Dec. 2-The Moscow police chief on Thursday explained why police have held back information from the public regarding the investigation into the Nov. 13 murders of four University of Idaho students.
James Fry also expressed confidence that the team of investigators will solve the case, even though no suspect has been identified yet.
Nearly three weeks after Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were killed in their King Road residence, little information has been shared to answer questions like how the suspect got into the residence, who specifically was targeted and why other roommates were spared.
Fry said when that information is made public, the suspect may learn that information, too, which could jeopardize the case. It also might jeopardize the integrity of a trial if an arrest is made.
"We're always going to hold stuff back as much as we possibly can because when you're talking about the integrity of the case, you're talking about when this goes to trial, have you tainted jurors?" he said during an interview with the Daily News. "There's a way bigger picture here than just people knowing. Because for it to be a fair trial, you have to have people who don't know facts and have already made up their own opinions on them."
Fry said his department still believes these killings were the result of a targeted attack, though he did not divulge why detectives believe that.
A Wednesday news release from the Moscow police created some confusion on this topic by stating: "Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate."
Fry confirmed to the Daily News on Thursday that his department still stands by its earlier statements that this was a targeted attack. In an interview with CNN, Idaho State Police spokesperson Aaron Snell clarified the recent news release by saying investigators "have not concluded if the target was the residence or its occupants."
As of Wednesday night, 113 pieces of physical evidence have been collected and taken to the Idaho State Police crime lab. More than 260 tips have been submitted to the FBI.
That evidence includes DNA from the crime scene, but Fry said he does not yet know when the lab will release the results of that testing. Fry said the police have done "many, many" interviews with people and will continue to follow every lead.
Dealing with this evidence, he said, is a time-consuming task that has contributed to the length of this investigation.
"I think people need to realize that these things take time in order to get the evidence processed and processed properly without destroying it or contaminating it," he said. "It takes time to do that."
Fry said he knows the community has become impatient with the pace of the investigation, but he said the collection and processing of the evidence is being done correctly.
"I understand people are frustrated with that, but in the end, when you have a rock-solid case, that's what matters," he said.
He said the hours that passed between when the murders likely happened and the 911 call that was placed just before noon Nov. 13 has not hindered the investigation. Police learn how to adapt to circumstances they cannot change when working a case.
"We get dealt the hand we're dealt, and then we move forward from that point on," he said.
When asked when this case, if it continues to go unsolved, becomes a cold case, Fry expressed confidence it won't come to that.
"I'm not even going to speculate on that, No. 1, because that's not even in my mind," he said. "We're going to solve this. We're going to continue to work until we solve it."
He called the investigative team made up of Moscow police, FBI and Idaho State Police an "incredible working group."
"There's no ego," he said. "We have a focus, we have a job to do and we're going after the answers to this."
Fry said any tips from the public get sent to the tip line, where staff review them. He said there has been discussion about offering a reward for information leading to an arrest. Fry said while that may happen in the future, police are not ready to do that yet.
The Moscow police issued a news release Thursday evening that said they are aware of a sixth person listed on the lease of the King Road residence, but they don't believe that person was present during the murders.
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