Investigators in Moscow, Idaho, are now walking back a key claim that the slayings of four University of Idaho students was a targeted attack.
In an update Wednesday night, investigators said they “do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted.”
Police officials have attempted to tamp down fears in the community from the moment they discovered the bodies of four students stabbed and killed in their beds on Nov. 13 by saying it appeared the attack was a targeted killing rather than a random act of homicidal violence.
The development follows a day of confusion and what police are calling misinformation that was shared with multiple media outlets by Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson. He had said “that one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted.”
With few updates and no suspects in the stabbing deaths, university leadership has begun planning for spring semester.
Even before the deaths of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, the university was in constant communication with the Moscow Police Department, said Blaine Eckles, dean of students.
“We work very closely with law enforcement here in Moscow,” Eckles said.
That relationship has continued since the tragedy with daily briefings from law enforcement, Eckles said.
“The institution, everybody would like more information,” Eckles said, acknowledging investigators have shared little about the situation. “While we’re impatient just like everybody, we also recognize that they have a job to do.”
With the killer on the loose, the university allowed students to choose whether they wanted to return to campus following Thanksgiving break or participate remotely.
The university continues to offer a safe walk program, where students can call campus security at (208) 885-7054 for an escort across campus, Eckles said. This week, they instituted a safe rides program between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. to “augment” the safe walk program.
The university also hired private security to supplement increased Idaho State Police patrols.
“That security presence is not going to go away,” Eckles said.
As the semester draws to a close, leadership has begun discussing plans for the spring semester.
“We’re basing a lot of information about what happens in the investigation,” Eckles said. “We haven’t made any long-term decisions yet.”
The University of Idaho community can expect an update via email in the next few weeks.
If the investigation continues without suspects, Eckles said he’s not sure if that could affect enrollment.
“This is a bridge that we have not walked on before; quite frankly, not many institutions have,” Eckles said. “The unresolved nature of this, we don’t know if that will impact enrollment or not.”
The university plans to continue evaluating safety plans as things change, he said.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of outreach of love and care from across the state, even across the nation and around the world,” Eckles said. “We just really appreciate everyone that is offering those sentiments, helps for sure … we’re just incredibly thankful.”
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