‘People could be charged’: Idaho police warn overzealous internet sleuths to back off

The lack of satisfying progress surrounding the investigation of the murder of four University of Idaho students has driven internet detectives down paths of “speculation and rumors,” leading police to warn that some are treading close to “criminal charges.”

Nearly one month after the slaying of 20-year-olds Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin along with 21-year-olds Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, a suspect has yet to be identified in their fatal stabbings. With threads on online communities like Reddit garnering more than 40,000 members sharing theories about the murders, Moscow Police Chief James Fry spoke Friday with caution on how far some have taken their personal investigations.

“What we want people to know is…that individuals who are being harassed in this situation, people need to be careful because some of it’s happening online, some of it’s happening through phone calls and in person,” Fry said of the avenues that some had taken to obtain new information, “and people could be charged possibly in the future if it continues to a point where it reaches a criminal element.”

“You know, there’s been a lot of speculation and rumors. And what we want to say is, we are the official source of information. We want people to pay attention to what we’re putting out there because that is accurate information, and anything that comes from other sources is either rumor or speculation and we want to put an end to that as soon as possible.”

Likewise, the City of Moscow Police Department had expressed in a statement, “Investigators have been monitoring online activity related to this ongoing and active case and are aware of the large amount of rumors and misinformation being shared as well as harassing and [threatening] behavior toward potentially involved parties.”

“Anyone engaging in threats or harassment whether in person, online or otherwise needs to understand that they could be subjecting themselves to criminal charges,” the statement continued.

Kristi, a friend of Goncalves’ parents spoke with The Independent and said, “All the noise out there is really harming the families. And it’s taking the police down trails that are not real and taking them away from the ones that are.”

Steve Goncalves, Kaylee’s father, had also expressed his own concerns, but with the way in which police were handling the investigation. As previously reported, he spoke with “Fox & Friends Weekend” and told the hosts, “I do not feel confident. And that’s why I push the envelope and say a little bit more. I hate to be that guy, but, you know…everybody has a job and a role to play and this is my role as the parent.”

 

The key takeaway from law enforcement was, “Moscow Police Department cautions the public not to rely on rumors and remains committed to keeping the public informed. We urge reliance on official channels for accurate information.”

Though a suspect had yet to be named in the brutal murders and some unofficial investigations had potentially gone too far, authorities did thank the public for continuing to call in tips as it had led them to begin searching for a “white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra.”

“Tip and leads have led investigators to look for additional information about this vehicle being in the immediate area of the King Road residence during the early morning hours of November 13th,” the police statement read. “Investigators believe the occupant(s) of this vehicle may have critical information to share regarding this case.”

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