Authorities investigating the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students have sought to dispel rumours around body-camera footage from a separate incident on the night of the killings.
Video circulated on social media showed a Moscow Police officer speaking to individuals less than a mile away from the off-campus home where Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were stabbed to death on 13 November.
The interaction, which police said stemmed from an alcohol offence, took place just before 3am, putting it right up against the 3am to 4am window in which the students were thought to have been killed.
The video drew rampant speculation online, especially in prolific Reddit communities, due to both the timestamp and the fact that a white vehicle was seen in the background. On Wednesday, investigators announced they are seeking details about the owner of a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene “in the early morning hours” on the day of the murders.
But Moscow Police have now shut down speculation around the video, telling The Independent on Thursday that the incident on the body-camera footage is in no way connected to the murders and the white car in the background is not the same one they are seeking information about.
“Investigators are aware of the white vehicle in the bodycam footage and it is not the vehicle investigators are seeking information about,” a spokesperson said.
The update by police on Wednesday is perhaps the most substantial in the more than three weeks since the investigation started.
Detectives did not reveal whether the owner of the white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra is believed to be a suspect but said that “the occupant(s) of [the] vehicle may have critical information to share regarding this case.” The licence plate is unknown.
The car was “in the immediate area” of the rental home on King Road in the early hours of 13 November. The murders are thought to have taken place between 3am and 4am.
“If you know of or own a vehicle matching this description, or know of anyone who may have been driving this vehicle on the days preceding or the day of the murders, please forward that information to the Tip Line,” the department said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, authorities addressed another line of speculation centred around a man who was seen near two of the victims at a food truck hours before they were killed.
The man dubbed “hoodie guy” in online sleuth communities – who police previously said is not considered connected to the killings – became the target of renewed speculation this week after the father of slain student Kaylee Goncalves mentioned rumours around him in an interview with The New York Post on Monday.
A Twitch livestream from the Grub Truck in Moscow, Idaho, captured the man standing nearby Goncalves and Mogen on the night of 12 November, hours before the women were stabbed to death along with their roommate Kernodle and her boyfriend Chapin.
While the man was cleared by Moscow pPolice shortly after the video emerged, Goncalves’ father Steve Goncalves suggested that police may have ruled him out too quickly in his interview with the Post, claiming that he’d heard the man had since left the country and declined a DNA test.
On Wednesday, Idaho State Police spokesperson Aaron Snell told The Independent that investigators are “aware of the rumours”, but did not confirm or deny them.
“The person in question continues cooperating with the investigation,” Mr Snell added.
Mr Snell’s statement to The Independent came after Moscow Police Chief James Fry that individuals who have already been publicly cleared as suspects may be reinterviewed by law enforcement as the investigation rumbles on for a fourth week and the killer remains at large.
Moscow Police have repeatedly urged people not to engage with unbridled speculation online, and to only trust updates and information released by authorities.
“We firmly believe speculation and unvetted information is a disservice to the victims, their families, and our community. The Moscow Police Department is committed to providing information whenever possible but not at the expense of compromising the investigation and prosecution,” the department said in a statement earlier this week.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 208-883-7180, email tips at email@example.com, or submit digital media to the FBI at fbi.gov/moscowidaho.