As family members and some on social media are questioning investigators’ decisions to rule out certain people as suspects in the ongoing University of Idaho murder probe, experts are cautioning the public against rushing to judgment, and noting that circumstances in such a complex case are often quick to change.
Police handling the Moscow, Idaho, quadruple homicide investigation have tentatively ruled out seven parties as of Monday, most recently adding a man who appeared to briefly follow one of the victims to the list of those whom they said they do not believe were involved.
“And if one of the premises is that, ‘Well, we’ve cleared so-and-so,’ they’re going to say, ‘Well, how do we know that?’” — Paul Mauro, Fox News analyst and NYPD inspector (ret.)
The most recent development was announced just days after Kristi Goncalves, the mother of victim Kaylee Goncalves, told NewsNation she felt that there had been “a couple of individuals that were cleared very fast that should not have been.”
She later added: “I just know there were people that definitely should have been looked at.”
But two experts, who have each spent time in Moscow, Idaho, during the ongoing crime investigation, emphasized that police could be clearing these people as suspects for many reasons – and could later re-examine the individuals for possible involvement should new information or evidence arise.
“Even if this perp is out there and feels like he thinks he’s gotten one over on them because he’s been ‘cleared,’ he should be looking over his shoulder,” explained Fox News analyst Paul Mauro, a retired inspector with the New York Police Department.
Mauro, who is also an attorney, spoke to Fox News Digital on Monday from Moscow, where he has spent several days over the course of the past three weeks.
He added that police cleared some people “very early,” including several people who were tentatively ruled out after a week.
“Because it was so early in the case, they weren’t operating off of a ton of information,” Mauro said. “And even if you are ‘cleared,’ if new information comes to light, you come back in.”
He described two different versions of “cleared” – one in which a person has “a rock-solid alibi,” whose lack of involvement was somehow proven, and one that involves “an alibi that hasn’t been fully checked out, or perhaps something that was just a feeling that they got when doing interviews.”
“If it was something that they just felt like off of interviews or something, then maybe when they start doing the forensics, they start to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, this person has come back in,’” he said. “Remember, this is a very, very digital society. This is a very, very digital community.”
Mauro noted that if police do hit a dead-end in their investigation, “they’re going to go back and start over, and start questioning some of the premises that they’ve been operating under.”
“And if one of the premises is that, ‘Well, we’ve cleared so-and-so,’ they’re going to say, ‘Well, how do we know that?’”
“I am very doubtful that this is some sort of strategy,” Mauro said. “I would not assess that they were in a position where they were playing some long strategy game … Because it was so early in the case, I feel like that means that, at the time, they likely believed what they released.”
Williams, a former Washington, D.C. homicide detective, told Fox News Digital that the totality of the forensic circumstances led him to doubt the possibility of such a strategy. The renowned attorney called the investigation “a case of a different nature when it comes to clearing individuals.”
“Whoever killed these two students would have been covered in blood and possibly may have been injured as a result of the killings,” he said. “The person or persons associated with the killing of these four students would have left a great deal of trace evidence, such as handprint, a fingerprint or footprints – all of those things law enforcement would use to rule someone in or rule somebody out, predicated based upon the forensic testing and the various evidence that they’ve gathered at the crime scene.”
He added: “In plain words, this is a different kind of a case when it comes to clearing individuals. This case is driven by the forensics. This case is driven by blood splatter. This case is driven by possible hand, fingerprints, footprints or some physical evidence that was left at the crime scene.”
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