Idaho police will work over the Thanksgiving holiday investigating the murders of four University of Idaho students, officials said have yet to identify a suspect or a murder weapon.
Four students – Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21 – were found stabbed to death in a home on Nov. 13 at a grisly crime scene that police are continuing to comb.
“We collected 103 pieces of evidence. We took about 4,000 photos. We came and did several 3D scans of the residence,” said Idaho State Patrol Colonel Kedrick Wills, who asked for the public’s patience while the investigation continued.
The city of Moscow, home to the University of Idaho’s main campus, has not been subjected to a murder since 2015, and residents and students are deeply affected by the brutal killings.
Some students left town early before the holidays, and professors canceled classes last week over growing concerns that no suspect was present or suspects had been identified. The size of the university’s security forces has also been increased, according to school officials, and faculty have been asked to prepare distance learning options.
Despite initial reassurances that the public were not at risk, police have since made it clear that ongoing threats to the community cannot be ruled out and have asked people in the area to remain vigilant for their own and others’ safety.
“Perhaps we as a community should have always done this,” Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier said at a news conference on Wednesday. “It took away our innocence in a way.”
Law enforcement is processing about 1,000 leads and conducting about 150 interviews trying to determine who is responsible for the murders, Wills said.
“No information is too small and every tip will be followed up,” Moscow police chief James Fry said on Wednesday.
Police have been distributing information about where the students were before returning home, hoping someone who was in the area might know more.
“What we’ve done is we’ve published a map of the locations where we think the victims were that night, so local residents in the area – if they happen to have a Ring camera or if they happen to be walking the dog and saw something suspicious — for them to be able to provide those tips,” Aaron Snell, the Idaho State Police communications director, told CNN.
Police will continue to “devote all of our resources into investigating these murders,” Lanier said, adding that staff will be working through Thanksgiving.
“That is our top priority. It will remain our top priority. We owe it to the family,” Fry said.
Idaho citizens are turning to police for answers as no suspect has been found
Police on Wednesday re-established what investigators believe were the last known locations of the victims before the attack. Two housemates who were at the home at the time were unharmed, and police say they don’t think the two were involved.
In the early hours of November 13, by 1:45 a.m. local time, the four victims and two surviving housemates had all returned to the house on King Road in Moscow, police said.
Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen were at a sports bar between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. and then picked up their order at a food truck at 1:40 a.m. before heading home.
Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle had also arrived at the house after attending a party at Chapin’s Sigma Chi Brotherhood home earlier that evening.
It wasn’t until 11:58 that morning that police learned what had happened when an 911 call was made from inside the home by one of the surviving roommates.
“The call reported an unconscious person,” Lanier said. “During that call, the dispatcher spoke to several people who were at the scene.”
Responding officers found two victims on the second floor and the other two victims on the third floor, Lanier said. Autopsy reports show they were stabbed multiple times “and likely slept during the attack,” he added.
A fixed-blade knife may have been used in the killings, Moscow police say, and local businesses have been contacted to determine if any recent purchases have been made. Snell said no information about the collaboration was provided as of Tuesday.
As the work of law enforcement continues, the victims’ families mourn the loss of their loved ones and hope for progress in the investigation.
Stacy Chapin, Ethan’s mother, described him as “one of the most incredible people you will ever know” in a public statement ahead of a memorial service Monday in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Chapin thanked the Moscow Police Department for their efforts and “the many strangers across the country, your dedication and kind words are deeply touching. Please know that we now consider you all friends.”
A candlelight vigil will be held in honor of the victims on the afternoon of November 30, announced University President Scott Green.
“We will make a final decision on the location early next week,” Green said, adding that by then they will have a better sense of the upcoming weather forecast.
“We anticipate a large turnout from community members as well as university members — students, staff, faculty and staff — at this special event,” said Green.
The memorial service is expected to take place on the administrative lawn, Green said. All families are invited too.