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Crime News University of Idaho Murders

Idaho Police Walk Back Statement About College Students Being Targeted Following A 'Miscommunication'

"Detectives do not currently know if they residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate," Moscow Police said Wednesday night in connection with the deaths of University of Idaho college students.

By Jill Sederstrom
Idaho Apartment Mass Stabbing Suspect Sought Vengeance, Police Say

Moscow Police seem to be walking back earlier statements that the attack on four University of Idaho students, now saying that detectives “do not currently know” if the occupants or home was targeted in the slayings.

Police made the comments Wednesday following an earlier interview by Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson in which he told local station KTVB that investigators believed that one of the victims of the fatal stabbings had been the target.

“Conflicting information has been released over the past 24 hours,” police wrote in a Nov. 30 statement on their website. “The Latah County Prosecutor’s Office stated the suspect(s) specifically looked at this residence, and that one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted. We have spoken with the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office and identified this was a miscommunication. Detectives do not currently know if they residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate.”

RELATED: Father Of University Of Idaho Murder Victim Demands Justice, Says Students Died From A 'Brutal Weapon'

The statement seems to contradict earlier comments made by police that investigators believed the four college students had been killed in a “targeted attack.”

“We’ve told the public very clearly from the beginning that we believe it was a targeted attack,” Moscow Police Capt. Roger Lanier said at a Nov. 23 press conference, according to Fox News. “To be honest, you’re going to have to trust us on that at this point, because we’re not going to release why we think that.”

Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20; were found dead in their off-campus rental house near the University of Idaho campus on Nov. 13.

The Latah County Coroner has said its likely the four victims were asleep when they were stabbed to death “multiple times.” Some of the victims had “defensive wounds.”

A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students

While the murder weapon has not been found, investigators believe the college students were killed with a “fixed-blade knife.”

Two surviving roommates were also home at the time of the killings but were not injured. According to police, the roommates called friends over the morning of Nov. 13 after they were concerned that they couldn’t wake one of the victims, who they believed was “passed out” at the time.

A phone call from one of the surviving roommates’ cell phones was placed at 11:58 a.m. to report an unconscious person. Police arrived to find the four bodies on the second and third floor of the home.

Authorities do not believe that the surviving roommates were involved in the killings.

Just two days after the murders, police issued a press release saying that investigators believed it was “an isolated, targeted attack and there is no imminent threat to the community at large.”

However, police quickly changed their tune just one day later, saying they couldn’t say that there was not an ongoing threat to the community.

“We still believe it’s a targeted attack. But the reality is there still is a person out there who committed four very horrible, horrible crimes,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said at the time, according to The Associated Press.

The university has increased security in the wake of the killings and is now offering students the opportunity to finish the semester in-person or virtually. Some students have stated they're not comfortable returning to campus without a suspect in custody. 

"I don’t know how anyone is supposed to feel safe or go back,” senior Emma Vigil told CNN.

The murders have rocked the quiet college community. Friends, family, fellow classmates and members of the public gathered together Wednesday night for a vigil honoring the victims.

Steve Goncalves spoke of the close friendship between his daughter and Mogen, who first met in the sixth grade.

Four University of Idaho students were found dead Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022

“They went to high school together, then they started looking at colleges, they came here together. They eventually got into the same apartment together,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “And in the end, they died together, in the same room, in the same bed.”

He urged his daughter’s fellow classmates to try to focus on the positives in the days to come.

“The only cure to pain is love — it’s the only thing that’s going to heal us; it’s the only thing that’s going to heal you,” he said. “That will make a difference, and that’s something they can see where they’re at right now: That you changed your life a little bit, that you’re a little bit nicer, a little bit kinder.”

Mogen’s father, Ben Mogen, also addressed the crowd to speak about the love he had for his only child.

“When I would meet people ever since she was first born, and they would say, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ the first thing I would say is, ‘I have this daughter — here’s a picture of her, she’s on the dean’s list at college, she works hard, she has all these friends at her sorority,” he said.

Chapin had been a triplet. His mother Stacy recalled the countless hours the family had spent together, whether it was shuttling from one athletic event to another or gathering around the dinner table.

“That’s the most important message we have for you and your families — it’s make sure that you spend as much time as possible with those people, because time is precious and it’s something you can’t get back,” she said.

The most difficult part of the tragedy, she said according to CNN, was that “we cannot change the outcome.”

Kernodle’s family was unable to attend the vigil but she has been remembered by her sister Jazzmin as a bright light who had dreamed of one day changing the world.

“You rarely get to meet someone like Xana,” her sister told KCRA last month. “She was so positive, funny and was loved by everyone who met her.”