Killings of 4 University of Idaho students may not have been the result of a targeted attack, officials now say

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As a campus community gathered Wednesday to pay their respects for four University of Idaho students killed on November 13, officials clarified additional details in their investigation to find the culprit responsible for their deaths.

Authorities in the college town of Moscow, where the students were found, have previously said they suspected the killings were the result of a targeted attack. But an update from the City of Moscow on Wednesday referenced an earlier “miscommunication” with the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office, which stated the attacker or attackers “specifically looked at this residence” and “one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted.”

“Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate,” the city’s statement said. CNN has reached out to the Moscow Police Communications Team and to the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office for clarification.

The four students – Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21 – were found stabbed to death in an off-campus home, upending a town that hadn’t recorded a single murder since 2015.

On November 15, two days after the discovery of their deaths, Moscow police said in a statement that officials “do not believe there is an ongoing threat for community members. Evidence indicates that this was a targeted attack.”

Yet the following day, police officials asked the public for stay vigilant and for their assistance with information.

 “We cannot say there is no threat to the community,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said. As the investigation advanced, authorities have publicly maintained the likelihood that the killings were a targeted incident.

Multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are still working 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, police say.

No suspect has been identified and the murder weapon – believed to be a fixed-blade knife – has not been found. Authorities said they have not ruled out the possibility that more than one person may be involved in the stabbings.

The university community gathered at the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center – also known as the Kibbie Dome – to honor the lives of the four students Wednesday. 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’re terrible,” said Stacy Chapin, the mother of Ethan Chapin. “The hardest part – we cannot change the outcome.”

Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were friends since 6th grade, Steve Goncalves said.

“They just found each other, and every day they did 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.”

Attendees stand in the Kibbie Dome as family members talk about their loved ones, Wednesday in Moscow, Idaho.

“When I look at all of you guys, there’s only one way for this to get a little better, to heal a little bit … you are just going to have to love each other,” Goncalves added.

Ben Mogen, the father of Madison Mogen, shared memories of her 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 why in this horrific act,” the community “will all go through this together,” said Blaine Eckles, the university’s dean of students.

He also encouraged everyone to “tell the fun stories, remember them in the good times and do not let their lives be defined by how they died, but instead remember them for the joy they spread and the fun times they shared while they lived.”

Eckles also reminded students of the different resources available to them, like counseling, and to share their feelings with those around them.

A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students is displayed on a table along with buttons and bracelets, Wednesday during a vigil in memory of the victims in Moscow, Idaho.

Since the discovery of the attack, investigators have built a timeline of the four students’ last known whereabouts.

On the night of the killings, Goncalves and Mogen were at a sports bar, and Chapin and Kernodle were seen at a fraternity party.

Investigators believe all four victims had returned to the home by 2 a.m. the night of the stabbings. Two surviving roommates had also gone out in Moscow that night, police said, and returned to the house by 1 a.m.

Police initially said Goncalves and Mogen returned to the home by 1:45 a.m., but they later updated the timeline, saying digital evidence showed the pair returned at 1:56 a.m. after visiting a food truck and being driven home by a “private party.”

The next morning, two surviving roommates “summoned friends to the residence because they believed one of the second-floor victims had passed out and was not waking up,” police said in a release. Somebody called 911 from the house at 11:58 a.m. using one of the surviving roommates’ phones.

When police arrived, they found two victims on the second floor and two victims on the third floor. There was no sign of forced entry or damage, police said.

Investigators do not believe the two surviving roommates were involved in the deaths.

A coroner determined the four victims were each stabbed multiple times and were likely asleep when the attacks began. Some of the students had defensive wounds, according to the Latah County coroner.


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