Police Chief Defends Idaho Slayings Probe Amid Criticism From Victim's Family

Relatives of one of the four university students killed last month are growing frustrated with the police's handling of the investigation.
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The police chief of an Idaho college town where four students were killed last month is defending his department’s handling of the investigation, as family members of a victim claim they’re being excluded from the probe.

“Every family wants a little bit different information, and we have a liaison with each of the families that we talk to daily,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry told NBC Nightly News on Wednesday. Fry said that the local prosecutor’s office also has a liaison to serve as a regular contact with the victims’ families.

“We pass on as much information as we can to them. As I stated, there’s information that we’ve held back, and we know that frustrates them,” the police chief said of the families. “But we asked them to be patient. We asked them to trust us and that we’re going to continue to move through this until we have a completion in the case.”

University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found stabbed to death in their beds at an off-campus residence on Nov. 13. Goncalves, Kernodle and Mogen lived at the house, while Chapin was visiting his girlfriend, Kernodle, at the time. The four victims were killed after a night out, leaving the town of college students on edge.

Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found killed in Moscow, Idaho, days earlier, pay their respects at a vigil.
Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found killed in Moscow, Idaho, days earlier, pay their respects at a vigil.
Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via Associated Press

Investigators at the small police force in Moscow, with help from the FBI and Idaho State Police, have reviewed over 10,000 community tips, over 1,000 media submissions, 113 pieces of physical evidence and nearly 4,000 crime scene photographs.

But over a month after the crime, police still don’t have a suspect or murder weapon, nor have they made any arrests in the case.

“What I can tell you is this case is not going cold,” Fry said. “We’re still receiving hundreds of tips daily, we’re following up on those tips, we’re still building that picture, we’re putting the pieces together, and we’re not gonna stop.”

A spokesperson for the Chapin family told NBC Nightly News that there is “an ongoing and open line of communication so we remain knowledgeable about any news happening before the public.”

The Goncalves family, however, has been vocal about its frustration over a lack of transparency from the police. Kaylee Goncalves’ father told police that his daughter likely had a stalker, but authorities investigated and shelved the tip after determining the man who followed her to her car in October was “attempting to meet women” and was not involved in the murders.

Kaylee’s mother, Kristi Goncalves, told NBC’s “Today” show last week that authorities never notified her before asking the public for tips about a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra that police say was in the area of the house early on Nov. 13. The mother said she found out about the vehicle from her other child, who read about it in the news.

“The United States just found out the same time I did,” Kristi Goncalves said, adding that the probe has her feeling “left in the dark.”

Police told “Today” that they had emailed the family’s attorney a press release about the white car around 30 minutes before sending it to the general media.

Shanon Gray, a lawyer for the Goncalves family, told “Today” that he’s unsure that Moscow police are equipped to handle a quadruple homicide ― and if that’s true, then the small police force should “turn the investigation over to someone who is more versed in handling these types of matters.”

“I know there’s been some questions about leadership in this investigation. What I want people to know is that this is a Moscow Police Department investigation,” Fry told NewsNation on Tuesday. “We’re utilizing the resources of the FBI and state police, but we pick the investigators. My command team oversees this, we have 94 years of experience between us.”

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