Moscow residents want returning students to feel safe

Idaho College Killings

(NewsNation) — There’s a heightened sense of alertness in Moscow, Idaho, where students at the University of Idaho say they are still shaken by the unsolved quadruple homicide last month.

Likewise, business owners fear for the students coming back after holiday break. 

Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Xana Kernodle, 20, were killed in a house near the school’s campus on Nov. 13.

“We have an evil person among us, and we have to be vigilant, and we have to be cautious,” Toni Salerno, owner of a local store, Palouse Juice, said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Friday. 

Salerno fears for students when they return. The crime is personal to her, as Mogen and her sorority sisters were frequent customers, and Gonclaves even helped with Salerno’s marketing years ago.

“Of course, I am frustrated,” Salerno said. “We are all frustrated. We want answers and we want to know how and why this tragedy could happen.”

In response, the University of Idaho safety and security team has added more recruits to its force and the Moscow Police Department and Idaho State Police have increased their patrols around student neighborhoods.

Aaron Snell, communications director of the Idaho State Police, spoke on “Rush Hour” Friday about the elevated efforts.

“There are a lot of steps being taken to make our community feel more secure, but ultimately I believe the resolution of this case is what is going to help our community heal,” Snell said. 

The campus is offering new safety initiatives, such as self-defense workshops, town halls to help students better safeguard their homes, and stalker awareness training.

A campus official also told “Rush Hour” Friday they’ve gathered enough financial donations to provide every student who wants one with a “She’s Birdie” personal safety device. 

The handheld device emits a shrill alarm and flashing light when activated. 

Despite the efforts, university officials expect a smaller student body in the spring. In a letter to students, the university’s president, Scott Green wrote, in part:

“Knowing some of you are not comfortable returning to campus, we encourage you to review the many options for courses already offered online and virtually.”

Mary O’Toole, a former behavioral analyst for the FBI, and a professor and director at the Forensic Science Program at George Mason University, joined “Rush Hour” to offer insight into the killer’s identity.

O’Toole said compiling a suspect profile would take pulling in all of the evidence, which could point officials in the right direction.

“As much as law enforcement can give the public bits and pieces of the offender’s personality, the more likely that they will be able to identify a prime suspect,” O’Toole said.

Until then. residents remain hopeful the suspect will be caught soon.

Virtual classes will continue to be added throughout the winter break at the university.

And Moscow residents told “Rush Hour” they’ve noticed a change: More officers are on foot patrolling the streets, and neighbors are watching each other’s backs. 

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