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As University of Idaho students return to campus to finish the semester, university officials say they have “heightened” security measures in response to the still unsolved homicides of four college students.
On Monday, the university posted an Instagram story referencing their efforts to increase security.
“Increased security will be onsite for the remainder of the semester,” the post said, according to Fox News.
The statement mirrored a similar video message, posted last week on Instagram, from University of Idaho President Scott Green, who insisted that the safety and security of students and staff “remains our top priority” in light of the brutal murders.
Students Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were found stabbed to death in an off-campus house on Nov. 13 in a chilling quadruple homicide that has rocked the small college community. The killer remains at-large and no arrests have been made in the weeks since, yet Green insisted that officials are doing all they can to keep students safe.
“We immediately ramped up campus security, requested extra resources and we will continue to take every step we can to provide for the safety of our people,” he said. “This heightened presence of law enforcement will continue into the foreseeable future.”
In addition to the Moscow Police Department, Green said the Idaho State Police are providing additional support as classes resume.
“We’re not accustomed to this kind of violence in our town or at our university and we are grateful to the Idaho State Police for increasing their visibility on our campus and in our community,” he said.
Green also referenced the school’s safe walk program — which he said operates 24 hours a day — and added that additional safety protocols have been put into place at the residence halls.
However, not all students have chosen to return to the campus. According to Green, some students “are not comfortable being back in Moscow until a suspect is in custody.”
As a result, the university is allowing students to complete the semester in-person or virtually.
“This is a time to stand together and lead with care,” Green said.
Before leaving for Thanksgiving break, senior Emma Vigil told CNN that she has “no plans” to return to campus until a suspect is arrested.
Vigil lives in a house just feet away from the murder scene.
“I don’t know how anyone is supposed to feel safe or go back,” she said. “All of my friends have left.”
Tanner McClain, president of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho, told the news outlet that before the holiday break, the campus atmosphere had felt “dark” and many students had chosen to leave because it was “emotionally difficult” to remain at the college.
“It’s very sad to see how this tragedy has just truly devastated our small local community,” McClain said.
Moscow Police also acknowledged the “sense of fear” in the community on Sunday in an update to the case, saying that police have received more 911 calls.
Since the killings, police have received 78 calls for “unusual circumstances” and 36 welfare requests, compared to 70 unusual circumstance calls and 18 welfare checks for the entire month of October.
“As officers respond to these incidents, they find that concerned parties call friends and family before notifying the police,” police said. “For life-safety and emergencies, we want to remind our community to call 9-1-1 before notifying family or friends.”
Police also acknowledged that “no suspect has been identified” in the killings.
Authorities believe the four college students were likely stabbed to death with a “fixed-blade knife” as they slept in the early morning hours of Nov. 13. Some of the victims had defensive wounds, authorities said.
Two surviving roommates — who had stayed on the first floor of the house — “summoned friends to the residence” the next morning after they believed one of the victims “had passed out and was not waking up,” police said.
A call from one of the surviving roommates’ cell phones to 911 was placed at 11:58 a.m. Authorities have said they do not believe the surviving roommates had a role in the killings.
While investigators try to piece together who killed the four friends, other students are returning from Thanksgiving break to a changed campus.
“It definitely feels a little bit different,” student Hayden Rich told CNN Monday. “It’s kind of a different vibe. It seems kind of a sad setting. It is kind of quiet.”
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