Detectives don’t know if one or more of the four University of Idaho students killed in their off-campus home last month were specifically targeted, police said on Wednesday – in what may be their biggest gap by compared to their previous statements.
Police say they are reacting specifically to information they say a prosecutor’s office published this week about the murders in the university town of Moscow: that “the suspect or suspects specifically looked at this residence” and “that one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted”.
This information released by the prosecutor’s office “was a miscommunication,” police said Wednesday.
“Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but are continuing to investigate,” the police statement said.
Details of what the prosecutor’s office said this week were not immediately available. CNN contacted Moscow police and the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office for clarification on Wednesday’s police statement.
Wednesday’s police statement also differs from statements the police themselves made earlier about whether students were being targeted.
The four students – Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Gonçalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21 – were found stabbed to death Nov. 13 at an off-campus Moscow home, shocking a city that hadn’t recorded a single murder since 2015.
On November 15, the Moscow police said they “believe this was an isolated targeted attack and that there is no imminent threat to the community as a whole” and that “evidence indicates this was an attack targeted”.
Yet the next day the police went back on some of that, saying they couldn’t really tell if there was a threat to the public.
Yet as the investigation progressed, authorities publicly maintained that investigators believed the killings were targeted, including during a November 20 police press conference.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are always work to determine who is responsible for the killings. At least 150 interviews have been conducted and more than 1,000 tips from the public have been received, according to police.
No suspects have been identified and the murder weapon – believed to be a fixed blade knife – has not been found. Authorities said they were not ruling out the possibility that more than one person was involved in the stabbings.
Wednesday’s police statement came on a day when the campus community reunited to pay tribute to the students killed.
The college community gathered at the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center – also known as Kibbie Dome – to honor the lives of the four students. School officials and three of the four families spoke about how the four would be missed after their sudden deaths.
“The circumstances that bring us here tonight – they are terrible,” said Stacy Chapin, Ethan Chapin’s mother. “The hardest part – we can’t change the result.”
Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves had been friends since 6th grade, Steve Goncalves said.
“They just got together and every day they did their homework together, they came to our house together, they shared everything,” he said. “In the end, they died together, in the same room in the same bed.”
“When I look at all of you guys, there’s only one way for it to get a little bit better, to heal a little bit…you’re just gonna have to love yourself,” Goncalves added.
Ben Mogen, Madison Mogen’s father, shared memories of his love for live music, her hard work ethic and how meaningful it was to him that she was able to experience love with her boyfriend.
While it’s unclear how long the investigation will take or “the reason for this horrific act,” the community “will live through this together,” said Blaine Eckles, the university’s dean of students.
He also encouraged everyone to “tell the funny stories, remember them in the good times and not let their lives be defined by how they died, but rather remember them for the joy they spread and the fun times they shared during their lives”.
Eckles also reminded students of the different resources available to them, such as counseling, and to share their feelings with those around them.
Since the discovery of the attack, the investigators have build a timeline of the last known whereabouts of the four students.
On the night of the murders, Goncalves and Mogen were at a sports bar, and Chapin and Kernodle were seen at a frat party.
Investigators believe the four victims had returned home at 2 a.m. the night of the stabbings. Two surviving roommates had also been out in Moscow that night, police said, and returned home at 1 a.m.
Police first said Goncalves and Mogen returned home at 1:45 a.m., but later updated the timeline, saying digital evidence showed the pair returned at 1:56 a.m. after visiting a food stall truck and being driven home by a “private party”. ”
The following morning, two surviving housemates “summoned friends to the residence because they believed one of the victims on the second floor had passed out and was not waking up,” police said in a statement. Someone called 911 from the house at 11:58 a.m. using the phone of one of the surviving roommates.
When the police arrived, they found two victims on the second floor and two victims on the third floor. There were no signs of a break-in or damage, police said.
Investigators do not believe the two surviving housemates were involved in the deaths.
A coroner determined that the four victims had each been stabbed multiple times and were likely asleep when the attacks began. Some of the students had defensive injuries, according to the Latah County coroner.