BOISE, Idaho — It’s been more than two weeks since four University of Idaho students were found dead in a house near campus, and as some students return to Moscow following Thanksgiving break and others opt to finish the semester remotely, police still have not identified a suspect in the homicides.
The Moscow Police Department, Idaho State Police and FBI are all involved in the investigation, but have said repeatedly that they are keeping many details confidential to maintain the integrity of the investigation.
It’s been almost a week since the most recent news conference was held. Here’s what we know about the investigation and what happened that weekend.
- What happened on that weekend?
Shortly before noon Pacific time on Sunday, Nov. 13, Moscow police officers responded to a 911 call about an unconscious person in a house near the U of I campus. They walked in to find four dead bodies. Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt reported that they had been stabbed to death with a large, fixed-blade knife in the early morning hours.
The coroner’s report did not include times of death, but Moscow Mayor Art Bettge previously told the Idaho Statesman that the students were killed between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. that Sunday.
Autopsies confirmed that all four died from multiple stab wounds and that all were likely asleep when the attacks started. Some victims showed defensive wounds. None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, the coroner said.
- Who were the victims?
The four were University of Idaho 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.
The three women — Kernodle, Mogen and Goncalves — lived at the King Road home with at least two other roommates, both of whom survived.
Chapin was staying the night with Kernodle, whom he was dating.
- Where did the 911 call come from?
The two surviving roommates had been out that night but were not together. Police have said both were home by about 1 a.m. on Sunday and would have been in the house at the time of the attack.
They were unharmed and did not wake up until late Sunday morning, according to police. Both had bedrooms on the first floor. The victims were found on the second and third floors — two on each floor. Police would not specify which victims were where.
Police revealed that the 911 call was made from inside the house on one of the surviving roommates’ cellphones. The surviving roommates summoned friends to the house because they believed one of the victims on the second floor had passed out and was not waking up. Multiple people there talked with the 911 dispatcher before officers arrived, the Moscow Police Department said.
- Where did it happen?
The homicides happened in Moscow, situated along the Idaho-Washington state line, about 30 miles north of Lewiston and 85 miles south of Coeur d’Alene. It’s home to the University of Idaho.
Moscow has a population of about 25,850, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and U of I reports an enrollment of 11,507 students. The city is just a 9-mile drive from Pullman, Washington, which is home to the larger Washington State University.
The six-bedroom house where the students were living was just off campus in the 1100 block of King Road.
What do we know about the shelter-in-place order the day of the killings?
U of I told people to “stay away from the area and shelter in place” at 2:07 p.m. Pacific time on Nov. 13 as the police department investigated a homicide. Nearly 90 minutes later, the university tweeted that the shelter in place order was lifted, but called for Moscow residents to “remain vigilant.”
According to the U of I website, a shelter-in-place order can be issued by the University Office of Public Safety and Security in response to a hazardous spill, hostile intruder or weather emergency. An order is sent out using the Vandal Alert system. It requires students, faculty and visitors to take refuge in an interior room with no or few windows.
- Do we know why this happened?
Police have given little information about a possible motive for the killings, but law enforcement have repeatedly said they believe it to be a “targeted attack.” They have declined to give further information about what led to that belief.
“To be honest, you’re going to have to trust us on that at this point because we’re not going to release why we think that,” Moscow Police Capt. Roger Lanier said last week.
At another news conference, Fry declined to say whether the attack was carried out by a single person or multiple people, and could not say whether one of the roommates was explicitly targeted.
- What were the victims doing before the attack?
Kernodle and Chapin had been at a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house — less than a mile from the house on King Road — and returned home at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday.
Goncalves and Mogen had spent the evening at the Corner Club bar before stopping at a downtown food truck on the way home. They used a “private party” to ride home from the food truck, police said last week. Both girls also arrived home at around 1:45 a.m.
Multiple calls were made from Goncalves’ and Mogen’s cellphones between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to a male who did not answer. A sister of Goncalves, Alivea, said the calls were made to an individual named Jack who is a friend. Alivea said her sister was known for frequently making late-night phone calls.
- Have police cleared anyone?
Detectives have said they do not believe that the two surviving roommates or any individuals summoned to the household on Sunday morning were involved in the crime.
The police also cleared a male singled out in surveillance footage of the Grub Truck food truck, the “private party” driver who took Goncalves and Mogen home early that morning, and the individual called by Goncalves and Mogen.
The Latah County Sheriff’s Office and Moscow police have addressed numerous rumors and questions surrounding the homicides. This includes a reported incident involving a dog attacked with a knife elsewhere in Moscow that the sheriff’s office said was unrelated.
Moscow police also said Saturday that the Moscow stabbings are not tied to a a 1999 double stabbing in Pullman, Washington, as well as a 2021 double stabbing in Salem, Oregon. On Nov. 23, Lainier also acknowledged that police had been unable to validate reports that Goncalves had a stalker — information that came out in interviews — but said the department would continue to seek information regarding it.
In an email release Monday, police said a February 2022 death in Moscow is not related to the quadruple homicide investigation. Police said the Latah County Coroner’s Office ruled that death to be from an overdose.
Police also said reports that a red Mustang on S. Deakin Street was being processed as part of the murder investigation were not true and that the vehicle “is not connected to this incident.”
- What is the school doing?
U of I President Scott Green told students in a memo ahead of Thanksgiving break that the school would “remain flexible” through the end of the semester. University faculty have been asked to prepare both in-person and remote learning options so students who do not wish to return to Moscow until the spring semester can finish their fall courses online.
Drop-in counseling for students through the Counseling and Testing Center will remain throughout the week of Nov. 28. Students can also make an appointment at (208) 885-6716. The phone line provides 24-hour-a-day access to counselors.
The university’s Safe Walk program will be available throughout the rest of the semester. The service allows students, faculty and guests to call (208) 885-7233 and have a campus security officer meet them anywhere on campus and walk them to their destination.
A candlelight vigil planned for U of I’s campus on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Pacific time has been moved indoors to the Kibbie Dome because of strong wind forecasts, the school said in a release Monday night. The U of I Boise campus, U of I Idaho Falls, Idaho State University and College of Eastern Idaho will all hold simultaneous vigils on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Mountain time.