Philip Klein, a private investigator hired by the extended family of missing toddler DeOrr Kunz Jr., announced Monday that he believes the child was intentionally or accidentally killed while on a camping trip with his parents. He also said (Vernal) DeOrr Kunz, DeOrr’s father, Jessica Mitchell, DeOrr’s mother, and Robert Walton, DeOrr’s grandfather, know more than they are saying about the child’s disappearance.
Klein spoke with EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton on Tuesday and revealed new information about his civil investigation. Below is a transcript of the conversation.
EastIdahoNews.com reached out to Lemhi County Chief Deputy Steve Penner, the leader criminal investigator in the case. He declined to comment on Klein’s claims and stressed his department is focused on solving this case.
The Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office has named (Vernal) DeOrr Kunz and Jessica Mitchell as suspects in DeOrr’s disappearance, but they have not been criminally charged.
EastIdahoNews.com reached out to Kunz and Mitchell Tuesday afternoon for comment. Kunz said Klein’s statements are “ridiculous” and referred us to his attorney, who issued this statement.
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com reporter: Last night you announced you had completed the third phase of your investigation in the disappearance of DeOrr Kunz Jr. Explain what that means.
Philip Klein, Klein Investigations: There were three phases to this investigation so far.
First, we wanted to start the investigation from the ground up. We didn’t want influence from law enforcement, we didn’t want influence from family, we didn’t want influence from anybody. All we knew was there were four people on a mountain and a child went missing.
We went back and rebuilt this case from ground zero. We interviewed probably over 150 witnesses and followed up on, I think, 300 tips.
We have declared it now an accidental death/homicide and we’ve based it on a few things.
I want to go over those things very clearly because there’s a lot of public conjecture at this point.
I want to announce for the first time we, law enforcement and the FBI have interviewed Vernal Kunz (DeOrr Sr.), the father of DeOrr, nine times. He’s been given nine interviews and none of the stories he has told has matched or even been verified.
That is very disturbing for us as investigators. He’s given us a story, and when we go out and try to prove up simple things on the timeline it falls apart quickly.
Eaton: Can you give us examples of the inconsistencies?
Klein: We can’t even match simple things like filling up with gas at a diesel store in Leadore on the day of the event. He clearly says that the gentleman who was pumping the gas actually saw the child. We interviewed the guy who had supposedly seen the child and he comes back and says, ‘I don’t remember seeing a child.’
Simple things like a dog in the back of the pickup – there was no dog.
Little things that investigators look at as simple things Vernal has not been able to verify with us.
As for Jessica, she has given five interviews to law enforcement and none of the stories she’s given us matched. In fact, she changes her story depending upon what day it is and what day we talk with her.
That’s very disturbing to us. We can’t even verify basic information that Vernal tells us and neither of their stories match. It’s not even close, as a matter of fact.
Eyewitnesses that they have listed – from guys that distribute the beer to the clerk at the store to the person that pumped the gas to the basic timeline information – Vernal and Jessica tell us one story but then the witnesses say no, that never happened. Here’s what did happen.
So we take all of that and we come back to them with, ‘OK, tell us what really happened because all these witnesses you have given us, they don’t match.’
And so they tell us the story and again. We go out and we try to reverify with different witnesses. Then, in some cases, some say, ‘We don’t even know who these people are. Who are you talking about?’
Not only that, it comes down to simple things like they played with DeOrr at the store. We talked to the witnesses before and after who didn’t even see a child (in the store).
It brings concern to us and brings us to the question of why would they lie to us? Why would they not just tell us the truth?
We add that Vernal has gone in for five polygraph tests from different polygraph test administers – state, local and federal government. Vernal not only failed all five but he failed all five in the 99th percentile. That is hugely disturbing to us.
He can’t even pass a non-control question like, “Are you gonna tell us the truth today?” He flunks it and not only does he flunk it, he doesn’t just spike in his polygraph test, it’s like a wave. That disturbs us tremendously.
Then we move to Jessica. Law enforcement gives Jessica four different tests. Jessica failed not only to the 99th percentile but she can’t pass simple control questions.
That’s not because she’s nervous. She’s able to pass her name, she’s able to pass where she is today, she’s able to pass the certain questions that are no-brainer questions, but doesn’t even come close to what happened to DeOrr or, ‘Are you going to tell the truth today?’ She fails so bad that in my 26 years, I’ve never heard of a person failing that bad.
Today we’re going to announce that there was a cadaver dog interaction with certain equipment at the site and that cadaver dog did hit positive. I can’t go any further than that other than we do have a dog that did hit in the initial two weeks of the primary investigation.
Eaton: This wasn’t up at the reservoir concerning the cremains? (Law enforcement had previously announced cremains were dumped into the reservoir around the time of DeOrr’s disappearance, but said they were unrelated to this case.)
Klein: I’m not going to discuss where it was or the circumstances around it because it will be an integral part of the prosecution, and I don’t want to the hurt the prosecution, but a cadaver dog did hit. That has never been announced before, but we’re announcing it today because we feel the public needs to know.
I’m also going to announce to you today that Jessica herself has told investigators on our team she knows where the body is but she will not go all the way and finish her story.
This has been very disturbing to us. We have attempted to work with Jessica tremendously. We have offered to fly her to Texas to give her the opportunity to get away from Idaho because she’s scared of some situations.
I believe some of it is paranoia that has set into her at this point because she knows the walls are closing in around her but I will announce today that Jessica has told our investigators that she knows where the body is, but she won’t go all the way and say more.
That is a huge piece of evidence in this case and we’re very concerned about it. We’ve asked Jessica privately, and now we’re asking her publicly to come in and tell law enforcement about what happened.
Also today we are willing to announce that in our interviews with the grandfather, he did admit to investigators that he believes there was an accident. He will not go all the way and tell the complete truth at this time.
We are willing to announce that Isaac Reinwand has given us some statements that we are vetting at this time. As soon as we’re done vetting those statements, there there may be a further announcement from law enforcement.
Eaton: When Jessica says she knows where the body is, has she given you any suggestions or tips?
Klein: She has broken down in an interview with us, and I understand she’s broken down in an interview with law enforcement, that she does know in fact where the body is.
Eaton: Could she be criminally charged now that she’s admitted that she knows where the body is?
Klein: I’m a civil investigator, but I see a lot of problems for Jessica and Vernal.
First of all they have been lying to federal agents with the FBI and the task force.
The second problem on the table is if it was an accident, there would be some laws regarding what they did with the body, not reporting an accident, those sort of things.
We’re publicly asking Vernal, we’re publicly asking Jessica and we’re publicly asking Jessica’s grandfather, Bob, to let’s bring this to an end.
Enough of lying, enough of trying to mislead investigators, enough of going on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all these things and trying to mislead the public.
I’m just very frustrated with Vernal, I’m very frustrated with Jessica and I’m very frustrated with their inability to tell the truth.
I’m frustrated with them trying to mislead investigators not only on our side, but FBI, who you don’t mess with, you be honest with them. And then of course to the fine people in Bonneville County and Lemhi County. They are stuck in the middle of this and are trying to just get them to tell the truth.
Eaton: When investigators confront them about their inconsistencies, what’s their response? Do they double down, or does the story change?
Klein: The story changes. They don’t ever double down. It goes off into a world that you – you know, you can’t be dumb all the time. Even things in the timeline such as where was the blanket, where was the sippy cup – nobody can tell the truth.
Quite frankly, the stories all break down at 8 o’clock in the morning. The only time their stories are true and correct and we can verify is the night before and then after the 911 call. Everything can not be verified between 8 o’clock in the morning and 2:26 in the afternoon when the 911 call was made – we can’t verify anything. I mean nothing. Zero. Doughnut hole.
Eaton: Where does the investigation go from here?
Klein: We’re going to Phase 4 of this case. It’s the actual ground hunt. We know an area that we will be going into. We will probably be up there with different teams within the next 30 days.
We do have those places we’re going to hunt under surveillance to make sure nobody comes in and nobody goes out of those areas.
Eaton: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Klein: The people of Idaho Falls and Lemhi County should be absolutely ecstatic with the law enforcement – from the FBI to the sheriff’s department – these guys are dedicated people.
On behalf of my nine investigators, I’d just like to say thank you to the people of Idaho.
I mostly hope that Vernal and Jessica and their families take a step back. They are very protective over them. They are in denial. You must understand that Vernal’s family and Jessica’s family – they are innocent in this. They are just doing what family members do and they are circling around their loved ones. They are in denial and they need to come out of denial. This is a very, very serious situation.