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Nicholas K. Geraniums/AP
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Moscow University City police said Wednesday they did not identify a suspect or find a weapon in the weekend slayings of four University of Idaho students at a rental home near the campus.
Authorities continue to believe the attack was targeted, but have retracted an earlier statement that there was no threat to the public.
“Investigators are working to follow up on all leads and identify a person of interest,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry told a news conference. “We don’t have a suspect at this time, and that individual is still out there. We can’t say there isn’t a threat to the community.”
“We have to be aware of our surroundings,” Fry said.
All four victims were stabbed with a knife, the chief reported. There were no signs of forced entry, and the first officers to arrive found an open door. Two other people were found alive and unharmed in the big house.
“I’m not going to go into what they shared,” Fry said.
“We are focusing on everyone,” he added. “We are still following everyone who might have been in that area.”
Some of the victims’ relatives have been tight-lipped urging police to release more information about the killings and to reveal why they said there was no continuing danger.
Fry defended those statements, saying: “We take the totality of the things we see… and we make the best decision we can. I’m not going to dwell on that.”
The victims, three women and one man, all close friends, were found dead Sunday afternoon by police who responded to a report of an unconscious person in the home. Authorities said they were likely killed several hours earlier.
Fry did not say who called 911.
The victims were identified as Madison Mogan, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Ariz.; and Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Wash.
Autopsies were conducted in nearby Spokane, Washington, on Wednesday, and the Idaho State Police and FBI were also working on the case, Fry said.
Goncalves’s family issued a warning to whoever was behind the murders.
“Whoever is responsible, we will find. We will never stop. The pain he caused fueled our hatred and sealed his fate,” the family said in a statement on Twitter. “Justice will be done.”
Moscow is a city of about 25,000 people in the Idaho Panhandle, about 80 miles south of Spokane.
News of the murders caused many of the 11,000 students to leave the Idaho campus early for the Thanksgiving break.
University of Idaho President Scott Green also spoke at the news conference, saying the school will remain open the rest of the week because some students felt comfortable being on campus with professors and classmates. But the school was also giving excused absences to whoever felt more comfortable leaving early.
“We’ll support each other through the duel,” Green said, her voice cracking as she read the four names. “We just want justice for these victims.”
Aubrie Goncalves, Kaylee’s sister, posted a message on Instagram urging the students to leave.
“Their grades are much less important than their lives. I wish all U of I students safety and peace,” she wrote a few hours before the police news conference. “You are not safe until this sick man is found. If the person who did this is capable of killing four innocent people, he is capable of killing more.”