Idaho police reverse course, walk back previous key theory about murdered university students

After weeks of hearing from law enforcement officials and prosecutors that the brutal attacks on four University of Idaho students were “targeted,” the Moscow Police Department is now walking those claims back, stating in a late Wednesday news release that, “Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate.”

The release followed a statement made by Latah County prosecutor Bill Thompson, who said that “investigators believe that this attack was intended for a specific person,” according to Fox News.

In an interview with News Nation Senior National Correspondent Brian Entin for KTVB, Thomspon stated that, while “targeted” may not be the best word to describe the murders, “investigators believe that whoever was responsible was specifically looking at this particular residence, but that’s all that they can offer at this point.”

By Wednesday evening, the Moscow Police Department was blaming a “miscommunication” for Thompson’s error.

The news shocked New York Times national correspondent Mike Baker.

“Unbelievable,” he tweeted. “The most consistent message from police investigating the University of Idaho killings has been that they believe the attack was ‘targeted’ (while refusing to disclose how they concluded that). Tonight’s disclosure: They don’t know if the attack was targeted.”

If Thompson was confused, it likely had something to do with Moscow Police’s early reporting on the horrifying crime.

On November 15, just two days after the murders, Moscow PD issued a press release clearly stating that “based on information from the preliminary investigation, investigators believe this was an isolated, targeted attack and there is no imminent threat to the community at large.

On Nov. 23, Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier repeated the claim.

“We’ve told the public very clearly from the beginning that we believe it was a targeted attack,” he said at a news conference. “To be honest, you’re going to have to trust us on that at this point, because we’re not going to release why we think that.”

That same day, a former FBI agent sounded the alarm for the Idaho community on CBS.

“If an offender has this capability — even though maybe one or two of the victims were targeted and the others were not, but were still killed — this offender, because of that behavior, that high-risk, impulsive type of behavior, is capable of repeating it again in the right set of circumstances,” Mary Ellen O’Toole stated.

The day prior, Fox News dragged out former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman, who stated, “We have a targeted crime here and they are not going to lay out exactly why it’s targeted.”

(Video: YouTube)

And on Nov. 26, Idaho State Police communications director Aaron Snell gave no reason to doubt those claims.

“There were survivors of this. And then as well, based on the evidence internally at the scene, that has led detectives to believe and continue to believe that this was a targeted event,” he told Fox News Digital.

Meanwhile, Thompson has issued an apology for the “misinformation.”

“Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today,” he wrote to KTVB. “We want to let you know that there was a miscommunication between detectives and my office. To clarify, investigators do not believe the murders were random, but we cannon unequivocally state the residence, or any occupants, were specifically targeted. I apologize for any confusion.”

(Video: YouTube)

“Wednesday marked 17 days since the murders of Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21,” Fox News reports. “Police have not identified a suspect in the case or located a murder weapon, though they believe the attack was committed with a ‘fixed-blade knife.'”

“More than 100 law enforcement officers from the Moscow Police Department, Idaho State Police, and FBI are investigating the murders,” the outlet states. “Officials have appealed to the public for information on ‘any odd or out-of-the-ordinary events that took place’ around Nov. 13.”

Melissa Fine


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