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Police give few details on the apparent murders of four University of Idaho students

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Police in the northern Idaho college town of Moscow still don't have a suspect in the apparent murders of four University of Idaho students on Sunday. The local police chief, James Fry, broke more than three days of silence and finally spoke to reporters last night.

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JAMES FRY: There's still a person out there who committed four horrible, horrible crimes. There is a threat out there still, possibly.

KELLY: NPR's Kirk Siegler is covering this story from Boise. Hey there, Kirk.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So we just heard the police chief there talking and ending, saying possibly. I gather there's contradictory information on whether there is or is not a wider threat to the community. What do we actually know?

SIEGLER: Well, we don't know very much. And apparently, the police are in a similar situation, Mary Louise. You mentioned there Chief Fry saying he can't rule out that wider threat. And this contradicts, in part, official statements and press releases we were getting earlier in this week saying that police thought it was a targeted attack. They still do, by the way, but also stressing that there was no wider threat to the community. But, you know, there's a suspect at large here. So here's what we do know. Police responded to this house, which is just across the street, basically, from campus close to noon on Sunday after they got a call of an unconscious person. Well, they found four students dead - four people dead. Police are now saying they have not found the murder weapon, but they believe it was some sort of sharp-edged object. They later said a knife. So this was a brutal stabbing.

And even a little bit more puzzling information - we've learned since that there were two roommates in the house, apparently, at the time of this attack. But a big unknown is why 911 wasn't called earlier. In fact, the police didn't get the call until almost noon on Sunday to respond. And as you say last night, police talking publicly for the first time, they have not said anything since then, and so you've got a lot of rumors spreading and a lot of anxious students, as you can imagine.

KELLY: Well, I was going to ask how the students are doing because this is all unfolding. University of Idaho, it's a small school in a small town.

SIEGLER: It's different even than the much larger Washington State University, as you know, which is just a few miles across from the state line. Mary Louise, students are, as you can imagine, scared. They're frustrated, especially over the police's lack of transparency, at least how they see it so far. I spoke with Abigail Spencer. She's a junior studying journalism and political science at U of I, as it's called. And here's what she had to say.

ABIGAIL SPENCER: Students are definitely on edge and afraid. I think a lot of people are just wanting more answers. And with the lack of answers, it makes everybody a little jumpy and maybe a tad paranoid.

SIEGLER: Mary Louise, she did say that there's a lot of beefed up security on campus right now. The university hired a private security firm who's working in conjunction with state police from Idaho that are now on hand. And most students have left for the Thanksgiving holiday early, if they can. Abigail Spencer told me that campus feels very deserted right now.

KELLY: What can you tell us about the four victims?

SIEGLER: Well, the four dead were all in their early 20s, three young women and one man, Ethan Chapin from Washington State. He was actually a triplet. All of his siblings attended the University of Idaho. Two more students from Idaho and Xana Kernodle of Arizona. As you can imagine, the families who are saying anything to the news media are saying they're devastated. They want justice. And the mayor told me in an interview that these were socially active and very popular students. So it's a very sad story unfolding.

KELLY: NPR's Kirk Siegler following that sad story from Boise. Thanks, Kirk.

SIEGLER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.