Four University of Idaho Students Were Found Dead

Photo: knowlesgallery/Getty Images/iStockphoto

On Sunday, police in Moscow, Idaho, found the bodies of four University of Idaho students in a house not far from the campus, the New York Times reports. Little is known about the case so far, which police at first called a “crime of passion.” Authorities say they made the discovery while responding to a call about an “unconscious individual” at the home. The victims, three women and one man, have been identified as 20-year-old Ethan Chapin, 21-year-old Madison Mogen, 20-year-old Xana Kernodle, and 21-year-old Kaylee Goncalves. A county coroner has officially ruled all four deaths homicides by stabbing. Police confirmed the killings did not involve a hostage situation and have called the incident an “isolated, target attack” with an “edge-like” weapon, per ABC News. While Art Bettge, the mayor of Moscow, initially said he did not believe there was “perceivable danger to the broader public,” authorities have since reversed course, advising the community to remain vigilant. “We do not have a suspect at this time, and that individual is still out there,” Moscow police chief James Fry said during a news conference on Wednesday. “We cannot say there’s no threat to the community.”

Following the deaths, the University of Idaho canceled all Monday classes and set up counseling services. “Words cannot adequately describe the light these students brought to this world or ease the depth of suffering we feel at their passing under these tragic circumstances,” the school’s president told students and faculty in a message, adding that the university is “working directly with those affected” and that it has “continually pushed for as much information as possible” from authorities. According to the Times, Bettge has said police need time to piece together what happened, adding that a “crime of this magnitude” is “very difficult to work through.” Below, everything we know.

The four victims were reportedly close friends, and two other roommates were in the house when they were killed.

The Times reports that the killings took place at a home in an off-campus neighborhood. While it’s unclear what the four students were doing at the house, their online profiles indicate that they were close friends and that they were involved in sororities and fraternities. On the day of the killings, Goncalves posted a picture to her Instagram of herself and the three other victims posing together, with Chapin pictured putting his arm around Kernodle and Mogen wearing an Idaho sweatshirt while sitting on Goncalves’s shoulders. “One lucky girl to be surrounded by these people everyday,” Goncalves wrote in the caption. Kernodle’s sister told the outlet the other victims were good friends to her sister, and that she was “lucky” to have them in her life. “We are grieving together as a family. We are definitely in shock,” the owner of a restaurant where two of the victims had worked as servers told the Times.

The night before the attack, Chapin and Kernodle had reportedly been at a party while Mogen and Goncalves went to a bar downtown, with a video livestream showing the two women ordering from a food truck around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday. The four friends later gathered at the house, a large rental that police say showed no signs of forced entry. The Times reports that officers found the door open when they first arrived at the scene, several hours after the murders took place. According to police, two other individuals were at the house during the time of the attack, though they were unharmed. Chief Fry has declined to comment on whether those individuals witnessed the murders or what they told investigators. “Potentially they are witnesses, potentially they are victims,” Aaron Snell, the Idaho State Police communications director, told ABC News. “Potentially they’re the key to this whole thing.”

The University of Idaho community is on edge.

Following the murders — which took place the same day a gunman killed three students at the University of Virginia — other students living in the neighborhood are leaving town, citing anxieties and uncertainties over what transpired. “Everybody kind of just went back home because they’re scared … It’s definitely uneasy on campus right now,” one student told CNN. Some students told the Times they first learned about the killings through the university’s alert system but had received little information from both the school and law enforcement since. Chief Fry has cautioned the community — which hasn’t logged a murder since 2015 — to “be aware of your surroundings at all times.”

The murder weapon wasn’t found at the house, and police say none of the four students are considered suspects.

A local police captain told the Idaho Statesman none of the four students are considered suspects in the investigation, and officers are working to “re-create the victims’ activities” on Saturday night into Sunday morning. Police have also said the murder weapon wasn’t found at the house, but did not go into further specifics. A general manager at Moscow Building Supply confirmed that police have visited the store multiple times over the last few days to ask whether it sells Ka-Bar tactical knives, which it does not. Investigators have yet to recover a murder weapon.

Chief Fry said the police department is currently reviewing “video that has been collected” in the case, but asked citizens to contact the department with tips. “The most important thing right now is tips,” said Alivea Goncalves, Kaylee’s older sister, per the Times. “If you saw [the killer] at all, even if it was a totally normal interaction, call it in. If you saw anything the next day or in a trash can or even a weird feeling, call it in.” Those with information are urged to contact the Moscow Police Department at 208-882-2677.

This post has been updated.

Four University of Idaho Students Were Found Dead