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ATLANTA — Moscow police on Wednesday will begin returning to their families some personal belongings of the four University of Idaho students found slain last month, the department said.
"It's time for us to give those things back that really mean something to those families and hopefully to help with some of their healing," Chief James Fry said in a brief video statement Tuesday.
"I'm a dad, I understand the meaning behind some of those things," Fry said in answering why he wanted to personally take part in the effort. The items being removed are "no longer needed for the investigation," the department said.
Three women who lived in the off-campus house, as well as a boyfriend of one, were found stabbed to death on Nov. 13 in the home in Moscow, upending a community that hadn't recorded a murder since 2015. The killed students were Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kernodle's boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20.
Police have not identified a suspect or found the murder weapon, which they believe to be a knife, though investigators have "a lot of quality leads," an Idaho state police spokesperson said Tuesday morning.
"We're still working through thousands of leads and tips, and we have quality information that we're working on," Idaho State Police spokesperson Aaron Snell told CNN about the case that has put the college town of Moscow on edge, with no arrests made or any motive announced.
Snell declined to specify what he meant by quality leads and information. His comments come amid frustration from victims' relatives and some in the community over what they say has been a slow release of investigative details.
Authorities haven't announced or encouraged a reward in the case, Snell said, because they fear that will diminish the quality of future leads.
"At times, when there is a reward or money offered ... the quantity and quality of tips actually degrade a little bit," and people try to "provide information that may not even be ... a reasonable tip, just to see if there's some money available to them," Snell said.
Investigators have received more than 2,654 emailed tips, 2,770 phone tips and more than 1,080 "digital media submissions," Moscow police said Monday.
Asked at what point this would be considered a cold case, Snell said that "we're absolutely not there."
"We're continuously making progress," Snell said. "... But this is a criminal investigation, and as we make progress, we can't always provide that information."
Investigators believe all four victims had been out in the hours before the killings — two at a Moscow bar, and the other two at a fraternity house — but had returned to the home shortly before 2 a.m. on the morning of the stabbings.
Later that morning, two surviving roommates "summoned friends to the residence because they believed one of the second-floor victims had passed out and was not waking up," police said in a release. Somebody called 911 from the house at 11:58 a.m. using one of the surviving roommates' phones.
When police arrived, they found two victims on the second floor and two victims on the third floor. There was no sign of forced entry or damage, police said.
A coroner determined the four victims were each stabbed multiple times and were likely asleep when the attacks began, police have said. The manner and cause of death were homicide by stabbing, the coroner said.
Detectives do not believe the surviving roommates were involved in the killings, police said.