Authorities investigating the slayings of four University of Idaho students walked back a key detail in the grisly case — revealing Wednesday that detectives actually aren’t sure if the quadruple homicide was a targeted attack.
The stunning revelation came after local police told the public from early on in their investigation that they believe a killer or killers targeted the victims in the brutal knife attack last month at an off campus house in the college city of Moscow.
In a news release posted to their website and Facebook, the Moscow Police Department blamed the apparent change in theory on a “miscommunication” with prosecutors.
“Conflicting information has been released over the past 24 hours. 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,” Moscow police said in a press release. “We have spoken with the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office and identified this was a miscommunication.
“Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate.”
Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, both 20, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21, were found dead inside their college home Nov. 13 and no suspects have been identified in the murders.
On one occasion 10 days after the students were killed, Moscow police captain Roger Lanier said during a press conference that “We told the public very clearly from the beginning that we believe it was a targeted attack.
“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.”
As of early Thursday morning, under a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on the Moscow Police Department’s website, an answer to whether the public was in danger over the murders still read: “However, detectives believe these murders were targeted.”
Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson told NewsNation Tuesday that saying the attack was “targeted” might not have been the best word choice and that it perhaps means different things to different people.
He added investigators believe the suspect was looking at “this particular residence,” but couldn’t say if a certain individual was on the killer’s radar. He also said he was not aware that drugs played a role in the killings.
Then the next day a reporter with KTVB tweeted Wednesday morning that Thompson confirmed to her in a taped interview that one of the victims was targeted.
The deaths have led to few answers as the killer or killers remain on the loose, leading to frustration from the victims’ families and growing anxiety in the small Idaho community.
“At this time, no suspect has been identified and only vetted information that does not hinder the investigation will be released to the public,” Moscow police said. “There is speculation, without factual backing, stoking community fears and spreading false facts. We encourage referencing official releases for accurate information and updated progress.”