More than a week after four University of Idaho students were massacred near campus, law enforcement experts say there have been major blunders in the investigation that could jeopardize the case.
Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were brutally stabbed to death between 3 and 4 a.m. on Nov. 13 at a rental home near the campus in Moscow, Idaho.
“Detectives have provided too much information,” said Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired NYPD sergeant.
The small police force in the city of 25,000 people struggled to cope with the complexity of the crime and sudden public scrutiny following the quadruple murder.
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‘No immediate threat’
Moscow police quickly tried to reassure the public that they were safe, calling the killings “an isolated, targeted attack” that “posed no immediate threat to the community as a whole.”
After massive criticism, Moscow Police Chief James Fry backtracked on the earlier allegation. “We can’t say there isn’t a threat to the community,” he said at a Nov. 16 press conference.
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Retired NYPD Sgt. Herman Weisberg called the first statement a “big misstep” that was “mind-boggling”. “They don’t have an identified suspect and they still don’t have a motive, so until you get those two extremely vital pieces, you can’t put the public at ease,” he said.
Catthy Mabbutt, Latah County coroner who performed the autopsies, took to the news show circuit and shared specific details, including that the victims were each stabbed multiple times in the torso, ambushed in their sleep and some had defensive wounds. She called the attack “personal.”
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“It was not only surprising, but also aggravating,” Giacalone said of the coroner, who is also a lawyer with her own law firm in the city. “It’s not for her to research and speculate on this thing on TV.”
The killer or killers could throw out crucial evidence, and investigators could no longer use those details to erase false confessions, Weisberg added.
Joseph Scott Morgan, a leading researcher in applied forensics at Jacksonville State University, said her public statements were highly unusual, especially in an unsolved murder case.
‘Crime of Passion’
Moscow Mayor Art Bettge initially told the New York Times that the attack was a “crime of passion,” but later backtracked in a statement to TBEN News Digital, saying it was one of many motives behind the attack. police investigating.
“That’s the most important thing when you’re working on this kind of thing. There’s got to be a central point of information delivery,” Morgan told TBEN News Digital.
The Moscow Police Department is cooperating with the FBI and the Idaho State Police, which have now become the focal point for all media investigations.
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“Personally, I cringe when I see the media and the public’s demand for information outweigh the need to maintain the integrity of the investigation,” Weisberg said. “This is all because of the armchair detectives out there on social media.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Moscow Police at 208-883-7054 or email [email protected].