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Police Walk Back Claim Killer ‘Targeted’ 4 Murdered Idaho Students, Say They Don’t Know

Moscow, ID – Moscow police have backtracked on previously emphatic claims that the four University of Idaho students who were murdered in their off-campus home by a still-unidentified killer were specifically targeted by their killer.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry has repeatedly insisted the quadruple homicide was an “isolated, targeted attack,” but has not elaborated on why investigators came to that conclusion, KREM reported.

MPD Captain Roger Lanier reiterated that point during another press conference 10 days after the murders, according to the New York Post.

“We told the public very clearly from the beginning that we believe it was a targeted attack,” Capt. Lanier said. “To be honest, you’re going to have to trust us on that at this point, because we’re not going to release why we think that.”

But investigators seemed to completely reversed their stance on the issue on by Wednesday, when the MPD issued a press release saying they “do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted.”

“Conflicting information has been released over the past 24 hours,” the MPD said. “The Latah County Prosecutor’s Office stated the suspect(s) specifically looked at this residence, and that one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted.”

“We have spoken with the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office and identified this was a miscommunication. Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate,” the agency added.

The MPD again noted that no suspects have been identified and that no new information was available.

“Only vetted information that does not hinder the investigation will be released to the public,” the MPD said. “There is speculation, without factual backing, stoking community fears and spreading false facts. We encourage referencing official releases for accurate information and updated progress.”

In addition to not being able to hone in on any suspects in the case, police have also not recovered the large knife used to stab all four students to death, TODAY reported.

Police seized five vehicles from the crime scene on Wednesday as part of the ongoing investigation, according to CBS News.

The four University of Idaho students were found dead on the second and third floors of an off-campus home on Nov. 13.

They have been identified as 20-year-old Ethan Chapin of Mount Vernon, Washington, 20-year-old Xana Kernodle of Post Falls, 21-year-old Kaylee Goncalves of Rathdrum, and 21-year-old Madison Mogen of Coeur d’Alene, the Idaho Statesman reported.

The investigation into the attack began at approximately 11:58 a.m. on Nov. 13, when the Moscow Police Department (MPD) received a report of an “unconscious individual” located at a home on King Road, the MPD said in a press release.

The department has since revealed that the 911 call was placed from a phone belonging to one of two other surviving roommates who were also inside the residence at the time of the murders, TODAY reported.

Neither was injured in the attack.

The two roommates had also called friends to come over to the home because they initially believed one of their roommates had passed out, police said.

The dispatcher spoke with multiple people during the 911 call that was placed to report the “unconscious” individual, TODAY reported.

They arrived to the scene to find the four deceased students and later revealed they had all been stabbed to death, according to an early MPD press release.

Police believe the victims were all asleep when they were attacked, and noted that some of them suffered defensive wounds, Chief Fry said during a press conference.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt described the scene as “gruesome,” according to KHQ.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in the 16 years I’ve been in this position,” Mabbutt said.

Investigators said there were no signs of forced entry.

“We’re not 100 percent sure the door was unlocked,” Chief Fry said, according to CNN. “There was no damage to anything and the door was still open when we got there.”

Police said the two surviving roommates and the friends they contacted to come over and help them have all been cleared as suspects, TODAY reported.

Goncalves and Mogen were last seen alive outside the Grub Trucker’s food truck in Moscow at approximately 1:41 a.m. on Nov. 13, according to CNN.

Security footage from the truck showed the women ordering their food and chatting with other people nearby.

Grub Truckers Manager Joseph Woodall said there was no indication that either of the women was in danger or distress, CNN reported.

Capt. Lanier said that a man wearing a white hoodie who was seen standing near Goncalves and Mogen outside the food truck has been ruled out as a suspect, according to TODAY.

The women had been at a bar prior to going to the food truck, police said.

They then got a ride home from a “private party driver” who has also been ruled out as a suspect, according to the MPD.

Investigators said that Kernodle and Chapin went to a party on campus that night, according to NBC News.

Chief Fry said the students all arrived home sometime after 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 13, CNN reported.

Goncalves’ sister, Alivea Goncalves, said her sister’s phone had at least six calls to a boyfriend made on it between 2:26 a.m. and 2:52 a.m., WLS reported.

Goncalves’ mother, Kristi Goncalves, told TODAY that the person they were calling was asleep and didn’t answer.

“If Kaylee was in imminent danger — her or Maddie — they would have called 911,” she added. “They would not have been calling this person.”

Alivea Goncalves said she does not believe he is involved.

“I know for an absolute fact that he’s not a suspect,” she told WLS. “He’s not suspicious. He is 100 percent innocent in this.”

Capt. Lanier confirmed the man is not considered to be a potential suspect, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Alivea Goncalves said the shared off-campus home was known as being a “party house,” and that multiple people probably knew the keycode for one of the outside doors, CNN reported.

“I won’t say they were very private with that code,” she said.

Police previously met with local businesses to see if anyone had recently sold a fixed-blade knife, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Investigators have also searched multiple dumpsters in the surrounding area, but “nothing of note was discovered,” according to the MPD.

Kernodle and Chapin were dating and had been together since the spring.

Goncalves and Mogen were set to graduate from the University of Idaho next spring, NBC News reported.

In addition to being roommates, Mogen and Kernodle were also coworkers at a local Greek restaurant.

The victims were all active members of their sororities and fraternity, NBC News reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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