Families of 2 University of Idaho stabbing victims file legal claims against city, police, schools
Published in News & Features
BOISE, Idaho — The families of two victims of Moscow’s quadruple homicide have filed notices reserving the right to sue four government entities surrounding the crime.
Bryan Kohberger, 28, a Pennsylvania native who was studying criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University, was arrested in December and indicted this month on four first-degree murder charges, facing allegations that he stabbed four University of Idaho students to death in a Moscow home.
The attack took the lives of seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington.
The families of Mogen and Goncalves filed tort claims that will preserve their rights to sue the government entities related to the deaths of their children. The Idaho Statesman obtained records showing tort claims were filed with the city of Moscow, the University of Idaho and Idaho State Police.
ABC News reported that Washington State University also was sent a claim. WSU hasn’t responded to a records request from the Statesman.
Not all tort claims become lawsuits. A tort claim is a “legal filing in response to one party breaching the duty of care owed to another person” or “intentionally wronging another person,” according to personal injury attorney Michael Waks. The majority of tort claims are settled out of court, but some can become lawsuits, Waks said on his website.
“Filing a tort claims notice is really just a safeguard,” Shanon Gray, an attorney representing the Goncalves and Mogen families, told ABC News. “It’s a safeguard to protect the interests of the families, the victims and really the whole community around, because if something goes wrong, or was done improperly, then someone is held accountable for that.”
Gray declined to comment on the filings to the Statesman.
It’s unclear how much compensation the victims’ families are seeking. The city’s notices listed the claim amount as “undetermined at this time,” and the damages sum section of the Idaho State Police notices was left blank.
The city of Moscow filing said the tort claims were being presented in accordance with Idaho Code Title 6, Chapter 9, which states that such claims must be filed no more than six months after a claim arose to sue a government entity.
The Goncalves’ claims were filed May 2 and 3, while the Mogens’ were all filed May 11. The stabbings happened Nov. 13, meaning the notices came days shy of the deadline.
The University of Idaho told the Statesman it has not received any other tort claims since Jan. 1.
Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted Kohberger on four counts of murder in the first degree and one count of felony burglary.
At an arraignment Monday, Kohberger declined to enter a plea by “standing silent.” As a result, Magistrate Judge John Judge in Idaho’s 2nd District entered a plea of not guilty on all charges on Kohberger’s behalf.
A six-week trial has been scheduled for Oct. 2.
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