Four University of Idaho students have been found dead near the campus in Moscow, Idaho, in what officials cryptically described as a “crime of passion”.
The Moscow Police Department named the students on Monday 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.
The four students were discovered at an address on King Road just before midday on Sunday following reports of an “unconscious individual”. Although police are treating it as a murder, they have said litle about how the victims died.
Town mayor Art Bettge told The New York Times that he believed the killing was a “crime of passion”, but declined to give further details, saying only: “It seems to have some of the hallmarks thereof.”
Asked to elaborate by The Spokesman-Review, a newspaper based not far across the state border in Spokane, Washington, Mr Bettge said he had reached that judgement via process of elimination.
“We don’t really know what it was,” he admitted.
Nevertheless, Mr Bettge urged citizens not to worry for their own safety, calling it “a targeted, one-off situation” that was “not likely to be repeated” .
Moscow police likewise said that they did not believe there was an “ongoing community risk” based on their preliminary investigation, although no suspects had been arrested as of Monday night.
“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to each and every person affected by this incident,” the police department said.
According to The Daily Mail, a final photo posted on social media by Ms Goncalves showed all four students smiling and posing together on a house porch.
Other photos suggested that Mr Chapin and Ms Kernodle were in a relationship, showing them with their arms around each other.
The campus was placed into lockdown on Sunday afternoon as the University of Idaho issued an alert to students to stay away from the area and shelter in place.
The threat was lifted several hours later, but university officials warned students to remain “vigilant”.
In a post on social media, President Scott Green said Monday classes would be cancelled “out of respect for these fellow Vandals”, a reference to the school mascot.
Mr Green urged any students who were left traumatised by the tragedy to seek counselling.
“An event of this magnitude can understandably have significant impacts on those left behind. As Vandals, we must come together and lift each other up,” he said.
The Moscow Fire Department chief Brian Nickerson told the Idaho Statesman his officers were also dispatched to a medical call at the property on Sunday.
By the time they arrived, police had already entered the property and located the students’ bodies.
The deaths came on the same day that three University of Virginia students were allegedly shot dead by a fellow student. Two others wounded in the shooting on campus.
Suspect Christopher Darnell Jones was arrested 12 hours later after going on the run.
This story was updated at 19:16 Pacific Time to add new details.