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Univ. of Idaho dean: ‘Worrying time’ on campus after killings

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(NewsNation) — It has been a “worrying time” on campus after the stabbing deaths of four students at the University of Idaho, especially as the suspect has still not been caught, Dean of Students Blaine Eckles told NewsNation.

“I’m scared, too,” he said in an interview Wednesday, adding: “This is just another example that crime happens and it can happen anywhere.”

Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20 and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were found dead in an off-campus rental home Nov. 13. Preliminary findings by a county coroner show the four died from stab wounds, and were likely asleep at the time of the attack.

From friends, Eckles said, he has heard the victims were full of joy, laughter, love and fun.

“It’s heartbreaking when lights are extinguished like that,” he said. “You can see the impact it has on their close friends that have lost someone that’s close to them.”

The campus — and city of Moscow — have been tense, as the killer is still at large.

One student who spoke to NewsNation said at the end of the semester, the university is typically full of people and lively. But now, “I’m only seeing a handful of students walking around,” she said.

Something NewsNation has heard from students is that they are even scared to go to a candlelight vigil set for Wednesday night in honor of the victims.

Eckles said while safety is always a concern, there will be precautions the university plans to take.

“There are metal detectors that we’re going to have, security will obviously be present,” Eckles said. “We have a clear bag policy, too.”

After the stabbings, there was an increased Idaho State Police presence at the university. The University of Idaho upped its own security force, as well.

While the university has briefings with the police every day, Eckles said they don’t have any inside information on the case. The meetings, he said, are so university officials can help law enforcement as they conduct the investigation.

“They’re not giving us information on, ‘Hey, this is who we’re thinking about, or this is what we found’ — and appropriately so, because we don’t want the investigation to be screwed up,” Eckles said. “We want whoever did this to be brought to justice.”

Students were given the option to go to class online if they didn’t feel safe coming back after Thanksgiving break.

Eckles doesn’t have hard numbers on how many students returned, but said they do know almost two-thirds of students in the residence halls did.

“It’s encouraging to see them back here on campus, but we also recognize why students chose not to return,” he added.

Still, he said, the community has come together during a difficult time.

“The beautiful part is we’re doing it together, and we’re supporting one another as we do it,” he said. “So it’s helpful to have that support.”

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