Police reaffirmed Thursday that the grisly killings of four University of Idaho students were part of a "targeted attack" the day after authorities appeared to suggest the opposite.
“We remain consistent in our belief that this was indeed a targeted attack but have not concluded if the target was the residence or its occupants,” a spokesperson for the Moscow Police Department said.
Authorities have released conflicting statements since Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and her boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20, were found fatally stabbed at an off-campus home in Moscow on Nov. 13.
The slayings — described by a local coroner as one of the most “gruesome” she had ever seen — have left the victims’ families and the public with many questions.
Two days after the bodies were found, police on Nov. 15 described the homicides as “a targeted attack” carried out with an “edged weapon.” Investigators have not disclosed their basis for that initial conclusion.
The Latah County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that the “suspect(s) specifically looked at this residence” and “one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted.” The Moscow Police Department said Wednesday that was a “miscommunication.”
“Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate,” police said on Facebook.
NBC News has asked the prosecutor’s office for clarification.
It isn’t the first time Moscow’s police force of 36 officers and personnel in the largely rural city of almost 26,000 residents has delivered mixed messaging in the case.
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Another point police have walked back is whether there’s a threat to the community.
In the hours after the victims’ bodies were discovered in their private residence about a half-block from the university, police told the public that while “there is no one in custody,” the police department “does not believe there is an ongoing community risk.”
Two days later, officials continued to say there was “no imminent threat.”
But that changed the next day: “We cannot say there is no threat to the community,” Police Chief James Fry said at a news conference Nov. 16.
Such unclear answers may have given whoever stabbed the students more time to flee, law enforcement experts say.