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Safety a top priority as University of Idaho students start new semester after murders, says dean of students

University of Idaho students return to campus
University of Idaho students return to campus 02:29

A dean at the University of Idaho said the administration's goal is to return a sense of normalcy for students and that safety is a top priority, as the spring semester starts Wednesday, nearly two months after four students were murdered in a house near campus.

"It was a shock for many of our students ... that something like this would happen here," said Dean of Students Blaine Eckles.

Eckles said the sheriff's office in the county is going to have a presence on campus, which is located in Moscow, Idaho.

"We've also hired additional campus security officers and we're still in very close partnership with the Moscow Police Department," he said.

"Our students want to be in community. They want to be here," he added.

For many students, the start of the new semester marks the first time they are back on campus since the murders of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin at an off-campus home in mid-November. Fearing for their safety, some students did not return to campus after Thanksgiving break. That was the case for 18-year-old twins Owen and Olivia West, who are still grappling with one question.

"Why them?" said Olivia West. "Some of them are just starting their new life, like, why did you take that from them?"

They said the crime transformed campus life.

"I had never originally walked with a knife or my keys between my fingers before," West said.

Students were on winter break Dec. 30 when the 28-year-old suspect, Bryan Kohberger, was arrested for the murders. He is expected in court again Thursday morning. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

Some students expressed praise for law enforcement and a sense of relief that a suspect is in custody.

"It was kind of a relief just knowing that they have someone," said 18-year-old Cole Paulik, a freshman at the university.

But others, like Madeline Paulik, who is also 18, are still on edge.

She said she's still keeping her guard up: "I'm very paranoid."

The Idaho Student Murders 40:44
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