Judge rejects suit against investigator who identified missing boy’s parents as suspects

A judge has dismissed the final part of a lawsuit against a private investigator originally hired by the family of DeOrr Kunz Jr. to help find the missing Idaho toddler who went missing in 2015 while on a family camping trip.

Dennis “DeOrr” Kunz, DeOrr’s grandfather, and Vernal Kunz, DeOrr’s father, filed a lawsuit in 2017 against Philip Klein of Texas-based Klein Investigations and Consulting for breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, libel, slander and fraud.

A judge dismissed most of the case in February and last week the remaining part was dropped.

“I would like to thank the district court for their decision. This case has been and always will be about finding the baby DeOrr Kunz,” Klein said in a news release. “My prayer is that DeOrr is found and our investigation was wrong. Unfortunately, it is my belief that our investigation is correct and the proper suspects have been named.”

The lawsuit came about after Klein made statements to news outlets concerning his investigation into DeOrr’s disappearance. In those statements, Klein gave his opinion 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 Vernal failing multiple lie detector tests. He also claimed the family knew what happened to the child and speculated that he was dead.

Dennis and Vernal claimed in the suit that those statements were defamatory and violated the confidentiality portion of the contract made between Dennis and Klein.

The court disagreed. In his ruling, District Judge Bruce Pickett said DeOrr’s disappearance was a matter of public concern. Meaning, the statements Klein made were protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. That protection requires the person making the complaint to prove the statements are false.

“A person cannot be found liable for expressions of opinion about another person, however unreasonable,” Pickett wrote in his ruling.

According to court documents, no evidence proving Klein’s statements were false was presented.

Other aspects of the lawsuit were dismissed due to Dennis’ death on Jan. 3.

With the close of the lawsuit, Klein said that he is planning to release more information about the Kunz case. He announced he would post 15 hours of video and audio interviews online in connection to DeOrr’s disappearance.

“We are now going after our attorney fees and once we have collected on those, we plan to release the interviews to the public,” Klein told EastIdahoNews.com Monday. “We just pray this case concludes and that we are able to get answers for baby DeOrr.”

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