Speculation by internet sleuths on the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students has gotten so wild that the families of the victims have received death threats, according to Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier.
‘The really unfortunate part of it is the effect that it’s had on the victims’ families on the college students and friends of these victims,’ he said.
‘Some of them have had death threats and constant harassment by various media outlets.’
Lanier did not elaborate on the nature of the threats.
The Moscow Police have been posting updates on the case to a YouTube video channel that the department started after withering criticism by the families of the victims, who have been frustrated at the lack of progress in the case.
It’s been one month since Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 21, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found brutally stabbed to deaths in their beds in an off-campus house that the three girls rented together with two other students.
Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier tells DailyMail.com that the families of the four victims have received death threats due to wild internet theories
There are widespread theories spreading across the internet over the murders. Those killed in the November slayings were (left to right) Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen (on Kaylee’s shoulders), Ethan Chapin, and Xana Kernodle
The case has rocked this small college town in rural Idaho and sent students fleeing the campus for fear the killer will hit again.
Copious YouTube vloggers, Reddit channels and Facebook pages have been set up to discuss theories on the case with the hope that there will be a break in the case.
So far, Moscow police have given contradictory information and are unable or unwilling to answer some of the most basic questions about the case.
Police have not recovered the murder weapon, announced any suspects in the case, or even provided a description of the killer.
A clearly frustrated Steven Goncalves, the father of Kaylee, recently called the Moscow police ‘cowards’ for not releasing more information.
‘I got outraged by them not just coming out and saying this was a woman or a man because they should know by the amount of strength it took to deliver the injuries,’ he said in an interview with Fox News.
‘They’re just being cowards. There are girls walking around the street right now that deserve to know. They should be looking out for a sadistic male.’
The Moscow police captain said that he has not said more about the case to protect the ‘integrity of the investigation.’
‘We’ve always closely guarded the information that we’ve discovered at the scene and our investigative information because we want to protect the integrity of this investigation,’ he said.
Lanier complained that internet sleuths were just creating more work for investigators.
‘Just look at social media and the rumors that fly out there. A small piece of information that has speculation added to it just takes its own life on the internet,’ he said.
‘[It] starts rumors and then we find ourselves not only tracking those rumors down and trying to quell them, but also we see our tips that come in are geared more toward the rumor and not the facts that have been put out.’
Kaylee’s father Steven Goncalves shared details about the violent injuries his daughter sustained, revealing Kaylee had suffered ‘big, open gouges’ and her wounds did not ‘match’ those of her friends
A group of people could be spotted walking hurriedly past police when the officers made an unrelated stop near the home where the four Idaho University students were slain
The plain clothes officers had stopped three students for suspected underage drinking
Lanier called the rumors ‘the most frustrating part’ of the unsolved quadruple homicide.
Moscow Police have stopped holding press conferences on the case, but release information on Facebook and YouTube. Most recently they asked the public to come forward with information about a white Hyundai Elantra, though they could not give a plate number.
They also released bodycam footage taken in an athletic field near where the students were killed that showed cops stopping four teenagers for underage drinking. A white Hyundai Elantra could be seen in the footage, but police said that was not the car that they were looking for.
In the video released Tuesday, Lanier also spoke about the reaction he had when he first heard the news of the murders.
‘It was hard,’ he said. ‘I got called at home. It was on a Sunday afternoon. And it took me a second. I really had to think about what I had just heard – four murders in Moscow, Idaho was so out of character.
‘And at the time, they were fairly certain it was college students and it was near the campus and that area is kind of a campus community. S
‘So once I got over the initial shock, I knew that I was coming to the station. So I drove in, and everybody just kind of fell into a role that was all hands on deck moment.’
In his video statement, he defended his department’s response.
‘The scene wasn’t chaos, but it was very, very somber,’ he said.
The captain said that he knew first thing that the Moscow Police department was in over their heads considering the nature of the crime.
‘It became fairly apparent when I got to the scene. That we were going to need resources outside of just what the Moscow police department could provide,’ Lanier said. He said that he reached out to the Idaho State Police and the FBI right away to bring their expertise and resources to bear on the investigation
‘The really unfortunate part of it is the effect that it’s had on the victims’ families on the college students and friends of these victims,’ Lanier said. He’s seen removing items from the home
Kaylee and Madison were found on the top floor of the Moscow, Idaho home. College lovers Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were found in a second-floor bedroom while survivors Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke were sleeping on the first floor
Maddie Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves (right) who were best friends since sixth grade, died in the same bed, according to Kaylee’s father Steve
The murders stunned the student community from the beginning. Lanier said that by the time he arrived at the scene on Sunday afternoon that word had already spread across campus.
‘That is a community of college students that live over there. Many of them through word of mouth knew what had happened,’ he said. ‘They were standing outside. There was a lot of crying. There were friends trying to find out who exactly was inside the house. Some family members arrived on the scene. It was incredibly hard for the community.’
But Lanier emphasized that his own department struggled emotionally with the murders.
‘It was also really, really hard on our officers, some of whom were very young and that was the first real major crime scene that they had encountered. So, emotionally, it was a very, very draining day,’ he said.
He said it took several days for the FBI, the Idaho State Police and the Moscow Police to coordinate and begin the investigation in earnest.
‘The first three days were an adjustment, trying to get resources in place and get a system that worked for everybody. The FBI got involved almost immediately. And the FBI, the Idaho State Police and the Moscow Police Department all have a little bit different way of doing things. And that’s okay, but when you’re working collectively, you have to put a system in place that starts information flowing, and you can handle it in a logical manner.’
Lanier said that the rumors flying out of the internet had become a distraction for his team.
‘We find ourselves not only tracking rumors down and trying to quell them, but also we see our tips that come in are geared more toward the rumor and not the facts that have been put out,’ he said.
The captain said that the family and the public should know that detectives are going to solve this case.
‘This investigation is not cold,’ he said.
The Moscow police will continue their investigation, weeding out the bad tips and pursuing the good ones.
‘So the next thing is just to continue on what we’re doing. Eliminate the information that we know is not going to be relevant to the investigation and take all the new information and eventually and we see this coming. Eventually, we’re going to narrow in on exactly what happened and who did it.’
Police have stacked up all of the personal effects they no longer need for evidence and carried them into a U-Haul driven by the police chief himself
Authorities say DNA may have been present on the scene on different surfaces, and forensics crews are now working to run any specimens through state and local databases
Internet sleuths are pointing to the new footage from a police stop that occurred near the Moscow off-campus home of the victims.
Just minutes before police said the students were killed, plain clothes officers made an unrelated stop in the area for three students suspected of underage drinking.
One officer’s bodycam captured the incident, and in the background of the video, several people can be seen moving quickly past police on Taylor Avenue, two houses down from the scene of the crime.
True crime vlogger Olivia Vitale, who highlighted the video, said it was imperative police track down the potential witnesses, who may shine new light on the case.
‘Between the people with law enforcement and the people in the background of the bodycam footage, that is about half a dozen people, Vitale told Fox News. ‘The importance is they may have witnessed something unbeknownst to them.’