Police reaffirmed Thursday that the grisly killings of four University of Idaho students were part of a “targeted attack” the day after authorities appeared to suggest otherwise.
“We remain consistent in our belief that this was a targeted attack, but we have not concluded whether the target was the residence or its occupants,” a Moscow Police Department spokesperson told NBC News.
Authorities have released conflicting statements since Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and her boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20, were found fatally stabbed to death in an off-campus house in Moscow on November 13.
The murders, described by a local medical examiner as one of the most “gruesome” he has ever seen, have left the families of the victims and the public with many questions.
Two days after the bodies were found, police in November 15 described the killings as “a targeted attack” carried out with a “blade weapon.” The researchers have not disclosed their basis for that initial conclusion.
The Latah County Prosecutor’s Office released its own statement, saying that “the suspects specifically observed this residence” and “one or more of the occupants was undoubtedly attacked.” The Moscow Police Department said on Wednesday that it was a “lack of communication”.
“Detectives do not currently know if the residence or the occupants were targeted specifically, but are continuing to investigate,” police said in a post on the department’s Facebook page.
NBC News has reached out to the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office for clarification on his statement.
This is not the first time that Moscow’s police force of 36 officers and staff in the largely rural city of nearly 26,000 residents has issued mixed messages in the case.
Another point that police have backed down on is whether there is a threat to the community.
In the hours after the victims’ bodies were discovered at their private residence half a block from the university, Moscow police told the public that while “no one is in custody,” the department “does not believe there is an ongoing risk to the community.”
Two days later, the officials went on to say that there was “no imminent threat.”
But that changed the next day: “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said at a Nov. 16 news conference.
These unclear answers may have given whoever fatally stabbed the students more time to flee, law enforcement experts say.