Investigators have ruled out a University of Idaho professor as a suspect in the quadruple murder of four students after she filed a lawsuit against a TikToker who baselessly accused her of being involved in the brutal crime.
On Tuesday, Moscow Police released an update where they acknowledged the legal battle between the professor and the internet sleuth and confirmed that the academic is not connected to the unsolved killings of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin.
“At this time in the investigation, detectives do not believe the female associate professor and chair of the history department at the University of Idaho suing a TikTok user for defamation is involved in this crime,” police said in an update on Tuesday.
“The Moscow Police Department will not provide a statement about the ongoing civil process.”
The statement comes after TikTok user Ashley Guillard made a series of videos in early December accusing Professor and history chair Rebecca Scofield of being involved in the murders – while also claiming to have solved several other high-profile murders in the past through tarot reading.
In the videos, shared with her 100,000 followers, Ms Guillard baselessly claimed that Professor Scofield had been romantically with one of the victims and that this was the motive for her involvement in a murder-for-hire plot.
The professor is now suing Ms Guillard after she refused to stop the wild accusations, despite receiving two cease-and-desist letters.
In the lawsuit, Professor Scofield says that she doesn’t recall ever even meeting any of the victims and that none of them had ever taken any of her classes.
On the night of the murders, she was travelling to Portland, Oregon, with her husband, she says.
Professor Scofield’s attorney Wendy Olson told The Independent last week that the TikToker’s claims had affected the professor’s reputation and re-victimised the families of the slain students.
“The statements made about Professor Scofield are false, plain and simple. What’s even worse is that these untrue statements create safety issues for the Professor and her family,” Ms Olson said in a statement.
She added: “They also further compound the trauma that the families of the victims are experiencing and undermine law enforcement efforts to find the people responsible in order to provide answers to the families and the public.”
Throughout the six-week investigation, police have repeatedly batted away conspiracies and theories that have swirled online about the high-profile case.
Several individuals have fallen victim to rampant speculation by internet sleuths, despite already being ruled out as suspects by police.
Goncalves’ ex-boyfriend Jack DuCoeur has been left “devastated” by the accusations levelled against him, his aunt Brooke Miller revealed last week.
Ms Miller told the New York Post that the rampant speculation had deeply affected the 22-year-old, who is not a suspect in the murder of the “love of his life”.
“They’re just the most ridiculous conspiracies,” she said.
“He’s not only lost the love of his life, and what we all thought and he probably thought as well, would be his future wife — you know, get married and have kids and all of that.”
While several people have been ruled out as suspects, police are yet to get the killer on their radar with no arrests made, no suspects identified and the murder weapon not yet recovered.
On Tuesday, Moscow Police released a fresh appeal saying that they believe “someone” knows something that could help lead them to the killer.
“Investigators believe someone has information that adds context to what occurred on the night of the murders and continue requesting additional pictures, video, and social media content,” the statement said.
Police once again insisted that the “focus remains on the investigation, not an individual’s activities displayed in the tip” – in what appears to be an effort to encourage individuals who may have engaged in unrelated illegal activity on the night of the murders to come forward with what they know.
“Whether you believe it is significant or not, your information might be one of the puzzle pieces that help solve these murders,” the statement continued.
Investigators are still working to piece together the events of the night of 12 November and early morning of 13 November, with a roughly five-hour time gap still unaccounted for in two of the victim’s movements.
That Saturday night, Kernodle and Chapin are known to have been at a sorority party at Sigma Chi house together from 8pm to 9pm and arrived back at the home at around 1.45am. It is unclear where they were during that five-hour time gap.
Goncalves and Mogen spent the night at the Corner Club bar in downtown Moscow, arriving at around 10.30pm and leaving around 1.30am.
A new leaked image has surfaced online appearing to show the two best friends inside the bar mingling with others. The surveillance image, posted on Reddit on Tuesday, has a timestamp of 1.32am.
Close by stands a man matching the appearance of the man dubbed “hoodie guy” who was captured on surveillance footage walking through town with the two women after leaving the club and then on footage at a late-night food truck. He has been ruled out as a suspect in the killings, with Goncalves and Mogen parting ways with him at the food truck and taking a private taxi wide back to their home.
Police previously revealed that Goncalves and Mogen were dropped off at their home at around 1.56am.
Two surviving roommates were also out that night, arriving home at around 1am, police said.
The four victims were then stabbed to death with a fixed-blade knife at around 3am or 4am.
Investigators continue to search for the occupant or occupants of a white Hyundai Elantra, model 2011 to 2013, seen in the “immediate area” of the home on King Road at the time of the murders.
The individual or individuals in the car – whose licence plate is unknown – may have “critical information to share regarding this case”, police said.
Border agents along the US’s border with Canada have been notified to be on the lookout for the car and tips have been pouring in from the public.
So far, police have identified around 22,000 vehicles that fit the description of the vehicle and are combing through the information for clues.
Anyone who owns a vehicle matching the description, or who knows of anyone who may own such a vehicle or have been driving it on the days preceding or the day of the murders, is urged to come forward.