TeaThe horrifying case of four University of Idaho students killed at an off-campus home has taken another dramatic turn after it emerged that the parents of their accused killers are testifying in a separate case thousands of miles away in Pennsylvania .
In a shocking development this week, it emerged that the parents of Brian Kohberger have been summoned to appear before a grand jury investigating the disappearance and death of Dana Smithers, a mother of three.
Smithers, 45, was last seen alive in May 2022.
His remains were discovered last month, with the cause of his death still a mystery.
It is unclear what connection – if any – her disappearance and death may have had with Mr. Kohberger, who was living close to Smithers at the time of her disappearance.
But multiple reports have revealed that Mr Kohberger’s parents, Michael and Maryann Kohberger, have been ordered to testify in the case.
A source told CNN that the accused killer’s mother has already given evidence to the grand jury, while his father is expected to testify on Thursday.
Any information in the case could be passed on to prosecutors in Idaho who have charged Mr Kohberger with the quadruple murders of 21-year-old Kaylee Goncalves, 21-year-old Madison Mogen, 20-year-old Zanna Kernodle and 20-year-old Ethan Chapin.
While many questions remain unanswered, here’s what we know about Dana Smithers and what happened to the mother of three.
In May 2022, Smithers disappeared without a trace from Monroe County – the same county in Pennsylvania where Mr Kohberger had been living before moving cross-country to Washington state over the summer to pursue a graduate degree program in criminal justice. Were.
A Ring video camera captured Smithers leaving a neighbor’s house at around 11.05 pm on 28 May, his cellphone in hand.
He was never seen alive again.
What was particularly strange was that Smithers’ cellphone, wallet and daily medications were found at his home.
Earlier that day, Smithers and her youngest daughter, 7, had gone to a local festival at the Happy Hour Bar & Grill in Stroudsburg with her daughter’s father.
Smithers’ sister Stacey told NBC’s Dateline in December that the couple were no longer together but still had a good relationship.
At the festival, Smithers is seen having a good time, dancing and saying hello to people.
The three later returned to the home that was shared by Smithers, his daughter, and Smithers’ mother.
Later that night, best friend Tara Cioni said Smithers called by her house to hang out. The two women lived just a few doors down from each other and often stopped by in the evenings to see each other.
“We are best friends. She has been my neighbor for 16 years. We have raised our children together,” Ms. Sioni told Dateline.
“It was an open door policy, like, with her. So she came in and she’s been here for a while.
Miss Sioni said that, afterwards, she wondered whether something was bothering her friend that night.
Smithers – who had a history of substance abuse – was smoking, something she did only when she was “nervous” or on edge.
Ms Cioni said Smithers later asked her if she wanted to come back to her house to hang out but she was tired so said she was going to bed.
That was the last time anyone saw him.
“If I’d known that was the last time I’d seen him, I definitely would have asked more questions but I was like, ‘I’m going to bed,'” she said.
In retrospect, she said she did not think Smithers was using drugs again.
“I really don’t think it was him,” she said.
His sister said that Smithers had recently adjusted his medication and was getting “much better” at the time.
It was the next morning when Smithers’ mother learned that her daughter had not come home that night.
Initially, the family wasn’t too concerned as Stacey said the 45-year-old had previously been out all night.
But, when she didn’t show up with the family at the Memorial Day celebration on May 30, she knew something was wrong.
Smithers and their children, ages 25, 23 and 7, had a family tradition of visiting Knoebels Park in Pennsylvania on Memorial Day.
Stacey said, “She doesn’t miss Memorial Day.”
“She didn’t do anything that didn’t involve her kids,” she said. “That was her thing. I mean she was always with the kids.
Stacey said her disappearance was initially not taken seriously by law enforcement, days after Smithers was reported missing.
In June, the Pennsylvania State Police and local police conducted a search with cadaver dogs in Stroudsburg’s Glen Park—a heavily wooded area close to her home. The search turned up nothing and the case remained cold for months.
Smithers was seen in a missing persons report as a 45-year-old white female, 5 feet 5 inches, approximately 165 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair, and wearing black jeans with a burgundy shirt.
For nearly a year, the family of three desperately searched for answers and Smither’s case was featured on an episode of NBC’s Dateline in December 2022 — a month after the four students were murdered in Idaho.
Fearing the worst, Stacey said: “I think something has happened. I don’t think he’s here anymore.
Nearly a year later – on April 27 – Smithers’ remains were found in a wooded area in Stroudsburg.
Stroud Area Regional Police said a borough employee discovered human remains in a wooded area near Park Avenue in the borough of Stroudsburg.
Due to extensive decomposition, the sex and identity of the individual was unclear at the time.
Using dental records, the remains were later identified as Smithers.
The cause and manner of his death is yet to be ascertained.
What is Brian Kohberger’s connection to the case?
There are many unanswered questions about what happened to Smithers – and what it might have to do with Mr. Kohburger.
It is not clear at this time why Michael and Maryanne Kohberger, Mr. Kohberger’s parents, have been called to testify in this matter.
The source told CNN that an attorney for Kohberger’s parents tried to get the summons quashed, but was unsuccessful.
Pennsylvania judges will be allowed in Idaho to share tapes of grand jury witness testimony with law enforcement agencies across the country.
At the time of Smithers’ disappearance in May 2022, Kohberger was also living with his family in Monroe County.
That summer, he moved cross-country to Pullman for a graduate program in criminal justice at Washington State University (WSU).
A few months later on November 13, he allegedly broke into an off-campus student home just across the border in Moscow, Idaho, and killed four college students.
He was back at his parents’ home in the Pocono Mountains for the holidays when police arrested him on December 30 for the quadruple murders.
In that case, it is unclear what motive and what relationship Mr. Kohberger may have had with the victims.
And now, in Smithers’ case, the potential link remains unclear as well.
A source told Eyewitness News that Mr Kohberger is said to have a solid alibi for Smithers’ disappearance and is likely not connected to his death.
But the grand jury investigation is still ongoing and no findings have emerged.
Back in January, Stacey posted an update on the “Finding Dana” Facebook page saying that several people had contacted her about a possible link between her sister’s disappearance and the Idaho murders.
“Thanks to all who have been reaching out recently about the possibility of a suspect in the horrific murders in Idaho who were in our area at the time my sister, Dana, went missing,” she wrote.
“I have forwarded all of your suggestions to local law enforcement. Please pray for everyone involved.
However, it comes after a report that one of the accused killer’s older sisters had become suspicious that her brother may have been involved in the Idaho murders prior to his arrest.
Their suspicion was so strong 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, sources told NBC’s dateline.
They found nothing, but investigators reportedly saw Mr. Kohberger cleaning his car with bleach.