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Fact-checking the rumors in the Idaho student murders

University of Idaho
Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 02, 2022

The brutal murders of four University of Idaho students in their home last month have been shrouded in mystery. Weeks after the Nov. 13 killings, police have yet to identify a suspect, and the details about what happened are still murky at best — and continue to develop by the day.

The four college students — roommates Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves and Xana Kernodle and Kernodle's boyfriend Ethan Chapin — were discovered dead on the second and third floors of the home in Moscow, Idaho. Two other roommates were at the house at the time of the murders and apparently slept through the attack, police said. On Thursday, they said there is also a sixth person on the lease, "but do not believe that individual was present during the incident."

With so few major facts of the case established, rumors have run rampant — from unfounded claims of a skinned dog on the property to the murders possibly being connected to other stabbings.
"At this time, no suspect has been identified and only vetted information that does not hinder the investigation will be released to the public," Moscow police said Thursday. "There is speculation, without factual backing, stoking community fears and spreading false facts. We encourage referencing official releases for accurate information and updated progress."

Here's what police have said so far about many of the claims circulating on the internet.

Were the victims targeted in the attack?

Earlier this week, the Latah County Prosecutor's Office said that at least one of the college students killed in the attack was undoubtedly targeted. But the Moscow police followed up with another statement saying that this was a "miscommunication."

"Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate," police said, later adding that they "remain consistent in our belief that this was a targeted attack, but investigators have not concluded if the target was the residence or if it was the occupants."

Is the case is related to other stabbings in neighboring states?

Some people have raised suspicions that the Idaho student murders could be related to stabbing deaths in two other states — Washington and Oregon. Specifically, people have pointed to a 1999 double stabbing in Pullman, Washington, when two women in their 20s were attacked and wounded in their apartment shortly before 3 a.m.

People have also pointed to a 2021 double stabbing in Salem, Oregon, during which Travis and Jamilyn Juetten were stabbed multiple times when someone broke into their home at around 3 a.m. Travis was killed and Jamilyn survived, according to the Statesman Journal. The news outlet said that case has yet to be solved and remains under investigation.

But despite their late-night and regional similarities, Moscow police said there does not seem to be a link.

"While these cases share similarities with the King Street homicides, there does not appear to be any evidence to support the cases are related," police said last week.

Was a skinned dog found near the students' house connected to the case?

Within days of the grisly discovery at the students' home, nearby residents Pam and Jim Colbert told the Daily Mail that their dog was fatally skinned a month before the incident. According to that report, their 12-year-old dog Buddy looked like "a deer that someone had hunted" and that they had "filleted him like they were about to eat him."

Following that report, however, police said it is "unrelated" to the Idaho student murders.

"Detectives are also aware of a Moscow Police incident of the report of deceased animals left on a resident's property," they said. "This was determined to be wildlife activity and unrelated to the incident."

A dog at the Idaho students' home when police arrived at the scene was "unharmed" and was taken to animal services, they added.

Did victim Kaylee Goncalves have a stalker?

In the investigation thus far, Moscow police said they have received "hundreds of pieces of information" while probing whether victim Kaylee Goncalves, 21, was being stalked before her murder. Authorities said they were first made aware of the claim while conducting interviews.

"We have followed up looking at specific timeframes and specific areas of town," Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier said last week. "So far, we have not been able to corroborate it, but we're not done looking into that piece of information."

On a portion of the police website labeled "Rumor Control," police said investigators have looked at this allegation extensively but "have not verified or identified a stalker." However, they said, anyone who might have information about such a situation should contact them.

What about the surviving roommates?

Many people, including true crime fanatics on TikTok, have suggested that the two surviving roommates who were at the house when police were called the morning after the murders may have been involved. However, police have said that they do not believe that to be the case.

Much of the online speculation seem to stem from the 911 calls that were placed on Nov. 13 just before noon. According to police, the surviving roommates had asked friends to come to the residence because they thought one of their roommates on the second floor was "passed out and not waking up."

One of the surviving roommate's cellphones was used to call 911 from inside the home seeking help for an unconscious person. Before police arrived, "multiple people" spoke to a 911 dispatcher, police said. When police arrived, they found the victims on the second and third floors.

Police have said they do not believe anyone inside the residence when the 911 call was made was involved in the attack.

Police also noted Thursday that a sixth person was listed on the lease, but said they "do not believe that individual was present during the incident."

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