosecutors and the defense only hindered a new trial date, as District Judge John C. Judge has had to consider motions, including banning cameras in the courtroom, the disclosure of certain DNA evidence and a request by the defense for a change of venue.

During a hearing on Wednesday, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said he could be ready to present his case in March 2025 for a trial lasting about six weeks.

But Anne Taylor, Kohberger’s lead public defender, suggested she would not be ready until June 2025, given the large number of potential witnesses and voluminous records.

Judge ultimately decided to push back a decision on setting a trial date to first hear arguments in May on a potential change of venue. Kohberger’s defense filed its request for moving the trial based on what it says is “extensive, inflammatory pretrial publicity” in the case.

“I’m trying to be fair and realistic about when we could really be ready for trial and I only want to do it once,” Judge said.

The Goncalves and Kernodle families, however, called the mounting delays “fool’s gold” and said they were meant to “keep the parties from making mistakes.”

“This illusion by everyone involved that they can control what happens is frustrating,” the families said. “A jury will hear the evidence and return a verdict. But we need to get there sooner rather than later.”

Judge in December denied Kohberger’s attempt to have his murder indictment dismissed on claims of lack of sufficient admissible evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and grand jury bias.

The slayings of University of Idaho housemates Goncalves, Kernodle and Madison Mogen, and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, in the early morning of Nov. 13, 2022, stunned the college community of Moscow, sparking weeks of speculation and thousands of tips before culminating in an arrest.

Prosecutors say Kohberger, a doctoral student at Washington State University at the time of the killings, was connected to the scene through male DNA that was left on a knife sheath found facedown on a bed next to the bodies of Mogen and Goncalves.

Genetic genealogy and garbage collected from Kohberger’s family home in Pennsylvania, as well as his cellphone use and surveillance, ties him to the crime scene, authorities have said.

Kohberger has not spoken publicly since his arrest in December 2022. A gag order was issued barring lawyers, police and other officials from making statements in the case.

How Kohberger might have known the victims or why he would have targeted them or the house remains unclear. The murder weapon, believed to be a large fixed-blade knife, has not been recovered, Moscow police have said.

His defense attorneys said they plan to corroborate through expert testimony that Kohberger was not at the home where the murders took place but gave a curious response in an alibi-related court filing in August that “he has long had a habit of going for drives alone. Often he would go for drives at night. He did so late on Nov. 12 and into Nov. 13, 2022.”

Kohberger is being held in Latah County Jail without bond.

Erik Ortiz

Erik Ortiz is a senior reporter for NBC News Digital focusing on racial injustice and social inequality.

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