After a day of confusing statements, police investigating the slayings last month of four University of Idaho students stressed Thursday that they still believe the attack was targeted — even though it wasn’t. they concluded “if the target is the residence or its occupants.”
The four students – Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21 — were found stabbed to death on Nov. 13 in their shared home off campus in the college town of Moscow, upending a community that has not had a recorded homicide since 2015.
Thursday’s police statement about the targeting comes after police corrected a prosecutor’s comments on the matter — and in the process said something that appeared to be missing from their previous stance on a case that has put the college town on edge, with no arrests made or any motive announced. .
It also comes amid frustration among victims’ relatives and some in the community over the scant release of details of the investigation and changes in the characters of officials in the case, including authorities who backtracked when does the community still face a threat.
The latest streak began on Wednesday, when Moscow police released a statement saying the Latah County prosecutor in Idaho had wrongly said this week that “the suspect(s) specifically looked at this residence -anan,” and “to which one or more of the occupants is doubtless referred to.”
How definitive the prosecutor’s statements were, however, reflected a “miscommunication,” Moscow police said in a Wednesday release.
But the release added: “Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants have been specifically targeted but are continuing to investigate.”
That’s a departure from — though not a contradiction of — what police have said: That they believe the attack was targeted.
On Thursday, a police spokesperson tried to clear up the issue:
“We remain steadfast in our belief that this was indeed a targeted attack but have not concluded whether the target was the residence or its occupants,” Idaho State Police spokesman Aaron Snell, who also spoke for the Moscow police, told CNN on Thursday.
Details about the comments police said the prosecutor made, including when and to whom they were made, were not immediately available. CNN has reached out to the Latah County prosecutor’s office, where the university is located, for comment.
Police for weeks have said they believe the attack was targeted but have not provided details as to why.
On November 15, Moscow police said they “believe this was an isolated, targeted attack and there is no imminent threat to the community at large,” and that “the evidence shows that it a targeted attack.”
The next day, police backtracked on some of that, saying they couldn’t say if there was a threat to the public.
However, as the investigation continues, the authorities maintained by the public investigators believe that the murders were targeted, including in a police news conference on November 20.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are still working to determine who is responsible for the murders. At least 150 interviews have been conducted and more than 1,000 tips from the public have been received, police said.
No suspects have been found and the murder weapon – believed to be a fixed-blade knife – has not been found. According to the authorities, they do not rule out the possibility that more than one person was involved in the stabbing.
The police statement on Wednesday came on a day when the campus community gathered to pay respects to the slain students.
The university community gathered at the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center – also known as the Kibbie Dome – to honor the lives of the four students. School officials and three of the four families spoke of how the four will be missed after their sudden deaths.
“The circumstances that brought us here tonight – it’s terrible,” said Stacy Chapin, Ethan Chapin’s mother. “The hardest part – we can’t change the outcome.”
Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves have been friends since grade 6, said Steve Goncalves.
“They just met each other, and every day they do homework together, they go to our house together, they share everything,” he said. “In the end, they died together, in the same room on the same bed.”
“When I look at all of you, there’s only one way to make it better, to make it a little better… you just have to love each other,” Goncalves added.
Ben Mogen, Madison Mogen’s father, shared memories of his love for live music, his hard work and how meaningful it was for him to experience love with his girlfriend.
Although it’s unclear how long the investigation will take or “the why of this heinous act,” the community is “going through this together,” said Blaine Eckles, the university’s dean of students.
He also encouraged everyone to “tell fun stories, remember them in good times and don’t let their lives be defined by how they died, but instead remember them for the joy they spread and the fun times they had.” they shared while they were alive.”
Eckles also reminded the students of the different resources they have, such as counseling, and sharing their feelings with those around them.
Since the discovery of the attack, investigators have built a timeline of the four students’ last known whereabouts.
On the night of the murders, Goncalves and Mogen were at a sports bar, and Chapin and Kernodle were seen at a fraternity party.
Investigators believe the four victims returned home at 2 a.m. the night of the stabbing. Two surviving roommates also went out in Moscow that night, police said, and returned home at 1 a.m.
Police initially said Goncalves and Mogen returned home at 1:45 a.m., but later updated the timeline, saying digital evidence showed the couple returned at 1:56 a.m. to visit a food truck and be sent home to a “private party.”
The next morning, two remaining roommates “called friends to the residence because they believed one of the victims on the second floor had passed out and was not awake,” police said in a release. Someone called 911 from the home at 11:58 a.m. using one of the remaining roommates’ phones.
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 that the two remaining residents were involved in the death.
A coroner determined that the four victims were each stabbed multiple times and were likely asleep when the attacks began. Some of the students had self-defense injuries, according to the Latah County coroner.