MOSCOW, Idaho — Moscow, Idaho, police are grappling with an influx of callers who are concerned for their safety as the investigation into the quadruple homicide involving four local university students extends into its third week.
As of Sunday, Moscow Police Department has seen an uptick in calls from people reporting "unusual circumstances" or requesting welfare checks on loved ones in the weeks since four University of Idaho students were discovered murdered on November 13. Police have received 78 calls for unusual circumstances and 36 requests that police perform a welfare check – up from the 70 and 18, respectively, they received during October as a whole, the department said in a Sunday press release.
Police are also sounding the alarm on a trend in which the callers are notifying their friends or family before phoning officers to respond, authorities said.
"We understand there is a sense of fear within our community," police said. "For life-safety and emergencies, we want to remind our community to call 9-1-1 before notifying family or friends."
University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and 21-year-old Madison Mogen were stabbed several times and killed in the early morning hours of November 13, officials have said. Police have not identified any suspects and have not recovered a murder weapon.
Similar to the trend police described on Sunday, the quartet’s concerned friends called other people to the home before notifying police.
Moscow Police received a call shortly before noon on Nov. 13 for a report of an "unconscious person" at the King Road home, but several people had gathered at the crime scene by the time police arrived, officials said.
According to police, the 911 call "originated from inside the residence," and came from one of the surviving roommates' cell phones. Police said multiple people spoke to the dispatcher before officers arrived.
Investigators have determined all four were likely stabbed in their sleep sometime between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., after they had returned home from a night out. Some of the victims appeared to have tried to defend themselves.
All four victims are believed to have been killed using a single "fix-blade knife," police said.
Two other roommates were inside the home, on the bottom floor, at the time of the murders, but were uninjured.
Officials have called the attack "targeted," but have not said who was the intended victim.
Police said Sunday they had received more than 488 "digital media submissions" via the FBI portal.
Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Wills said investigators had collected 103 pieces of evidence from the crime scene, and took an estimated 4,000 photos as of Wednesday.
"We’ve conducted multiple 3D scans of the residence, and we have hundreds of hours used by technicians and investigators, including our forensics teams and detectives from multiple agencies," Wills continued.
He added that investigators had processed "over a thousand tips and conducted 150 interviews."
Meanwhile, officials said late Tuesday that investigators had received information that Goncalves could have had a stalker. Investigators "looked extensively" into those reports, and "have pursued hundreds of pieces of information" related to the stalker tip.
As of Wednesday, they had been unable to confirm the information or identify a stalker. Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier added that police learned while conducting interviews that Goncalves "had made some comments about a stalker."
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"And we have followed up looking at specific time frames and specific areas of town," he continued. "So far, we have not been able to corroborate it. But we're not done looking into that piece of information."
Idaho Gov. Brad Little has since allocated up to $1 million toward the ongoing investigation.
The Moscow Police Department is urging the public to submit any images or information that they think could be important or useful to their investigation. They can do so by calling 208-883-7180, submitting tips through firstname.lastname@example.org, and sending digital media here.
Authorities have also created a dedicated webpage related to the King Road attack.