Lawsuit against private investigator hired by DeOrr’s family dismissed as he calls on missing toddler’s parents to ‘end this fiasco’
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IDAHO FALLS — A lawsuit against a private investigator once hired by the family of DeOrr Kunz Jr. has been officially dismissed.
Vernal Kunz, DeOrr’s father, signed a document Friday releasing Philip Klein, and Texas-based Klein Investigations and Consulting, from all claims in the case. Klein, who has been trying to collect attorney fees from Kunz, tells EastIdahoNews.com the money is “uncollectable” and is ending litigation.
Vernal Kunz and his father, Dennis “DeOrr” Kunz, filed the lawsuit in 2017 for breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, libel, slander and fraud. The lawsuit came after Klein made statements to EastIdahoNews.com and other news outlets concerning his investigation into DeOrr’s disappearance.
Klein gave his opinion in those statements and talked about the inconsistency in the family’s stories, blood found on the tire of a truck, a positive hit from a cadaver dog and DeOrr’s parents failing multiple lie detector tests. He also claimed the family knew what happened to the child and speculated the boy was dead.
Dennis and Vernal claimed those statements were defamatory and violated the confidentiality portion of the contract made between Dennis and Klein.
Dennis Kunz died in January. In February, most of that case was dismissed after District Judge Bruce Pickett determined a person “cannot be found liable for expressions of opinion about another person, however unreasonable.”
Vernal Kunz and his attorney, Allen Browning, appealed Pickett’s decision and asked him to reconsider. Kunz told EastIdahoNews.com in June that Klein has made his life “a living hell.”
Last week the case was dismissed and Pickett found no wrongdoing by Klein or his company. Klein and his insurance company intended to recover court costs from Kunz, which Klein says reached just over $150,000.
“During the time of the hearings, Mr. Kunz’s financial status was reviewed. It was determined that Mr. Kunz and his father’s estate was ‘uncollectable,'” Klein says in a statement to EastIdahoNews.com. “It was determined that it would take many years and much more attorney fees to collect from Mr. Kunz. Therefore, Mr. Klein, Mr. Klein’s insurance company and Mr. Klein’s company made the decision to end the litigation to collect.”
Klein blasted the lawsuit as being “frivolous” and claimed it was a “discovery hunt to prepare for criminal defense.”
“We, the investigators in the case, stand next to our opinions and conclusions based upon our investigation and the law enforcement investigation that not only is Vernal Kunz a person of interest, (he is) a suspect in the disappearance of DeOrr Kunz Jr.,” Klein says.
The private investigator also believes Jessica Mitchell, DeOrr’s mother, is a suspect in the disappearance of her son and says both parents have changed their stories multiple times, failed polygraph tests and have “lied to you – the public.”
“As we now have left the case, and all litigation is over, and KIC Texas has been found exonerated, we call upon both Kunz and Mitchell to end this fiasco and step up, man up, and tell the dedicated LE (law enforcement) agents the truth,” Klein says.
DeOrr Kunz Jr. disappeared while on a camping trip in Lemhi County on July 10, 2015. He was with his parents, DeOrr’s great-grandfather, Robert Walton, and Isaac Reinwand, a friend of Walton’s.
There has been no sign of DeOrr since that day, and nobody has been charged in his disappearance. Mitchell and Kunz were named suspects in January 2016 by former Lemhi County Sheriff Lynn Bowerman, but they have never been arrested.
Browning tells EastIdahoNews.com he will comment once the matter is finalized.