Kohberger, 28, a former Ph.D. candidate in criminology at Washington State University, is accused of driving from Pullman, Washington to Moscow, Idaho in the early hours of November 13 and fatally stabbing Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20.
According to a probable cause document, authorities detained Kohberger on December 30 at his family’s house in Pennsylvania after correlating DNA collected from garbage dumped at the property to DNA discovered on a knife sheath found at the location of the deaths.
He is charged with four charges of first-degree murder as well as one count of criminal burglary.
He has not filed a plea, but his counsel earlier stated that Kohberger was “ready to be exonerated.”
A preliminary hearing slated on June 26 will almost certainly be the first time the prosecution’s case is presented in court.
However, investigators have stated that they have not yet discovered the murder weapon.
Newsweek questioned numerous experts on how significant they believe that will be in Kohberger’s case.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice adjunct professor Joseph Giacalone
“The murder weapon would be good to have, but it’s not required,” said Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant.
“The most relevant evidence, in my opinion, was what they discovered in his apartment and car. We know that they retrieved human and animal hair.
If they return to the victims and/or the dog, the prosecution will have hit a home run. I don’t care if they never discover the knife if they have that.”
Levin & Associates’ managing partner, Duncan Levin
“The firearm would surely strengthen the prosecution’s case, but there is so much evidence already in this case that it is unlikely to matter,” said former federal prosecutor Levin.
According to Levin, the knife sheath “is part of the murder weapon and carries what prosecutors believe is a DNA match with Kohberger.”
That’s “far better crime scene evidence than investigators are generally able to obtain,” he says. “With the overwhelming forensic, mobile phone, and video evidence, the missing knife is unlikely to have an impact.”
A former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney Michael McAuliffe
“Having additional tangible evidence, like a murder weapon, can assist show how and when a homicide occurred,” McAuliffe explained.
“If the weapon can be linked to a culprit, that contributes significantly to the government’s case. Even if it does not, it can prove that the death was the result of a homicide “He stated.
Jacksonville State University in Alabama’s Joseph Scott Morgan
“The lack of the knife, in my judgment, will NOT make or break the case,” Morgan, a respected scholar of applied forensics at Jacksonville State University, stated.
“There are no ‘ballistic matches’ with edged weapons, unlike firearms. Having said that, a forensic pathologist might analyze the knife and determine that it is within a reasonable scientific certainty that a knife like the K-BAR caused these injuries “He stated.
If the weapon is discovered, DNA from a victim “would be crucial,” he says.
Morgan stated that there is a possibility that metal shards from a murder weapon were left in the victims’ corpses.
“There’s a chance the knife may have [left] trace particles of metal pieces within the wound tracks,” he stated. ‘If those bits could be retrieved and metallurgical tested, they might be compared to the chemical makeup of K-BAR blades.”
West Coast Trial Lawyers’ president and co-founder, Neama Rahmani
“If law enforcement can discover the murder weapon, it will be useful, but it is not a deal breaker,” former federal prosecutor Rahmani said.
“They’re most likely hunting for it in bodies of water along Kohberger’s route back to Washington following the murders.”
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According to him, the knife sheath is “good evidence,” but Kohberger’s defence team “will argue that it’s only a single source of DNA and that it was either transferred or planted.”
Rahmani went on to say “More DNA would be expected in a bloody murder scene. And because the residence was allegedly a “party house,” there is likely to be a lot of DNA from other persons that the defence will raise.”