Lecture halls at the University of Idaho are half empty after the Thanksgiving break as students are too scared to return after the brutal unexplained murder of four of their classmates.
Those students who have come back are taking extra precautions, including installing doorbell cameras, reinforcing windows and carrying pepper spray with police no nearer to finding a suspect.
At around noon on November 13, police in Moscow, Idaho, found the bloodstained bodies of four students on the second and third floors of an off-campus house.
The victims – Ethan Chapin, 20, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Madison Mogen, 21 – were killed as they slept.
Two housemates, who were asleep elsewhere in the house heard nothing, police said.
Goncalves and Mogen spent the previous evening at a local bar returning to their house shortly before 2 am.
Chapin and Kernodle spent the evening at a party at a fraternity house, also returning home at around the same time.
The following day police were called by another, unnamed, student at the house who believed one of their roommates had passed out.
According to the coroner, the victims were stabbed multiple times. Although they were asleep, there were some defensive wounds – suggesting that they had tried to defend themselves.
There was no sign of a forced entry, nor was the murder weapon – believed to be a large fixed blade knife – found at the scene.
Police, unable to identify a suspect or motive for the gruesome attack, have tried to reassure students and the town that there is no “community risk”.
The investigation has been mired in confusion.
On November 16, Moscow’s police chief, James Fry, said it was a “targeted attack” without providing further details.
Then Bill Thompson, the local prosecuting attorney, said at least one of the victims was targeted.
His remarks were then “clarified” by police who said they had not concluded “if the target was the residence or its occupants.”
Alivea Goncalves, the sister of one of the victims, said the families had been given no further information.
“Law enforcement is kind of throwing around this word ‘targeted,’ but we don’t know that means, and it almost makes it feel alienating because we don’t have any more information on that,” she told CNN.
The case has gripped the US, dominating news coverage for weeks.
At the same time there has been growing criticism of the lack of progress by the police in the city of 25,000 people in northern Idaho whose last murder was recorded in 2015.
On Sunday, police said they had sifted through more than 2,645 emails sent to their tip line, as well as nearly 2,800 calls and 4,000 photographs of the crime scene.
The paucity of information from official sources has prompted “internet sleuths” to float an array of theories on social media, much to the annoyance of the police.
“There is speculation, without factual backing, stoking fears and spreading false information,” the police department said.
Only vetted information would be released to the public.
Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke, two other students who were sleeping on another floor of the the house at the time of the murders, spoke for the first time.
“I wish every day that I could give them all one last hug and say how much I love them,” Ms Funke wrote.
‘You always told me that everything happens for a reason.”
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