Idaho college murder victims combed for killer DNA as glove found outside campus home that may belong to murderer as authorities have yet to identify suspect or make arrest in last month’s stabbing of four University of Idaho students.
Idaho cops have bagged the hands of the four University of Idaho students who were murdered in their sleep last month as they continue to try to track down the killer, five weeks following the crime, with authorities yet to identify a suspect or make an arrest.
Moscow police say the victims’ hands may contain evidence such as skin or hair under the fingernails if they tried to fight back against the unknown murderer who broke into their off-campus house in the early morning hours of November 13 and stabbed them to death.
Although details of the crime scene remain scant, there is no suggestion the victims’ hands had been removed from their arms, as Latah County Coroner Cathy Mebbutt says the hands were sealed with bags before the bodies were moved.
The news comes as a former cop revealed online that he discovered a glove at the crime scene, and a retired Moscow police captain saying they believe the killer was seeking vengeance against at least one of the students.
A shot at DNA profile of killer
State and local authorities claimed upon being able to determine whether any of the students’ hands had even the slightest of remnants of their assailants’ DNA they could search through national and state databases to find a match — though they said the process could take weeks.
Explained Idaho State Police Forensics Laboratory Systems Director Matthew Gamette: ‘DNA can be found in any kind of cellular material.’
He said investigators are trying to determine whether ‘someone’s hand touched a surface or handled a surface, or whether they’ve left blood, saliva — any kind of bodily fluids’ and then identify areas where there might be tissue or touch DNA.
‘And then we would be trying to develop DNA profiles from those surfaces, in the case of latent prints,’ Gamette said.
‘We might be working a room or a car or something of that nature to be able to develop latent prints or fingerprints from a person that are visible to the naked eye,’ he said.
‘And then we would be looking to either compare those to known individuals, or we would be looking to put them in a database to see if we can identify someone.’
Moscow police have said they have already secured the home on King Street and were able to remove the victims’ personal belongings, but the three-story home remains an active crime scene.
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Matching DNA in crime database
‘Generally what we’re looking to do is first to identify a potential suspect or suspects — potential perpetrators of a crime if there [are] not any,’ Gamette said. ‘There may be some already identified.
‘And if that’s the case, then we’ll ask the officers to collect items from them that can be used to either match to their samples from the scene or to eliminate them as potential contributors of things like fingerprints and DNA.’
He said that if investigators do find DNA at the scene, police can run the information through the Idaho State Police database, as well as local and national databases in ‘an effort to try and identify a potential perpetrator.’
The entire process could take weeks, though, he said, and everything a scientist does must be reviewed by a second scientist ‘to make sure they arrive at the same conclusions.’
And to make matters more complicated, he said, the off-campus house likely has a lot of DNA specimens as it was home to five college girls and was known to be a party house.
‘If you found DNA specifically on the body or blood droplets in that crime scene, then you can look to get a DNA exemplar,’ Gamette said, adding: ‘The police department has its work cut out for it.’
Still, experts say the fact that the Idaho State Police and Moscow authorities bagged the victims’ hands is a good sign that they know what they are doing and are taking the case seriously.
‘This is good crime scene protocol, which also they can say that if they did this right, then more than likely everything else was done right, too — which should allay some of the concerns from people,’ said Joseph Giacalone, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and a retired NYPD sergeant.
‘When you have an up-close attack like this, the chances are good that the victim scraped at the face of the arms as they tried to defend themselves.
‘So this is an awesome development.’
The disclosure comes as it was revealed a glove was still on the scene weeks after the Moscow police department cordoned off the home.
Former homicide detective Chris McDonough said in a video posted on YouTube that he had to point the glove out to detectives on the scene in late November.
‘I actually found the glove,’ he said. ‘I pointed it out to the officer who was there securing the scene and they came and collected it.
‘The officer that was there, obviously, they didn’t know about it because he came over and photographed it,’ McDonough told The Interview Room. ‘They came out and got it.’
He said he wondered whether the glove was left at the scene the night of November 13 or whether someone simply missed the trash can as they were walking by.
Army of analysts pouring over crime scene
McDonough also questioned whether the suspect may be ‘taunting’ the authorities ‘by, you know, placing something like this hypothetically.’
The discovery of the glove, which is believed to have been discovered within the cordoned off area of the crime scene has now sparked new theories online, with one Internet sleuth writing: ‘I still can’t get over the fact that they disregarded that glove for several days.
‘It’s probably nothing,’ they wrote, according to the US Sun. ‘But you can see it in other news footage and the drone video shot prior to this one.’
In an update (see video directly above), Police Captain Roger Lanier explained how ‘an army of analysts’ have spent hours sorting through tips and have even re-interviewed ‘some of the folks we’ve interviewed earlier in this investigation to clarify information.’
He added that the police department is working with the FBI to solve the case, and have investigators not only in Idaho, but also in Salt Lake City, Utah and in Virginia.
And, he said, the Moscow Police Department has been asking for information about a white Hyundai Elantra spotted near the scene of the murders because ‘we believe the occupant or occupants may have seen something. They may not have known they have seen something.’
Lanier continued to say: ‘We do have a lot of information and we are keeping that information safe,’
‘We’re not releasing specific details because we do not want to compromise this investigation.
‘It’s what we must do — we owe that to the families, and we owe that to the victims.’