Idaho student killings bring solemnity to graduation day

(NewsNation) — What was supposed to be a milestone day filled with accomplishment and pride for hundreds of University of Idaho students became another reminder of the four classmates they lost — including one who was supposed to be among them.

The university’s winter graduation included a moment of silence for the students who were attacked and killed as they slept on the morning of Nov. 13.

“Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Maddie Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were taken from us far too soon from a senseless act of violence,” C. Scott Green, the university’s president, said during the commencement. “They were bright lights on our campus and cherished members of our community.”

Goncalves was supposed to graduate with the other 565 students receiving diplomas Saturday.

“I’m really glad that the President brought them up, especially Kaylee,” Idaho graduate Carina Rodriguez told NewsNation. “I didn’t know her but being in the Greek community, we all kind of know each other, our names. It’s just sad.”

Police have given few hints they are nearing a break in the case. They told people to stay vigilant in light of an “influx of people” arriving for the University of Idaho’s graduation ceremonies.

Law enforcement suggested traveling in groups and communicating with family and friends – which is something University of Idaho students have already been doing after the bodies of four of their peers were found in a rental home near campus. All four were close friends. The women were roommates, while Chapin and Kernodle were dating.

The victims died from stab wounds and were likely asleep at the time, preliminary findings by a county coroner show.

“We’re going to have a lot of officers around. We’re going have a lot of state police around,” Chief James Fry said in a pre-recorded interview released by Moscow Police Saturday. “You’ll see us both at the commencement as well as just around town providing safety.”

So far, no suspect in the stabbings has been named, putting the city and campus on edge. But new leads are coming in fast.

“We are getting a lot of tips,” Robbie Johnson, Public Information Officer for the city of Moscow Police Department, previously told NewsNation.

The investigation has maintained the same amount of resources, police said Saturday:

Moscow Police Department

  • Six Detectives
  • Five Support Staff
  • Communications Team 

Federal Bureau of Investigation

  • 46 investigators in Moscow and also located throughout the U.S.
  • Two Behavior Analysis Unit investigators

 Idaho State Police

  • 13 investigators in Moscow
  • 15 uniformed troopers assisting with community patrols
  • ISP Forensics Services 

Recently, Moscow police issued an alert asking for help locating a white Hyundai Elantra that was seen near the scene of the slayings – its first public plea for help since they happened nearly a month ago.

The vehicle was last seen in the early morning hours of Nov.13. Its license plate is still unknown.

Also making things difficult is the fact that there have been over half a million Elantras sold throughout the U.S. between 2011 and 2013.

Meanwhile, classes were wrapping up at the university this past week, before finals. Still, there were few students to see, as some have chosen to take classes online.

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