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'It's being left in the dark': Mother of murdered Idaho student says of police investigation

Officers investigate a homicide at an apartment complex south of the University of Idaho campus on Nov. 13. The mother of one of the four college students killed near the University of Idaho last month expressed frustration over police communications on the status of the investigation into the murders.

Officers investigate a homicide at an apartment complex south of the University of Idaho campus on Nov. 13. The mother of one of the four college students killed near the University of Idaho last month expressed frustration over police communications on the status of the investigation into the murders. (Zach Wilkinson, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)


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MOSCOW, Idaho — The mother of one of the four college students killed near the University of Idaho last month expressed frustration over police communications on the status of the investigation into the murders.

"It's sleepless nights. It's feeling sick to your stomach. It's just being left in the dark," Kristi Goncalves, the mother of 21-year-old victim Kaylee Goncalves, said in an interview aired on NBC's TODAY show Thursday.

Goncalves recounted the day she learned something had happened to her daughter.

"We're running around for hours just not knowing what was going on, what happened," she explained. "... We found out by people calling us. And the sheriff showed up about three hours later."

Shanon Gray, an attorney for Goncalves, met earlier this week with the Moscow Police Department and said investigators have done a poor job communicating with families.

"Families should never find out information from a news release, or an interview," Gray told CNN. "They should find that information ahead of time."

Goncalves described learning about the police interest in a white Hyundai sedan seen in the area around the time of the murders not from investigators, but from reading about it in a news release sent to her by someone else.

"My first thought just started being like, how long have they had this information? Where do they get this information? Was it on a camera?" Goncalves said.

The Moscow Police Department disputed Goncalves' characterization, telling CNN they reached out to her attorney via email the same day they made their request to the general public seeking information regarding the white sedan. Authorities are sorting through tens of thousands of registered vehicles that fit the criteria of one spotted near the residence the night of the attacks, the Moscow Police Department said in a news release Thursday.

"So far, we have a list of approximately 22,000 registered white Hyundai Elantras that fit into our criteria that we're sorting through," Chief James Fry said in a video update. "We are confident that the occupant or occupants of that vehicle have information that's critical to this investigation."

Goncalves said her family learned graphic details of their daughter's autopsy when a woman from the coroner's office called and asked her 17-year-old daughter if she wanted to know the findings.

"She asked, are you sure you want to know this? And my daughter, thinking that she did for whatever reason, said yes. And she proceeded to tell her."

Goncalves told NBC she was frustrated with interviews given by the Latah County coroner Cathy Mabbutt.

"Every time we turn around, there's another, there's a new — I don't know if they're new or they're old — I'm just coming across them, and I'm just like, oh, my gosh, how many of these did she do?" Goncalves said.

The Latah County Coroner's Office was not immediately available for comment.

The killings of Kaylee Goncalves, 21-year-old Madison Mogen, 20-year-old Xana Kernodle, and Kernodle's boyfriend, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin in the early morning hours of November 13 shook the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, which had not recorded a murder since 2015.

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Kevin Flower

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