MOSCOW, Idaho — The father of one of the four slain University of Idaho students found brutally stabbed in an off-campus home is urging law enforcement and the school to provide more information, saying their silence has only added to the family’s “agony” after three days with an assailant still at large.
Police in the city of Moscow have shared few details about the homicides, but say the students — three women and one man — were killed with an “edged weapon” in an “isolated, targeted attack.”
Still, with no known suspect or motive, students and members of the community are uncertain why police have suggested there is no immediate danger.
“There is a lack of information from the University of Idaho and the local police, which only fuels false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media,” said Jim Chapin, the father of victim Ethan Chapin, 20.
“The silence further compounds our family’s agony after our son’s murder,” Jim Chapin said in a statement. “For Ethan and his three dear friends slain in Moscow, Idaho, and all of our families, I urge officials to speak the truth, share what they know, find the assailant, and protect the greater community.”
The sister of another victim, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, told NBC affiliate KHQ-TV in Spokane, Washington, that she doesn’t agree with the police assessment that the slayings are “isolated.”
“Anything can be isolated until it’s not,” Alivea Goncalves said. “And until we have someone in custody, there’s no way with any amount of confidence to say this is isolated.”
“Someone did this with a purpose — not once, not twice, not three times, but four,” Goncalves added. “I don’t know of anything scarier than that.”
What we know about the deaths of four Idaho college students
Moscow police did not immediately respond to requests for further comment, but officials said they would hold a news conference later Wednesday.
In a statement Tuesday, police said they “have shared every piece of information that we can without compromising the ongoing investigation.”
“First and foremost, we continue to be steadfastly committed to ensuring the safety of our community,” the statement said.
“This incident highlighted that violence is possible in our own community and in every community. Until this case is completely resolved, we ask the community to continue to be vigilant, alert, report suspicious activity and help us to be the eyes and ears in our community.”
The coroner in Latah County, Cathy Mabbutt, said medical examiners in Spokane, Washington, were conducting autopsies and could finish their work by Wednesday.
A preliminary investigation shows the students were stabbed to death, she said, and that there was nothing to indicate that substance use was involved.
“Gruesome,” Mabbutt told KHQ. “I’ve never seen anything like this in the 16 years I’ve been in this position.”
Homicides are rare in Moscow, a rural city of roughly 25,000 people just east of the Washington state line. There hasn’t been a homicide reported in the city in the past several years, according to police.
A neighbor told NBC News that Goncalves lived in the home with Madison Mogen, 21, and Xana Kernodle, 20, who were also found dead. They said Kernodle had been dating Chapin since the spring.
In an Oct. 29 Instagram post, Kernodle wished Chapin a happy birthday and said life was “so much better with you in it.”
The friends were active in their respective sororities and fraternity. Kernodle and Mogen worked together at a Greek restaurant in town, and Mogen and Goncalves were seniors looking forward to graduating.
“One lucky girl to be surrounded by these people every day,” Goncalves wrote on Instagram with photos of the friends posted hours before their deaths.
Moscow police said they were alerted to the residence in a neighborhood about a half-block from campus through a report about an unconscious individual.
The FBI said Tuesday they were assisting in the local investigation.
“Obviously, there’s no way police can say that there’s no risk, but what they’re seeing indicates that there’s not a risk that this person will randomly attack people,” Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson told The Associated Press.
The University of Idaho canceled classes on Monday and was making additional security and counseling available this week. But many students have already left for the holiday break, and a planned vigil had to be moved to after Thanksgiving break.
Those who have stayed at the school say they are taking extra precautions.
“I’m locking my bedroom door on top of my apartment door,” said sophomore Ainslee Hipsak, 20. “I’m not sure I believe them when they say that it’s safe.”
Tim Stelloh reported from Moscow and Erik Ortiz from New York.