MOSCOW — The Moscow Police Department released new details Friday about the murder case involving four University of Idaho students and have ruled out three people as suspects.
There are no suspects in custody and the murder weapon hasn’t been found.
Detectives are seeking additional tips from the public to further their investigation into the deaths of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves.
According to Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt, the four students likely were asleep in the King Road residence when they were stabbed. Some had defensive wounds. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Police found all four victims in the King Road residence around noon Sunday, as well as two surviving roommates. Detectives don’t believe those two roommates are involved in the crime. The identity of the 911 caller who alerted police to an unconscious person wasn’t released.
The Moscow Police Department released a map on Facebook (shown on Page 5A) showing the locations where the four students were last seen before they were attacked.
The map shows that Chapin and Kernodle were seen at the Sigma Chi house on the UI campus from approximately 8-9 p.m. Saturday. They ended up at the King Road residence approximately 1:45 a.m. Sunday. The map doesn’t account for their whereabouts between 9 p.m. and 1:45 a.m.
Mogen and Goncalves were seen at the Corner Club on Main Street between 10 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 a.m. Sunday. They then visited the Grub Truck on Main Street at approximately 1:40 a.m. before making their way back to the King Road residence at approximately 1:45 a.m. after getting a ride from a “private party,” the police said in an update to their news release.
Video surveillance showing Mogen and Goncalves at the Grub Truck also shows an unnamed male. Police don’t believe this man was involved in the crime.
“Additionally, online reports of the victims being tied and gagged are not accurate,” the police stated.
Detectives also are going through possible evidence in three dumpsters that were seized from King Road.
“Additionally, detectives have contacted local businesses to determine if a fixed-blade knife had been recently purchased,” the police stated.
Investigators have received nearly 500 tips and have conducted 38 interviews with individuals so far.
Anyone near the areas where the victims were last seen and who observed suspicious behavior, has video surveillance, or can provide relevant information is asked to call the tip line at (208) 883-7180 or email email@example.com.
Police have been more forthcoming since holding a news conference about the case Wednesday.
In the first few days after the investigation started Sunday, emails from members of the Moscow City Council to city officials expressed disappointment in how information regarding the murders was conveyed to the public and the press.
In a Wednesday email sent to the City Council and City Supervisor Bill Belknap, Councilor Hailey Lewis urged Mayor Art Bettge not to answer media questions about the case.
“Mayor Bettge, I believe it is imperative that you do not take any more media questions, in any capacity,” Lewis wrote in an email obtained by a Moscow-Pullman Daily News records request. “Even what you may believe is a nonanswer is being used as an answer in media outlets — saying you have not been briefed by police is not helping.”
Bettge was quoted Monday in the New York Times describing the murders as a “crime of passion.” He later clarified to the Daily News that this quote was part of a larger comment that “it could have been: crime of passion, botched burglary or robbery gone wrong.”
Lewis urged the city to appoint a single spokesperson to communicate to the media. Idaho State Police communications director Aaron Snell is now the point of contact for media requests about the case.
In emails sent Tuesday and acquired by the Daily News’ records request, councilors Anne Zabala and Julia Parker expressed frustration about the police department initially stating there was no threat to the public even though no suspect had been identified or caught. The police have walked back that statement and asked the public to remain vigilant while the killer is still free.
Both Zabala and Parker urged the city to hold a news conference. On Wednesday, a news conference was held with Moscow Police Chief James Fry, UI President Scott Green and ISP Col. Kedrick Wills.
Kuipers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.