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Authorities investigate the deaths of 4 University of Idaho students

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

There are still no suspects in custody as an investigation into the deaths of four students at the University of Idaho continues. Authorities say they believe the students may have been killed with a knife in a house Sunday near campus. As NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, the incident occurred shortly before a gunman opened fire on the University of Virginia campus.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Four University of Idaho students, all in their early 20s, were found dead in a private home near a row of sorority and fraternity houses close to campus. Investigators believe a, quote, "edged weapon" like a knife was used. Autopsies are pending. Now, the killings have shaken the small college town of Moscow, which is surrounded by rolling wheat fields a few miles across the border from the larger Washington State University.

ABIGAIL SPENCER: A lot of people are going home. A lot of people are just scared.

SIEGLER: University of Idaho junior Abigail Spencer says students are leaving early for Thanksgiving if they can. Campus feels pretty deserted. Spencer is an editor at the student newspaper, The Argonaut.

SPENCER: Moscow PD's not telling us a ton, and we want to help the community and make sure the community knows how to keep themselves safe and if there is a concern.

SIEGLER: The Moscow police are calling this an isolated incident, and they say they believe there's no wider threat to the community. But they're facing criticism from students and staff for not holding press conferences or getting out in front of rumors that have been swirling. Police declined NPR's interview requests, but Moscow Mayor Art Bettge is talking. He says it's a senseless act of violence that has shocked his city. But he's urging calm and patience as the investigation continues.

ART BETTGE: This is a case where the police have to work very methodically and very thoroughly to actually achieve the information that would lead to a prosecution and conviction later on.

SIEGLER: Bettge says the victims, three women and one man, were socially active on campus and popular. A vigil is planned at the University of Idaho for after Thanksgiving. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Boise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kirk Siegler
As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.