U of I homicides remain unsolved. What to know about the Moscow police investigating

The brutal murders of four University of Idaho students in their home last month have been shrouded in mystery. Weeks after the Nov. 13 killings, police have yet to identify a suspect, and the details about what happened are still murky at best. . . .

On Nov. 13, the North Idaho university town was thrown in the national spotlight when four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death in an off-campus home. The four victims — Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin — were found dead in a King Road home just behind new Greek row. Moscow Police Chief James Fry and his department are investigating one of the largest homicide cases in the city’s recent history. More than 100 law enforcement personnel are assisting the local force, including the Idaho State Police, the FBI and the Latah County Sheriff’s Office.

The flood of calls to the Moscow Police Department is a sign of just how afraid people in this college town have become, three weeks after four University of Idaho students were fatally stabbed by an unknown assailant in their bedrooms in the middle of the night.

Many students refused to come back to campus after Thanksgiving, and some classrooms at the university now sit half empty. Those who did return said they bought doorbell cameras, put rods in their windows to lock them shut or began hunkering down with roommates at night.

The police have issued sometimes contradictory statements, leading at least one victim’s family to question whether investigators are up to the task of solving a quadruple homicide in a city that had not seen a murder since 2015. Seeking to calm the community, the police quickly said they believed there was no “ongoing community risk” or “imminent threat.” An initial statement from the police that the attacks were “targeted” was walked back and forth, with Bill Thompson, the Latah County prosecutor, saying at one point that he had no more information than the public about why the police had called it that. “That’s what they told us and we accepted that at face value,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office said that at least one of the college students killed in the attack was undoubtedly targeted. But the Moscow police followed up with another statement saying that this was a “miscommunication.” 

“Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate,” police said, later adding that they “remain consistent in our belief that this was a targeted attack, but investigators have not concluded if the target was the residence or if it was the occupants.

Blaine Eckles, the dean of students at the university, said about a third of students who live in residence halls had not returned, though he did not have a figure for how many of the vast majority of students who live off campus have switched to online learning. As some students returned to campus on Monday following the holiday break, they said their classes were emptier than usual, and a heaviness could be felt over campus.

Over the last five years, the most common crimes handled by the Moscow Police Department were simple assault, theft, destruction of property and drug violations, according to data from state police. The Moscow Police Department cleared about one-fourth of its cases last year, according to Idaho State Police crime reports. Comparatively, the state reported the Lewiston Police Department, which polices a community of roughly 33,000, had a clearance rate of about 44%. The Moscow Police Department’s clearance rate took a dip in 2020 down to 25.1%, after having a rate of 31% in 2019, according to the state police reports.

Read more at: NYT. And The Idaho Statesman and CBS