Police Say a Knife Was Used in a Deadly Attack on Idaho Students
The attacker — or attackers — responsible for the brutal slayings of four University of Idaho students remained at large Tuesday, prompting many students to flee the idyllic small-town campus despite police assurances that there was no imminent threat to the community.
By Tuesday, so many students had left the picturesque tree-lined campus in Moscow, Idaho, that university officials announced a candlelight vigil scheduled for the following day would instead be held after Thanksgiving break.
The students were discovered dead in an off-campus rental home around noon on Sunday, and officials believe they were murdered several hours before. The students were attacked with a knife or other “edged weapon,” according to police, who did not elaborate.
The Moscow Police Department has not stated whether investigators have identified any suspects, but has stated that the killings were “an isolated, targeted attack” with “no imminent threat to the community at large.”
Police also stated that evidence from the scene indicates that there is no wider risk, but they did not provide any details about that evidence or why they believe the victims were targeted.
According to the department, investigators are working to create a timeline of the victim’s activities prior to their deaths. Autopsies, which are expected to be completed this week, may reveal more details about the slayings.
According to the police statement, investigators were “following all leads and identifying persons of interest” in the case.
Police discovered the students’ deaths after responding to a complaint of an unconscious individual at the home on Sunday. Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington, Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho were the casualties. Authorities have not stated whether or not any of the victims lived in the house.
Instagram photos show the four as close-knit, long-time pals. They were all sororities or fraternities. Kernodle and Chapin were in a relationship.
Kernodle wished Chapin a happy birthday in one post, stating, “life is so much better having you in it, love you!” The description was accompanied by a photograph of Chapin sporting a chef’s hat, Kernodle on his shoulders, and mouse ears.
Goncalves shared a series of images of herself and Mogan as children a few weeks ago. “I wouldn’t want anyone else to be the lead character in all of my childhood stories,” she wrote.
“I adore you more than life itself!” “My best friend for life and beyond,” Mogen answered.
Another photo reportedly posted hours before their deaths, shows the four smiling and posing carefreely with two other pals. Mogen was perched on Gonclaves’ shoulders, and Chapin had his arm stretched over Kernodle’s shoulders.
Goncalves wrote, “One lucky girl to be surrounded by wonderful individuals every day.”
On Tuesday, signs of the community’s sadness and anxiety were spread across the little farming town. Moscow has a population of roughly 26,000 people, but when the students arrive, the population grows by about 11,000 people.
A makeshift monument of flowers, candles, and notes was set up in front of Kernodle and Mogen’s former workplace, the Mad Greek restaurant in downtown Moscow. In the center of the table, four white pillar candles were lit, each etched with the name of a slain student.
The restaurant’s owner announced on Facebook that Mad Greek will be closed for a few days to allow staff, friends, and family to mourn “this great loss.”
“Xana and Maddie have been waiters here for numerous years and provided so much joy to our restaurant and all those they encountered,” wrote the eatery’s owner, Jackie Fischer. “You’ll be sorely missed.” Thank you for being a member of our family/team and for all of your assistance throughout the years.”
A flag was flown at half-staff in front of the Sigma Chi fraternity, of which Chapin was a member, which was only a short walk from the home where the four perished.
On Tuesday, the six-bedroom rental house was still surrounded by crime scene tape, but there was little sign of movement inside. A deputy from the Latah County Sheriff’s Office stood guard along the driveway, and Idaho State Police troopers were also there.
Captain Anthony Dahlinger of the Moscow Police Department said officers were “trying to identify a suspect,” but he wouldn’t reveal who they were looking for.
“These things are dynamic and change all the time,” Dahlinger added.
The University of Idaho postponed classes on Monday and said that additional security personnel would be on hand to guide students across campus. Nonetheless, the lack of arrests and the scarcity of information about the fatalities drove many people to flee days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The students that stayed showed no signs of fear.
“I feel pretty comfortable,” remarked Nicole June, a student, on Tuesday. “I feel the police are capable of doing their job.”
Nathan Lannigan, 18, expressed amazement that there is no ongoing threat because the perpetrator has not been apprehended.
“I think that was a hasty decision,” Lannigan remarked.
In a message sent to university workers on Monday, University of Idaho President Scott Green urged them to be sensitive and flexible and to work with students who wished to spend time with their families.
“Words cannot adequately explain the light these students brought to this world, nor can they relieve the depth of our sorrow at their departure under these awful circumstances,” Green wrote of the killed students.
Chapin was a freshman, and Kernodle was a junior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, according to the university.
According to the university, Mogen was a senior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, and Goncalves was a senior majoring in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority.