Idaho murders: Experts caution public against rush to judgment as police pursue 'each and every lead'

Longtime law enforcement officers and crime analysts are cautioning the public against drawing conclusions about the progress of the unsolved murders in Moscow, Idaho.

Just one day after police analyzed a Hyundai Elantra that was found in Eugene, Oregon, and later said they did not believe it was connected to the Idaho quadruple homicides, retired investigators say it makes sense that police would be pursuing any and all leads, regardless of whatever progress they have made so far.

"It is important when you're doing a murder investigation to run down each and every lead that may lead to the killer," said Ted Williams, a former Washington, D.C., homicide detective. "In this instance, even though this vehicle… in Oregon was some 700 miles away from Moscow, Idaho, they still had an obligation to look at that vehicle, since it fit the description of a vehicle that they were looking for."

Idaho police on Tuesday said an abandoned, white 2013 Hyundai Elantra found in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday was not related to the Nov. 13 murders of four University of Idaho students.


Hours earlier, Moscow Police Department spokesman Aaron Snell told Fox News Digital detectives were "definitely aware of the vehicle" and said investigators were "working on it."

Investigators later said they had spoken with the owner of the damaged vehicle, which police discovered while responding to a 911 call on Dec. 17, officials said.

"The vehicle was involved in a collision and subsequently impounded. The vehicle is registered out of Colorado," the Moscow Police Department said Tuesday night in a statement, "and the female owner is not believed to have any relation to any property in Moscow, Idaho, or the ongoing murder investigations."

While the tip about the vehicle in Eugene led investigators "nowhere," Williams said, "that does not mean they do not have anything to work with."

The renowned attorney and Fox News analyst went on to stress that police in a case of this magnitude "cannot have tunnel vision."

"They can’t go down any one given rabbit hole in the processing of a murder investigative scene — they have got to go down each and every rabbit hole that may or may not lead to the killer," he said. 

Williams and Joseph Giacalone, a former New York City police officer turned criminal justice professor, cautioned against members of the public from trying to solve this case, or draw conclusions, from their computers.

"We have a host of individuals who are playing the role of law enforcement officers and have no formal law enforcement training," Williams said.

He stressed that these individuals should not get involved to "a degree where evidence is either tainted or evidence goes missing." 

The true-crime community "can do a lot of good," said Giacalone, now an author and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. "But in this case, I think we’ve seen, just, enough."

Questions continue to swirl as the quadruple homicide surpasses five weeks without a suspect. Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; and 20-year-olds Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were discovered fatally stabbed inside the three-story King Road residence just before noon Nov. 13. Goncalves, Kernodle and Mogen lived at the address, which is located just one block from the University of Idaho campus and within eyeshot of some fraternity houses. 

Officials have said they believe the victims were asleep when they were attacked between 3:00am and 4:00am inside the home at 1122 King Road. Each victim suffered several stab wounds, and some showed signs of trying to defend themselves.

The attack was carried out on the second and third floors. Two other roommates were on the bottom floor of the home and were unharmed, police said. 

Moscow police officers responded around 11:58am to a report of an "unconscious person" at the address, but several people had gathered at the crime scene by the time police arrived, officials said.

The 911 call "originated from inside the residence" and came from one of the surviving roommates' cellphones, police said. Multiple people allegedly spoke to the dispatcher before officers arrived.

Police revealed Dec. 7 that they had gathered information through tips and leads about a 2011 to 2013 white Hyundai Elantra "being in the immediate area of the King Street residence during the early morning hours of Nov. 13." They added that they believe the people inside the vehicle could have "critical information" related to the case.

Investigators are now "sorting through" information on approximately 22,000 Hyundai Elantras that match the description of the one seen near the crime scene at the time of the murders. It was white, and its model year was between 2011-2013, police have said.

Police are analyzing 113 pieces of physical evidence and about 4,000 photos from the scene. They had received an estimated 10,000 tips and leads as of Monday.

The Moscow Police Department is urging the public to submit any images or information that they think could be important or useful to their investigation. They can do so by calling 208-883-7180, submitting tips through and sending digital media here. 

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