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What we know, and don’t know, about U of I killings after coroner’s sparse report

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Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found killed in Moscow, Idaho, days earlier, pay their respects at a vigil held in front of a statue on the Boise State campus, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. Autopsies performed on the four students who were found dead inside a rental house near campus showed that all four were stabbed to death, the Latah County coroner said. (Sarah A.
Boise State University students, along with people who knew the four University of Idaho students who were found killed in Moscow, Idaho, days earlier, pay their respects at a vigil held in front of a statue on the Boise State campus, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. Autopsies performed on the four students who were found dead inside a rental house near campus showed that all four were stabbed to death, the Latah County coroner said. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP) Photo Gallery

BOISE, Idaho — There are way more questions than answers at this point in the investigation into a quadruple homicide at the University of Idaho last weekend.

Police are trying to talk to people who saw or talked to the four victims on Saturday night and early Sunday morning as they piece together a timeline.

There still is no suspect. No weapon has been located. Police have not said who called 911.

“We are looking at everyone,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Wednesday when he finally held a press conference, the first one since the killings early Sunday morning.

Idaho State Police spokesperson Aaron Snell told the Statesman on Thursday that he can “safely say” they do not have any specific people of interest in the investigation.

“Detectives continue investigating all people and are working to develop information that would lead to a suspect,” Snell wrote in an email.

The four victims in the early morning Sunday slayings were U of I seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington.

Fry repeated that evidence and analysis at the scene indicated that it was “an isolated, targeted” attack, but also urged people to “stay vigilant” and “be aware of your surroundings at all times.”

Fry backtracked on previous police statements that there was no danger to the community — “we cannot say that there is no threat, he said.

What exactly is known about the four deaths?

Police said they responded to the call at a home just south of campus at around noon Sunday. Residents were asked to shelter in place at first, but police then said the killings were an “isolated, targeted attack.”

Fry said Wednesday there was no sign of forced entry at the house.

In a one-page report released on Facebook, the Latah County Coroner’s Office officially ruled the deaths homicides and said the cause was stabbing.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told the Moscow Pullman Daily News that the four students were likely killed in the “early morning hours” Sunday. The report did not include times of death, though Moscow Mayor Art Bettge previously told the Statesman that it happened between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sunday.

Mabbutt, who’s been the Latah County coroner for 16 years, answered the Statesman’s call regarding the autopsies but said she was too busy to talk. She declined to say where the four students were stabbed and in what order, if that was known. She confirmed that a “large knife” was used in the killings.

“It was sufficient enough to cause death,” Mabbutt said by phone.

The Statesman previously reported that one of the knives police were searching for was a combat-style knife, like a Ka-Bar.

The attack occurred in the 1100 block of King Road, which is behind new Greek row, just off of the university’s campus.

Was anyone else at the house?

Yes, two people said to be roommates of three of the victims were there, Fry said. They were not injured or held hostage, he said Wednesday, and were present when officers responded in the afternoon.

Fry also took care not to refer to them as “witnesses” during the press conference.

Because authorities have not disclosed who called 911, it’s not known whether it was either of them.

Who were the victims?

The three female victims all lived in the King Road house and were close friends. Goncalves, Kernodle and Mogen were all from the Coeur d’Alene area.

Chapin, who was dating Kernodle, spent the night with Kernodle at the off-campus rental, according to Chapin’s mother.

“They were daughters, sisters, aunts, best friends and humans,” Alivea Goncalves, sister of Kaylee, told the Statesman in a previous statement. “No amount of words or statements could ever attempt to capture who they were or what they wanted in life or what was stolen from us all.”

The three women were all members of sororities, and Chapin was in a fraternity.

What do we know about what the victims did that night?

Fry said during Wednesday’s press conference that Kernodle and Chapin were at a house party on campus, while Mogen and Goncalves were out and visited at least one downtown bar.

All four victims were at the King Road house by 1:45 a.m., Fry said.

Police have said they are conducting interviews and seeking any videos or other communications that could help shed light on the night’s events as they try to establish timelines.

How have the families responded?

Stacy Chapin, mother of Ethan, asked that people stop speculating about the case after a number of rumors began circulating.

“We don’t want people to make assumptions about our kids,” Chapin said in a Facebook message to the Statesman. “It wasn’t drugs and it was definitely not some passion thing between these kids. Someone entered the house.”

Alivea Goncalves warned the community that “no one is in custody and that means no one is safe.”

“To whomever is responsible, we will find you,” Alivea said in a statement to the Statesman. “We will never stop. The pain you caused has fueled our hatred and sealed your fate. Justice will be served.”

Another sister, Aubrie Goncalves, came out Thursday with a warning to those remaining in Moscow.

“To the students of the University of Idaho that are still staying around campus, leave,” she wrote on Instagram. “Your grades are severely less important than your lives.”

How have students, others responded?

Many people are “getting out of Dodge,” according to Latah County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Mikolajczyk, a 28-year veteran of the department.

While he watched over the home where the four students were killed, Mikolajczyk told the Idaho Statesman that he saw neighbors, many of them students, pack their things and leave town on Monday, nearly a week before the university’s Thanksgiving break.

Katelyn Hettinga, a senior from Kuna and the school’s former student body vice president, told the Statesman in an interview Tuesday that many of her professors chose to cancel classes for the rest of the week and postpone homework assignments, which she called “the right move.”

Zachary Turpin, an assistant professor in the English department, said Tuesday on social media, “Until police release more info or confirm a suspect, I can’t in good conscience hold class.”

Whom should people contact if they have information?

The Moscow Police Department is leading the investigation, but is being assisted by the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police and the FBI.

Anyone with information regarding the attack is asked to contact the Moscow Police Department at 208-883-7054.

In need of support?

The University of Idaho is offering counseling services for students at the university’s Counseling and Testing Center. Students can also call 208-885-6713.

U of I President Scott Green, in a Thursday news release, told students that there would be an “increased security presence through the weekend.”

“This is an intentional increase in response to your concerns and not a reflection of any new information or heightened threat communicated by MPD,” Green said in the release.

Students who might not feel comfortable walking across campus can call the university’s SafeWalk services at 208-885-7233.

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