Surviving roommate in Idaho student slayings won't have to appear at suspect's hearing (2024)

One of two housemates who were in an off-campus residence when four University of Idaho students were slain in November won't have to attend a coming hearing for murder suspect Bryan Kohberger after they asked a judge to reject a subpoena by his defense lawyer.

Instead, Bethany Funke agreed to an interview with Kohberger's counsel in Reno, Nevada, where she is from, according to court documents filed Wednesday in a district court in Washoe County.

Funke's lawyer filed a motion to quash a subpoena that would have required her to appear in court in Latah County, Idaho, in late June and potentially for the duration of a trial against Kohberger, who was arrested in Pennsylvania on Dec. 30, weeks after the Nov. 13 slayings. Kohberger, 28, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and burglary.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for the week of June 26, when prosecutors will begin presenting evidence. Kohberger has yet to enter a plea. A motive also remains unclear; his family said in January that they were cooperating with law enforcement to "promote his presumption of innocence."

An affidavit filed in March by a criminal investigator supporting Kohberger's defense says Funke was in a first-floor bedroom of the apartment house early Nov. 13, the say of the murders.

Funke was "interviewed by police on several occasions. She disclosed things she heard and things she saw," according to the affidavit, signed by Richard Bitonti.

Bitonti wrote that "Bethany Funke has information material to the charges against Mr. Kohberger; portions of information Ms. Funke has is exculpatory to the defendant. Ms. Funke's information is unique to her experiences and cannot be provided by another witness."

Funke's motion to quash the subpoena said the statements in the affidavit are "without support and there is no further information or detail pertaining to the substance of this testimony, its materiality or the alleged exculpatory information of Ms. Funke or why it would be entertained at preliminary hearing."

The motion also said that the subpoena was issued without having first allowed Funke to address her concerns and that there is "no authority for an Idaho criminal defendant to summon a Nevada witness to Idaho for preliminary hearing." Even if she is aware of evidence that could help clear Kohberger's name, it is an issue that should be presented at trial, not at a preliminary hearing Funke must attend, the filing said.

The Reno law firm of Kelli Anne Viloria, who is representing Funke, has declined to comment.

Neither the public defender's office in Washoe County nor Kohberger's public defender in Idaho, Anne Taylor, could be reached for comment.

Funke and the other surviving roommate, Dylan Mortensen, have not spoken publicly about the case, although they have honored their slain friends in letters read at a church vigil in December.

Funke and Mortensen shared their apartment house with Maddie Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20, who were stabbed to death along with Kernodle's boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20. Chapin had been staying at the home overnight.

Investigators said they traced male DNA that was on a knife sheath left at the crime scene to Kohberger, who was then a doctoral student at Washington State University, less than 10 miles from the University of Idaho. Other evidence included security video from the area where a white Hyundai Elantra was spotted that investigators said was driven by Kohberger, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Authorities have not said whether Kohberger knew the victims or why he would have targeted them or the house. The murder weapon, believed to be a large fixed-blade knife, has not been recovered, police in Moscow have said.

Initial reports from investigators said Funke and Mortensen were asleep during the stabbings, which police believe occurred between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m. One of the surviving roommates' cellphones was used to call 911 several hours later.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Mortensen provided police with the most detailed eyewitness account before the slayings. She said that she saw a figure clad in black clothing and a mask and that she stood in a "frozen shock phase" when she noticed the person walking toward a back sliding glass door. She then "locked herself in her room after seeing the male."

The affidavit does not make it clear whether she said she made eye contact with the figure.

Further details remain publicly unavailable after Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall issued a gag order in January barring lawyers, police and other officials from making statements.

Erik Ortiz

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

Surviving roommate in Idaho student slayings won't have to appear at suspect's hearing (2024)


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