The chief of the police investigating the murders of four University of Idaho students has said the local department will remain the lead agency in the probe.
Six weeks on from the brutal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin at an off-campus rental home in Moscow on 13 November, the killer remains at large.
Amid growing tension between the victims’ loved ones about the lack of information being released and doubts raised on whether the local department has the resources and experience to handle the probe, the chief of police said he will keep lead oversight of the investigation.
“There have been numerous questions about leadership in this investigation. Let me be clear, this is the Moscow Police Department’s investigation, and I am the Chief of Police,” Moscow Police Department Chief James Fry said in a video statement on Tuesday.
He continued: “The decisions are mine and mine alone. I have an excellent Command Staff, with over 94 years of combined experience, overseeing the investigation’s daily operation, and I select who runs the investigative teams.”
Chief Fry’s remarks come just a day after Shannon Gray, an attorney retained by the Goncalves family to act as a liaison between them and Moscow police, told the Today show that the department should turn over the probe to a more experienced agency.
“I’m not sure they are capable of handling a quadruple murder ... And if they are in over their heads, then acknowledge that and turn the investigation over to someone who is more versed in handling these types of matters,” Mr Gray told Today.
In the immediate aftermath of the murders, local police requested the help of Idaho State Police and the FBI. Chief Fry said on Tuesday that the agencies remain unified in their attempts to catch the killer, but that final decisions will ultimately be taken by his department.
“We are supported by highly trained and experienced personnel from the Idaho State Police and the FBI. Their continued resources and knowledge are vital to our success,” Chief Fry also said on Tuesday.
“Our investigative units work under a unified structure and have the autonomy to move forward and solve this case. Despite statements about my team, we remain focused on solving the murder of four students to seek justice for them, their families and to help our community heal.”
Meanwhile, investigators continue processing more than 7,650 emailed tips, 4,313 phone tips and 4,583 digital media submissions, per Tuesday’s statement.
More than 250 interviews have been conducted, police said.
Investigators are still on the hunt for the occupant or occupants of a mystery white car which was spotted near the student home around the time of the murders.
Police have identified around 22,000 vehicles that fit the description of the car and are combing through the information for clues.
Moscow Police said that a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra with an unknown licence plate was seen “in the immediate area” in the early hours of 13 November.
“Investigators believe the occupant(s) of this vehicle may have critical information to share regarding this case,” police said in a statement nearly two weeks ago.
The four victims were stabbed to death in their beds with a fixed-blade knife at around 3am or 4am on 13 November. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Two surviving roommates were also out that night and arrived home at around 1am, police said. The two women, who lived in rooms on the first floor of the home, are believed to have slept through the brutal killings and were unharmed.
The horrific crime scene went unnoticed for several more hours, with police receiving a 911 call at 11.58am on Sunday, reporting an “unconscious individual” at the home.
The two other roommates had first called friends to the home because they believed one of the second-floor victims was unconscious and would not wake up. When the friends arrived, a 911 call was made from one of the roommates’ phones.
Police arrived on the scene to find the four victims dead from multiple stab wounds.