Police in Moscow, Idaho, tried to calm growing community concerns Wednesday about the killings of four University of Idaho students – even as police said they did not have a suspect in custody and declined to provide the public further information.
“We hear you, and we understand your fears,” the Moscow Police Department said in a news release. “We want you to know that we, like you, have been devastated and distressed by these young lives that were cut short needlessly.
“We determined early in the investigation that we do not believe there is an ongoing threat for community members. Evidence indicates that this was a targeted attack.”
That evidence has not been provided to the public, and police said they have shared everything they can without compromising the investigation. Police also said they hope to have more information Wednesday, and a press conference is scheduled for the afternoon.
The statement comes days after the four college students were found dead in an off-campus residence. No weapons have been found but police said preliminary information led them to believe an “edged weapon” like a knife was used in the quadruple homicide.
The killings and lack of information have rankled Moscow, a 25,000-strong city nestled on the Idaho-Washington border. The college town has not recorded a murder since 2015, according to state police data. Residents there are anxious and are “getting out of Dodge,” Latah County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Mikolajczyk told the Idaho Statesman.
The father of one of the victims issued a statement Wednesday calling on police to release further information about the killings.
“There is a lack of information from the University of Idaho and the local police, which only fuels false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media,” Jim Chapin, the father of Ethan Chapin, said in the statement. “The silence further compounds our family’s agony after our son’s murder. For Ethan and his three dear friends slain in Moscow, Idaho, and all of our families, I urge officials to speak the truth, share what they know, find the assailant, and protect the greater community.”
University of Idaho President Scott Green offered condolences in a statement Monday and deferred to the police’s belief that there was no threat to the public.
“Moscow police do not believe there is an ongoing community risk based on information gathered during the preliminary investigation, however, we ask our employees to be empathetic, flexible and to work with our students who desire to return home to spend time with their families,” he said. “We do not know the investigation timeline, but we will continue to communicate to campus as we learn more.”
CNN has reached out to the university for comment and information on the case.
What little the public does know is grisly. Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told CNN affiliate KXLY what she saw at the gruesome crime scene.
“There’s quite a bit of blood in the apartment and, you know, it was a pretty traumatic scene to find four dead college students in a residence,” she said.
Mabbutt said the coming autopsies could provide further information about what happened.
“There could be some, you know, some evidence of the suspect that we get during the autopsies which would be helpful,” Mabbutt said.
The University of Idaho identified the victims as:
- Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington, a freshman majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
- Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona, a junior majoring in marketing and a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
- Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a senior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
- Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho, a senior majoring in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority.
Just hours before their deaths, Goncalves posted a photo of the foursome with the caption, “one lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” adding a heart emoji.
Chapin was one of three triplets, all of whom are enrolled at the University of Idaho, the family said in a statement.
“Ethan lit up every room he walked into and was a kind, loyal, loving son, brother, cousin, and friend,” his mother Stacy Chapin said. “Words cannot express the heartache and devastation our family is experiencing. It breaks my heart to know we will never be able to hug or laugh with Ethan again, but it’s also excruciating to think about the horrific way he was taken from us.”
Alivea Goncalves, Kaylee’s sister, sent a statement to the Idaho Statesman on behalf of her family and Mogen’s.
“They were smart, they were vigilant, they were careful and this all still happened,” she said. “No one is in custody and that means no one is safe. Yes, we are all heartbroken. Yes, we are all grasping. But more strong than any of these feelings is anger. We are angry. You should be angry.”
Jazzmin Kernodle, Xana’s older sister, described her as “positive, funny and loved by everyone who met her.”
“Xana was one of the best people I have ever known. I am lucky to have had her as a sister. She was loved by so many and had the best friends surrounding her. You rarely get to meet someone like Xana,” she said.
“She was so lighthearted, and always lifted up a room. She made me such a proud big sister, and I wish I could have had more time with her. She had so much life left to live. My family and I are at a loss of words, confused, and anxiously waiting for updates on the investigation.”
She also offered condolences to the other victims and their families. “My sister was so lucky to have them in her life.”
Due to the killings, the city canceled its long-standing Artwalk festival “in respect for the victims of this week’s tragedy on the University of Idaho campus as well as those in the Vandal and Moscow community who are united in mourning.”