Authorities are ‘making progress’ on the investigation into the murder of four University of Idaho students found dead nearly 10 days ago, a state police spokesman said Tuesday – a day after that the family of one of the victims mourned their loss at a memorial.
Stacy Chapin described her son Ethan Chapin as “one of the most amazing people you know,” ahead of a Monday service in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Chapin, 20, was found dead Nov. 13 along with Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21. All four were discovered in a house near the University of Idaho campus in the city of Moscow after police responded to a call for an unconscious person, officials said. The victims had been stabbed to death, according to a county coroner.
After interviewing more than 90 people and receiving at least 700 leads, investigators believe they are “definitely making progress” on the case, state police communications director Aaron Snell told CNN on Tuesday. Authorities are also reviewing voluminous records after asking the public for surveillance video of the area.
“This is a very big operation, a very big investigation and it’s a very terrible crime,” he said.
Ethan Chapin’s family gathered ahead of his funeral on Monday to express their thanks to their local community, extended family and friends, whom they called “beacons of strength”. She also expressed her gratitude to foreigners across the country who have reached out to show their support.
“Your outreach and kind words are deeply touching. Know that we all now consider you friends,” said Stacy Chapin, flanked by family members.
Stacy Chapin also thanked the Moscow Police Department, saying its investigators “now carry the burden every day not just for us, but for all affected families.”
The Moscow Police Department is leading the investigation into the stabbings, with assistance from the FBI as well as state and local law enforcement.
Officials are then to hold a press conference on Wednesday to brief the public on the investigation.
There are several unanswered questions surrounding the investigation and police say they have not identified a suspect or found the weapon used in the murders.
The grisly crime rocked the small college community of around 26,000 that hasn’t recorded a murder since 2015, and anxiety escalated when police said they were unable to s ensure that the public was not at further risk.
“We cannot say there is no threat to the community and as we have said please remain vigilant, report suspicious activity and be aware of your surroundings at all times,” the Moscow police chief, James Fry.
With the community growing increasingly concerned about the homicides and the lack of answers in the case, many students left campus before the fall break.
Some teachers canceled classes last week, including Zachary Turpin, who writing on social media he “cannot, in good conscience, hold classes” until police release more information or identify a suspect in the murders.
University of Idaho President Scott Green sent a memo Monday to students and employees about learning options. Students are on fall vacation and when classes resume, there will be two weeks left in the semester.
“Professors have been asked to prepare options for in-person instruction and distance learning so that each student can choose their method of engagement… Moving classes fully online is not preferred but may be necessary in limited situations,” he wrote.
Graduation ceremonies are still scheduled for December 10.
He also said an increased number of state troopers will be on campus for the foreseeable future. The size of the school’s security force has also been increased, he added.
Investigators began establishing a timeline of events regarding the students and their last known whereabouts before the fatal attack.
Chapin and Kernodle attended a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house from 8 to 9 p.m. on Saturday – the day before they died.
Goncalves and Mogen were at a local sports bar between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. The pair were then seen ordering from a nearby food truck, according to a Twitch live stream from the truck.
As they waited for their food for about 10 minutes, they chatted among themselves and with other people standing near the truck. The man who manages the truck told CNN the couple did not appear to be in any distress or danger in any way.
Goncalves and Mogen took advantage of a “private party” to take a ride, arriving home at 1:45 a.m., police said. Investigators do not believe the driver was involved in the deaths, they said on Saturday. The four victims were back home around 1:45 a.m. Sunday.
From there, authorities are working to determine how and when the attack happened.
Moscow police say it wasn’t until just before noon on Sunday that a 911 call was received about an “unconscious individual” and responding officers found all four students dead. Police said there were no signs of forced entry when officers arrived.
Moscow police “do not believe” that two roommates who were at the house during the attack and who were not injured were involved in the crime, the department said on Friday.
The students were “probably asleep” before they were attacked, Moscow police said Friday, citing the Latah County coroner. Some of the four had defensive wounds – although the number of victims is not specified – and there were no signs of sexual assault, according to the police update.
At a news conference on Sunday, the police chief declined to identify who made the 911 call, saying only that it came from the phone of one of the surviving roommates.
Fry said there were other “friends who arrived at the scene,” adding that the one who made the 911 call was not a suspect.
On Monday, police said a dog was also found at the home. “The dog was uninjured and was released to animal services and subsequently released to a responsible party.” Moscow police said in a Facebook post.
The University of Idaho has announced that a candlelight vigil will be held on campus Nov. 30 in remembrance of the four students killed.
“Please join us from where you are, individually or as a group, to help us light up Idaho. Light a candle, turn on the stadium lights, or hold a moment of silence with us as we unite on campus,” the university said.