Bryan Kohberger DNA, genetic genealogy testing under fire


DNA found on a Ka-Bar knife sheath found under the body of a murder victim in the Idaho Four case is a “statistical match” to Bryan Kohberger, the man charged in the murders, prosecutors say in a new court filing.

The revelation about the DNA evidence came in a motion for a protective order sought by prosecutors. They do not want to release information regarding Investigative Genetic Genealogy used in the case to Kohberger’s defense.

“The State seeks to protect from disclosure the names and personal information of the hundreds of innocent relatives on the family tree, the names of the publicly available genetic genealogy services used, and certain other information,” prosecutors wrote in the motion.

Kohberger, 28, faces one burglary charge and four counts of first-degree murder in the murders of four University of Idaho students. Roommates found the bodies of Maddie Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin the morning of November 13, 2022. All had been stabbed to death- some as the slept, Moscow Police.

‘Statistical match’

Prosecutors say the DNA on the knife sheath is a “statistical match” to a sample taken from Kohberger’s cheek following his arrest. The probable cause affidavit charging Kohberger with the murders last December said the profile on the sheath belonged to the child of Kohberger’s father. Agents had developed Michael Kohberger’s DNA profile from items taken from his trash.

Prosecutors lay out in the motion how the Idaho State Crime Lab developed a DNA profile from the knife sheath. That sheath, they claim, was found partially underneath the body of Maddie Mogen and comforter. Idaho State Police located the DNA profile on the sheath and determined it was from a single source and male.

Then, Idaho State Police contacted a private lab to develop a DNA profile that is used in genealogy, SNP. This step was taken after police could not locate a match to the profile found in the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS, which contains the profiles of known felons.

According to the motion, the FBI took over the genetic genealogy process after obtaining the SNP profile from the private lab. From there, agents built family trees using publicly available tools and data.

“Much of the information relied on by the FBI was only viewed through the user portal in the publicly available genetic genealogy service(s) and other investigative databases. The FBI did not download or create copies of those records,” the motion states.

Bryan Kohberger, facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of four University of Idaho students last fall, is taken by sheriff's deputies from the Monroe County Courthouse in Stroudsburg, Pa., Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Bryan Kohberger is taken by sheriff’s deputies from the Monroe County Courthouse in Stroudsburg, Pa. Jan. 3, 2023.

‘Look at everything’

Prosecutors claim this process did not generate records and isn’t covered under Idaho Rule 16. That rule governs what material must be turned over to the defense.

“I could see wanting to keep innocent parties out of a public record for a criminal case,” said James Bogen, a criminal defense attorney following the case. “As a defense attorney, you want to be able to look at everything that could be relevant to the evidence in the case.”

Prosecutors write later that they do not want to bar the release of other material related to DNA testing – only information related to genetic genealogy. The defense has requested the information.

Kohberger ‘stood silent’

Meanwhile, defense attorneys and prosecutors are at loggerheads over grand jury materials. The two sides cannot reach an agreement on what the defense should be provided.

Defense attorney Anne Taylor has asked to stay the proceedings over the issue. Kohberger’s trial is scheduled for October 2. Taylor said in a motion that this is causing a delay and that Kohberger “stood silent” at his arraignment on the charges so he could contest the indictment.

A hearing on the grand jury issue is scheduled for next Tuesday, June 27 at 1:30 p.m. PDT.

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Bryan Kohberger DNA, genetic genealogy testing under fire

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