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Forensic Magzine, January 4, 2023: Will the University of Idaho Murders be a Turning Point for Genetic Genealogy?

On Tuesday, Bryan Kohberger, the only suspect in the slayings of four University of Idaho students in November, agreed to be extradited from Pennsylvania, where he was arrested last week, to face charges in Idaho.

Investigators have said they are still looking for a murder weapon and a motive for the killings. More details about the case are expected to be released after Kohberger arrives in Idaho and an affidavit is unsealed, despite the issuance of a “gag order” by an Idaho magistrate judge late Tuesday evening.

Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall’s non-dissemination order prohibits those involved in the case from speaking about anything “reasonably likely to interfere with a fair trial of this case.” This includes details about evidence, the existence of any confessions or other statements given by the defendant, or the merits of the case.

The gag order will last until a verdict is given or is modified by the court. The paper documents filed in the criminal case are still expected to be open to the public once Kohberger arrives in Idaho, however, according to the Associated Press. 

Those documents may shed a lot of light on the case as very little has been revealed in the seven weeks since the murders took place—a fact the University of Idaho community and the general public have been unhappy with.

What we do know is DNA evidence played a key role in identifying Kohberger as a suspect. An anonymous law enforcement official confirmed to the Associated Press last week that investigators were able to match his DNA to genetic material recovered during the investigation.

Interestingly, CNN has reported that a credible source with knowledge of the case said it was genetic genealogy that was used to connect Kohberger to the still-unidentified DNA evidence. The DNA obtained from the crime scene was run through a public database to find potential family member matches, and subsequent investigative work by law enforcement led to Kohberger as the one and only suspect, the source told CNN said a few days ago. more

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