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Bryan Kohberger alibi: Defense’s stargazing claim is attempt ‘to muddy the water,’ expert says

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Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohberger’s defense will have to prove that stargazing was a “regular habit” for the suspect accused of killing four college students in November 2022.

Defense attorneys for Kohberger, 29, said in recent court filings that the murder suspect was out stargazing that morning when Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, were stabbed to death in their home just a street away from the University of Idaho campus in Moscow on Nov. 13, 2022.

“Mr. Kohberger was out driving in the early morning hours of November 13, 2022; as he often did to hike and run and/or see the moon and stars,” his lawyers said in court documents filed that outline his alibi. “He drove throughout the area south of Pullman, Washington, west of Moscow, Idaho including Wawawai Park.”

Legal experts say Kohberger’s attorneys will now have to prove that’s what their client was doing on the morning of the murders.

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Bryan Kohberger’s attorneys say he had been stargazing in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022, when four University of Idaho students were murdered in their off-campus home. (August Frank-Pool/Getty Images)

“Kohberger’s defense team is submitting this alibi defense now so that they do not waive the right to raise the defense later. As alibis go, this is a very weak one,” Brian C. Stewart, an Idaho-based litigation attorney who also represents Gabby Petito’s family, told Fox News Digital. “It clearly seems to be created to conform to known evidence that cell tower data shows that he was out driving in the area at the time of the murders while attempting to muddy the waters about why he was out there alone.”

“As alibis go, this is a very weak one.”

— Attorney Brian C. Stewart

In a January 2023 arrest affidavit, prosecutors alleged that Kohberger’s phone pinged at the scene of the quadruple homicide on King Road just hours after the murders of four college students took place in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022, and at least 12 times prior to the slayings.

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A mugshot of Bryan Kohberger

Bryan Kohberger was charged with four counts of alleged first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary in Latah County, Idaho. (Latah County Sheriff’s Office)

Investigators determined that the phone registered to Kohberger, a former criminology Ph.D. student at Washington State University in nearby Pullman, pinged at the crime scene around 9 a.m. that same day. Additionally, prosecutors said his phone was turned off between 2:47 a.m. and 4:48 a.m. on Nov. 13, around the same time the murders allegedly took place.

All of his prior visits, except for one, were in the late evening or early morning, according to the affidavit. Investigators tied the same phone that pinged near the crime scene to a phone “leaving the area of the Kohberger Residence at approximately [9] a.m. and traveling to Moscow, ID,” on Nov. 13, the affidavit states. “Specifically, the 8458 Phone utilized cellular resources that would provide coverage to the King Road Residence between 9:12 a.m. and 9:21 a.m.”

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Work crews are parked outside of 1122 King Road

Work crews are parked outside of 1122 King Road in Moscow, Idaho on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. The property was slated for demolition after the landlord donated it to the University of Idaho following the Nov. 13, 2022 murders of students Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, inside the home. (Derek Shook for Fox News Digital)

Stewart said Kohberger’s “uncorroborated alibi isn’t unusual, but it doesn’t prove anything, either.”

“The defense’s intent is to try to create some sort of reasonable doubt. However, Kohberger’s explanation that he happened to be out driving and looking at the moon and stars alone in the middle of the night just isn’t a story that is likely to pass the smell test for reasonable jurors,” the attorney said. “It’s not credible, because it won’t make sense to most people.”

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David Moorhead, a Colorado-based criminal defense attorney for the Moorhead Law Group, told Fox News Digital that “[w]hile late-night stargazing drives aren’t inherently unusual, the defense needs to prove this was a regular habit for Kohberger.”

Bryan Kohberger's WSU portrait next to his victims

Bryan Kohberger and his alleged victims, clockwise from top left, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee Goncalves. (WSU/Instagram)

“Phone data, past social media posts, or even witness accounts of similar outings would significantly strengthen his alibi. However, the prosecution will likely challenge this by looking for inconsistencies or arguing he could have still committed the crime within the timeframe of his drive,” Moorhead said.

Roger V. Archibald, a New York-based criminal defense lawyer, similarly told Fox News Digital that “[a] strong alibi is commonly seen as one involving testimony of a credible disinterested witness with time stamped documentation such as video footage, photos or phone or GPS records that place the defendant away from the crime scene.”

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“However, most non-offenders are not able to provide credible alibis of this nature, as they may have been alone or in an undocumented space during the time of the crime,” he added. “So although Kohberger’s alibi sounds unusually weak, and would be considered such in a court of law, it is not unusual when considered within the context of his daily life.”

A photo illustration of the crime scene

A split photo showing the crime scene and the victims, including University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21. (Angela Palermo/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images/Instagram/ @kayleegoncalves)

In a statement posted to Facebook, Kaylee Goncalves’ family said they have “been waiting on this [alibi] information for months and it has finally arrived.”

“Now that it is here we feel even more confident in the prosecution of the Defendant. The Defense’s claim is that the Defendant was driving late at night hiking/running and stargazing. We are not sure why it has taken over a year for this to come out as those don’t seem to be complicated activities,” the family said. “We believe that if this alibi had any weight it would have been submitted months ago. It is also in direct conflict with the Probable Cause affidavit that states that the Defendant’s phone was turned off between 2:47am and 4:48am.

“We believe that if this alibi had any weight it would have been submitted months ago. “

— Goncalves family

“So if the Defendant was driving around and there is cell phone information that he was in a different place it would be either before or after the times of the murders. Hence not really an alibi. We continue to look forward to justice in this case and can now put this part of the proceeding behind us. Thank you for all your support for our family!”

Kaylee Goncalves smiling in a white sweater.

Kaylee Goncalves, one of four University of Idaho students found murdered in a home near campus. (Facebook)

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The family went on to say that Kohberger’s claims are “not really an alibi” because of conflicting data about when Kohberger’s cellphone was turned on and his location. 

Kohberger

Bryan Kohberger, right, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, sits with Anne Taylor, left, one of his attorneys, during a hearing in Latah County District Court, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Moscow, Idaho. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)

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Authorities arrested Kohberger at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania in December 2022, about a month after the murders. He is charged with four counts of murder and burglary.

His trial was initially scheduled for October 2024 but was pushed back and is now expected to take place no later than the summer of 2025. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.


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