University of Idaho students slayings 'took our innocence,' authorities say; more than 1K tips investigated

More than a week after four University of Idaho students were fatally stabbed at their home, authorities are making a public plea for help, as they have not identified a suspect or found a murder weapon.

Moscow Police Capt. Roger Lanier told a news conference Wednesday that his department was putting all of its resources into solving the case and that investigators are prepared to work through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

"This is our highest priority. It will remain our highest priority," Lanier said, updating the public on the investigation that has shocked the campus. "We owe that to the families."

Lanier was also clear about what residents, especially students, should do in a college town of about 26,000 residents near the Idaho-Washington State border that hasn't had a reported homicide in about 5 years.

Lanier said Moscow, Idaho, has always been a safe community, but that students should probably travel in pairs, and tell someone when they leave and arrive for a destination. And there are plans to increase police presence on campus.

"In some ways, this took our innocence," Lanier said. "I would tell students that you need to stay with a friend. I know that university staff is looking into different options to increase some of the safety on campus.

"Going forward, there's a lot of things that maybe we wished we would've done before that we need to start doing now."

A TIMELINE: Four University of Idaho students were slain in their beds while they slept: What we know

Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found killed in Moscow, Idaho, days earlier, pay their respects at a vigil held in front of a statue on the Boise State campus.
Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found killed in Moscow, Idaho, days earlier, pay their respects at a vigil held in front of a statue on the Boise State campus.

The victims were housemates Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington. The students' bodies were found Nov. 13 after police were called to their off-campus rental home.

Investigators are looking for what they believe is "a fixed blade or knife used in the murders," Lanier said.

Idaho State Police Col. Kedrick Wills said investigators were working around the clock. They have collected more than 100 pieces of evidence and 4,000 photos, processed more than 1,000 tips and "multiple 3D scans" of the house where the stabbings occurred. They also interviewed about 150 people.

Wills hoped that the statistics will help ease a frustrated and anxious community desperate for answers with "a little bit of a perception of just how complex" the case is.

"We understand you want answers. We want answers, too," Wills said. "Please remain patient as this investigation unfolds."

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said he believes there is more information to be gathered that will create a window into this case.

"We all want to understand why this happened and what drove someone to do this," Fry said. "The families of those involved and our entire community deserve to know."

During the news conference, Lanier again laid out the timeline of the stabbings and said authorities have ruled out others they believe were not involved in the attack.

Those people include the two surviving roommates in the house, and a man who was seen in a grub truck video circulating on the internet.

A TARGETED ATTACK: 4 University of Idaho students were likely killed with an 'edged weapon,' police say

Authorities have also ruled out "any individuals that spoke to the dispatcher on the 911 call" as suspects and a man "that Caylee and Madison had called several times" – the night they were stabbed, Lanier added.

Lanier said detectives have looked into information that Gonclaves "may have had a stalker and have been unable to corroborate the statement," although they continue investigating. Lanier also added that reports of the victims "being tied or gagged are not accurate."

Wills confirmed that Idaho Gov. Brad Little is making available up to $1 million in expenses for the investigation.

Also at the news conference, University of Idaho President Scott Green said support from the community and alumni has been overwhelming, and that there will be a Nov. 30 candlelight vigil to honor the victims.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: University of Idaho students' deaths took 'our innocence' Police