After a day of puzzling statements, police investigating the murders last month of four University of Idaho students stressed Thursday that they still believe the attack was targeted – although they did not concluded “whether the target was the residence or its occupants”.
The four students – Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Gonçalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21 – were found stabbed to death Nov. 13 at their off-campus joint home in the university town of Moscow, shocking a community that had not recorded a single murder since 2015.
Thursday’s police statement on the targeting comes after police corrected a prosecutor’s comments about it – and in the process said something that appeared to deviate from their previous stance on a case which brought the university town to the end, without arrest or any reason given. .
It also comes in the middle frustration from relatives of the victims and some members of the community over the sparse disclosure of details of the investigation and the evolving characterization of the case by officials, including authorities backtrack if the community still faced a threat.
The latest streak began on Wednesday, when Moscow police freed A declaration claiming that the Latah County Idaho prosecutor incorrectly stated this week that “the suspect(s) specifically examined this residence” and “one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted.”
The finality of the prosecutor’s statements, however, reflects “miscommunication”, Moscow police said in their statement on Wednesday.
But the statement adds: “Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted, but are continuing to investigate.”
This was a departure – though not a contradiction – from what the police had said: that they believed the attack was targeted.
On Thursday, a police spokesperson tried to clarify the matter:
“We remain consistent in our belief that this was indeed a targeted attack, but we have not concluded whether the target was the residence or its occupants,” the police spokesperson told CNN on Thursday. of Idaho State, Aaron Snell, who also spoke on behalf of the Moscow police.
Details of the comments police say the prosecutor made, including when and to whom they were given, were not immediately available. CNN asked the Latah County District Attorney’s Office, where the university is located, for comment.
For weeks, police said they believed the attack was targeted, but did not say why.
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”.
The next day the police came back to 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. on 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 forced entry 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.