No tip is too small, police say as they investigate Idaho student killings and vow to increase presence after holiday break
By Travis Caldwell, CNN
(CNN) -- Police in Idaho will be working through the Thanksgiving holiday on their investigation into the killings of four University of Idaho students that has yet to reveal a suspect or a murder weapon, according to officials.
Four students -- Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21 -- were found stabbed to death in a home on November 13 in a grisly crime scene that police continue to comb over.
"We collected 103 pieces of individual evidence. We took approximately 4,000 photographs. We've come and conducted multiple 3D scans of the residence," said Idaho State Patrol Col. Kedrick Wills, who asked the public for patience as the investigation continues.
The town of Moscow, which houses the University of Idaho's main campus, has not faced a murder since 2015, and residents and students have been deeply affected by the brutal killings.
Some students left town early ahead of the holiday break and professors canceled classes last week over increasing concerns from the lack of a suspect or suspects being identified. The size of the university's security force has also been increased, according to school officials, and faculty have been asked to prepare remote learning options.
Despite initial reassurances that the public was not at risk, police have since clarified that any ongoing threats to the community cannot be ruled out and have asked those in the area to remain vigilant for the safety of themselves and others.
"Maybe we've should, as a community, have always been doing that," Moscow Police Capt. Roger Lanier said Wednesday at a news conference. "This in a way, took our innocence."
Law enforcement is working through about 1,000 tips and has conducted roughly 150 interviews to find whoever is responsible for the homicides, Wills said.
"No bit of information is too small and every tip will be pursued," Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Wednesday.
Police have distributed information on where the students were before they returned home in the hope that someone who was in the area may know more.
"What we've done is we've released a map of the locations where we believe that the victims were that night, that way residents in the local area -- if they happen to have a Ring camera, or if they're out walking the dog and saw something suspicious -- that they're able to provide those tips," Aaron Snell, communications director for Idaho State Police, told CNN.
Police will continue to put "all of our resources into investigating these murders," Lanier said, adding that personnel will work through the Thanksgiving holiday.
"This is our highest priority. It will remain our highest priority. We owe that to the family," Fry said.
Police on Wednesday again laid out what investigators believe to be the victims' last known locations before the attack. Two roommates who were home at the time were unharmed, and police say they do not believe the two were involved.
In the early morning hours of November 13, the four victims and two surviving roommates had all returned to the house on King Road in Moscow by 1:45 a.m. local time, police say.
Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen were at a sports bar between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., then picked up their order at a food truck at 1:40 a.m. before heading home.
Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle had also arrived at the house after attending a party at Chapin's Sigma Chi fraternity house earlier that night.
It was not until that morning at 11:58 a.m. that police learned of what happened, when a 911 call was made from inside the house from one of the surviving roommates' phones.
"The call reported an unconscious person," Lanier said. "During that call the dispatcher spoke to multiple people who were on scene."
Responding officers found two victims on the second floor and the other two victims on the third floor, Lanier said. Autopsy reports show they were stabbed multiple times "and were likely asleep during the attack," he added.
A fixed-blade knife may have been used in the killings, Moscow police say, and local businesses have been contacted to determine if any recent purchases have been made. No collaborating information has been provided as of Tuesday, according to Snell.
As the work from law enforcement continues, families of the victims have been mourning the loss of their loved ones and hope for progress in the investigation.
Stacy Chapin, Ethan's mother, described him as "one of the most incredible people you will ever know," in a public statement before a Monday memorial service in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Chapin thanked the Moscow Police Department for its efforts, as well as "the many strangers across the country, your outreach and kind words are profoundly touching. Please know we now consider all of you friends."
A candlelight vigil to honor the victims will be held on the afternoon of November 30, university president Scott Green announced.
"We're going to make a final determination on the location early next week," Green said, adding that by then they will have a better sense of the incoming weather forecast.
"We're anticipating a large turnout of community members as well as university members -- students, staff, faculty and staff at that particular event," said Green.
The memorial will likely be held on the administration lawn, Green said. All families have been invited as well.
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