What we know about the investigation into the Idaho college student murders

What we know about the investigation into the Idaho college student murders

It’s been more than two weeks since four University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death on Nov. 13 in a Moscow, Idaho, home — but so far, police say a suspect or suspects have not been identified. 

Here’s what we know so far.

What happened

Police responded to a report of an unconscious person that they received around 11:58 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13. There, members of the Moscow Police Department found four University of Idaho students dead on the second and third floors of the home. 

Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves and Xana Kernodle were roommates who lived in the home while the fourth victim, Ethan Chapin, did not live there but was dating Kernodle.

On Saturday night, police said, Chapin and Kernodle were at a party at a Sigma Chi house on the University of Idaho campus. They returned home around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Mogen and Goncalves were at a bar called The Corner Club in downtown Moscow that night. They left the bar, stopped at a food truck, and then also returned home at about 1:45 a.m., police said. 

The coroner said the victims were likely asleep, some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times, according to police. There was no evidence of sexual assault, police said. The timing of multiple calls to the cellphone of Kaylee Goncalves’ ex-boyfriend places the murders sometime after 3 a.m.

Two other surviving roommates who lived in the house were out separately in Moscow and returned home by 1 a.m. on Nov. 13, according to police. They appear to have slept through the stabbings, police said. Neither was injured and police have said they do not believe the surviving roommates were involved in the killings.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said the 911 call was made using one of the surviving roommates’ phones, but he would not confirm the caller’s identity.

Who were the victims?

Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho, were both seniors. According to the university, Mogen was a marketing major, while Goncalves majored in general studies.

Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho, was also a marketing major. She was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, while Ethan Chapin, a 20-year-old freshman from Mount Vernon, Washington, was a member of Sigma Chi. He majored in recreation, sport and tourism management, according to the school.

What have authorities learned?

Authorities said that so far they have collected “hundreds of pieces of information,” which on Wednesday, Nov. 30, they said included more than 113 pieces of physical evidence. Crime scene investigators took “approximately 4,000 photographs” and conducted “multiple” 3-D scans of the home. In total, investigators have processed “over 1,000 total tips and conducted 150 interviews,” police said on Nov. 23.

On Nov. 30, authorities moved five cars from the crime scene so that they could continue processing evidence. Earlier in the investigation, they had seized the contents of three dumpsters, but said no useful evidence was found.

On Nov. 16, Fry told reporters that investigators believed it was “a targeted attack.” But in the ensuing days, however, police did not clarify that comment, or explain how they could make that statement without a suspect.

But in a statement Wednesday night, the department appeared to walk that back while addressing recent conflicting comments made by Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson regarding whether the attack was targeted. The department Wednesday called Thompson’s comments the result of a “miscommunication,” and added that detectives did “not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted.”

Alivea Goncalves, the sister of victim Kaylee Goncalves, told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo that police have not given the families any more information. 

“Law enforcement is kind of throwing around this word ‘targeted,’ but we don’t know that means, and it almost makes it feel alienating because we don’t have any more information on that,” Goncalves said. “I don’t know who that target was, if it was one of them, if it was all of them. I just don’t know.”

Police said they questioned both a man in a white hoodie who was seen in a video of Mogen and Goncalves at the food truck and the person who drove the two home that night. Police said they do not believe either was involved in the killings.

Police also do not believe Goncalves’ ex-boyfriend is a suspect, despite the early-morning phone calls. 

Police Chief James Fry said the 911 call was made using one of the surviving roommates’ phones, but he would not confirm the caller’s identity. In addition to the two surviving roommates, there were “other friends” at the house at the time the 911 call was made, Fry said. He said during a press conference on Nov. 20 — a week after the killings — that police were not sure how many people were in the home when the 911 call was placed and did not clarify when the “other friends” arrived. 

Neither the surviving roommates nor the “other friends” have been publicly identified.

Police later clarified in a statement that “the surviving roommates summoned friends to the residence” because they thought one of the victims had passed out and wasn’t waking up. Several people spoke to the 911 dispatcher, police said. None of the people who were in the home at the time the call was made are believed to have been involved in the killings, police said.

Investigators have “looked extensively” into reports that Goncalves had a stalker, Moscow police said. “They have pursued hundreds of pieces of information related to this topic and have not been able to verify or identify a stalker,” police said on Nov. 22. 

A murder weapon, which police described as a large fix-blade knife, has not been found. 

The department said on Sunday, Nov. 27, that tips continued to pour in while community members additionally uploaded more than 500 digital submissions to the FBI link seeking information in the case. Dozens of members of the Moscow Police Department, FBI and Idaho State Police have been involved in the investigation, and Gov. Brad Little directed up to $1 million in state emergency funds for the ongoing investigation.

“We understand there is a sense of fear within our community,” Moscow police said.

Although detectives have already used various tips and surveillance videos to rule out potential suspects, they are currently seeking additional tips and surveillance footage of “any unusual behavior” observed during the night of Nov. 12 — while Goncalves and Mogen were out in downtown Moscow and Kernodle and Chapin were at the university’s Sigma Chi fraternity house — and into the early hours of Nov. 13. 


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