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Idaho college murders: Surviving roommates could be 'key'

Kaylee Goncalves/Instagram

(MOSCOW, Idaho) — Two surviving roommates of four University of Idaho students who were found dead in a house near the Moscow, Idaho, campus, could be “key” to the case, according to the state police spokesman, as persons of interest or suspects have yet to be identified.

The two surviving female roommates — who have not been ruled “in or out at suspects” in the fatal stabbings — are “working and talking with detectives, and they have been cooperative — very cooperative,” Idaho State Police spokesman Aaron Snell told ABC News on Thursday.

“Potentially they are witnesses, potentially they are victims,” Snell said, adding that the roommates could be “the key to this whole thing.”

The four students, who were killed early Sunday morning and found hours later, were identified as Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho.

Two other roommates were home at the time of the crime, and they were not hurt, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said during a news conference Wednesday. It was not a hostage situation, he added.

It’s believed the victims were killed between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sunday, Moscow Mayor Art Bettge told ABC News. The roommates were home when police responded to a call for an unconscious individual at the home about eight hours later, Fry said. The roommates were not the 911 callers, according to Snell.

Fry said the four victims were killed with a knife in “an isolated, targeted attack”.

Snell did not reveal what type of knife was used in the killings but said authorities are going to local businesses to see if anyone recently purchased a fixed-blade knife.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told ABC News that it appears all four victims were killed with a large knife and each student was stabbed more than once. Officials have not determined whether there were any defensive wounds. There is no indication of any sexual assault, she said.

Snell described it as “a very complex and in-depth investigation.”

No one has been cleared in the case, either, Snell said.

As for having no suspects or persons of interest nearly a week later, Snell said, “It’s very frustrating … we would have loved to have solved this [immediately].”

Police said they are working to determine the victims’ timeline Saturday night.

Chapin and Kernodle were at a party on campus while Goncalves and Mogen were at a downtown bar that night, Fry said.

Chapin didn’t live in the house but was sleeping over with his girlfriend, Kernodle, according to his mother, Stacy Chapin.

Goncalves and Mogen had been best friends since childhood and “did everything together,” Goncalves’ sister, Alivia Goncalves, told ABC News.

She said she finds some solace that the friends were together in their final moments.

Although Fry described the attack as “targeted,” he said, “We cannot say there is no threat to the community.”

He urged anyone with information about the victims’ whereabouts Saturday night to call the tip line at 208-883-7180.

As police canvass for information, a direct neighbor of the victims’ house told ABC News he has not been interviewed by police.

“If anybody does have information, we encourage them to contact us,” Snell said.

Former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Brad Garrett thinks the surviving roommates are the “key” in the investigation, but he doesn’t think they are suspects.

“It’s a small town. The likelihood that they know who that person was in the house, I think, is reasonable,” Garrett said Thursday morning.

In terms of the investigation, Garrett said, “police appear to be stymied based on their own comments.”

For police, Garrett said the next steps are: “You really are going to have to do a complete detail of the party that was prior to whatever was going on between 3 and 4 o’clock at the victim’s house. … Who followed them home? Who has been taking whom? Who have had issues with people? This killer didn’t all of a sudden show up at this house — he knew this house.”

ABC News’ Kayna Whitworth, Nick Cirone and Timmy Truong contributed to this report.

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