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Bryan Kohberger’s parents subpoenaed in probe into disappearance and death of Pennsylvania woman

The parents of Idaho student murders suspect Bryan Kohberger have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the family’s home state of Pennsylvania in the case of a woman found dead one year after her sudden disappearance, it has been revealed.

Mr Kohberger’s father is expected to testify before the grand jury in a sealed proceeding in Monroe County on Thursday, a source told CNN.

His mother has already given evidence to the grand jury, the source told the news outlet and added that their testimony, which will be given under oath, may be shared with Idaho prosecutors.

The investigation is said to be about the disappearance and death of a 45-year-old woman Dana Smithers, reported Eyewitness News.

Smithers vanished without a trace back in May 2022 when she left a friend’s house in Monroe County – the same Pennsylvania county where Mr Kohberger lived at the time before he moved to Washington state that summer to pursue a graduate program in criminal justice.

For over a year, the mother-of-three’s family desperately searched for answers.

Last month – on 27 April – her remains were found in a wooded area in Stroudsburg.

Her cause of death is not yet known and her remains had to be identified using dental records.

Despite the bombshell development, Mr Kohberger has a solid alibi for Smither’s disappearance and is likely not connected, a source told Eyewitness News.

The grand jury investigation is still ongoing.

It is not clear what the Mr Kohberger’s parents Michael and Maryann Kohberger are being asked in connection to the case.

However, it comes following a report that one of the accused killer’s older sisters grew increasingly suspicious that her brother could have been involved in the Idaho murders prior to his arrest.

Bryan Kohberger appears in court for his arraignment (Reuters)
Bryan Kohberger appears in court for his arraignment (Reuters)

Her suspicions were so great that – at one point – several family members searched Mr Kohberger’s white Hyundai Elantra for possible evidence of the crime when the family gathered to spend the holidays together back in Pennsylvania, sources told NBC’s Dateline.

In the Smithers’ case, a lawyer for Mr Kohberger’s parents tried unsuccessfully to have the subpoenas cancelled, the source told CNN.

Pennsylvania judges will then be permitted to share transcripts of the grand jury witness testimony with law enforcement agencies across the country in Idaho.

Mr Kohberger is accused of brutally killing Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, on 13 November in a horror attack that rocked the college town of Moscow and sent shockwaves across America.

The 28-year-old criminology PhD student appeared in Latah County Court on Monday morning where he refused to enter a plea on four charges of first-degree murder and one charge of burglary.

Shackled and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, the accused killer showed no emotion as the judge read out the charges and the names of the four victims who he is accused of violently killing.

Mr Kohberger spoke only to answer defiantly and loudly “yes” and “yes I do” when asked if he understood the charges, maximum penalties and his rights in the court.

Dana Smithers was found dead last month (Stacey Smithers)
Dana Smithers was found dead last month (Stacey Smithers)

His attorney Anne Taylor told the court that he was “standing silent” on the charges, leaving the judge to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Judge John Judge set Mr Kohberger’s trial date for 2 October 2023 and the prosecution now has 60 days to confirm whether or not they are seeking the death penalty.

Mr Kohberger had been due to appear in court for a week-long preliminary hearing on 26 June, where the prosecution would lay out the case and evidence against the suspect.

However, last week, a grand jury indicted Mr Kohberger on the charges, paving the way for the case to proceed to trial without that hearing.

Mr Kohberger is accused of breaking into an off-campus student home on King Road in the early hours of 13 November and stabbing the four students to death with a large, military-style knife.

Two other female roommates lived with the three women at the property and were home at the time of the massacre but survived.

One of the survivors – Dylan Mortensen – came face to face with the masked killer, dressed in head-to-toe black and with bushy eyebrows, as he left the home in the aftermath of the murders, according to the criminal affidavit.

For more than six weeks, the college town of Moscow was plunged into fear as the accused killer remained at large with no arrests made and no suspects named.

Then, on 30 December, law enforcement suddenly swooped on Mr Kohberger’s family home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania and arrested him for the quadruple murders.

The motive remains unknown and it is still unclear what connection the WSU PhD student had to the University of Idaho students – if any – prior to the murders.

However, the affidavit, released in January, revealed that Mr Kohberger’s DNA was found on a knife sheath left behind at the scene of the murders.

It also revealed that his white Hyundai Elantra was caught on surveillance footage close to the crime scene.

New details have emerged since about what was found during an initial search of his apartment in Pullman and a rental storage unit.

The court documents show that two items found in his apartment – a mattress cover on the bed and an uncased pillow – tested positive for blood.

The documents do not reveal who the blood belongs to.

Investigators also seized a string of other items from his home including possible human and animal hair strands, a disposable glove and a computer.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died (Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)
Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died (Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)

Meanwhile, the murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – has still never been found.

As a criminal justice PhD student at WSU, Mr Kohberger lived just 15 minutes from the victims over the Idaho-Washington border in Pullman.

He had moved there from Pennsylvania and began his studies there that summer, having just completed his first semester before his arrest.

Before this, he studied criminology at DeSales University – first as an undergraduate and then finishing his graduate studies in June 2022.

While there, he studied under renowned forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland who interviewed the BTK serial killer and co-wrote the book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer with him.

He also carried out a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.

He is facing life in prison or the death penalty for the murders that have rocked the small college town of Moscow and hit headlines around the globe.