It’s now been over three weeks since four University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death in a house close to the University of Idaho’s campus in Moscow. The information being released by the Moscow Police Department and others responsible for the investigation has frustrated those wanting to know more, including the parents of the four victims.
However, police have repeatedly said they are keeping many details confidential to maintain the integrity of the investigation, and did so again Monday. They have yet to name a suspect or find the weapon used in the attacks that took the lives of 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.
Here’s what we know about the investigation and what happened that weekend.
What are the latest developments?
Moscow police sent out a news release Monday morning attempting to tamp down speculation surrounding the investigation. Notably, police said they had “not released additional facts to the family or the public.”
This came after Steve Goncalves, father of victim Kaylee, told Fox News in an interview that he believes either his daughter or Mogen was the target of the crime because the “means of death don’t match.” He did not elaborate on what that meant. Goncalves also said on NBC’s “Today” show last week that he believes the case will go cold in a week or two and that he will have to “do more work myself.”
Kernodle’s mother said on NewsNation over the weekend that she believes her daughter and Chapin may have gone to a bar after being at a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house. Detectives are still trying to put together a full timeline of events of what happened between 9 p.m. Nov. 12 and 2 a.m. Nov. 13.
Police also once again addressed stories involving the investigation, including reports that Goncalves had a stalker. According to detectives, in mid-October two men were “attempting to meet women at a business” and had seemingly followed Goncalves. Detectives said they have talked to the two men and determined that there is no evidence they were involved.
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 the four victims. Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt reported that the students 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, however. None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, the coroner said.
There was also no sign of forced entry at the household, Moscow Police Chief James Fry said in a press conference on Nov. 16.
Steve Goncalves revealed at a memorial vigil on Nov. 30 that his daughter and Mogen died together. The two victims had been close friends since sixth grade.
“They went to high school together,” he said in a speech at the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome. “Then they started looking at colleges. They came here together. They eventually get into the same apartment together. And in the end, they died together, in the same room, in the same bed.”
The three female victims — Kernodle, Mogen and Goncalves — lived at the King Road home with at least two other roommates, both of whom survived. Letters from those two roommates, Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke, were read at a memorial in Post Falls on Friday.
Chapin was staying the night with Kernodle, whom he was dating, according to family.
Where did the 911 call come from?
Police revealed that the 911 call was made from inside the house on one of the surviving roommates’ cellphones. They 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.
The two surviving roommates had been out that night but were not together. Police have said both were home by about 1 a.m. and “did not wake up until later that morning.”
Police said they are aware of a sixth person listed on the lease in the six-bedroom home, but that person was not present on the night of the stabbings and police “do not believe this person has any involvement.”
Police said Mortensen and Funke had bedrooms on the first floor. The victims were found on the second and third floors — two on each. Police have not specified which victims were where.
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.
You can sign up for the Vandal Alert System online to receive future alerts.
Do police know why this happened?
Police have given little information about a possible motive for the killings but have repeatedly said they believe it to be a “targeted attack.” They have declined to provide further information about that.
“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 two weeks ago.
At another press conference, Fry declined to say whether they think 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 were 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. Police have not confirmed Kernodle’s mother’s belief that her daughter and Chapin may have gone to a bar as well.
Goncalves and Mogen 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. Both girls were home at around 1:56 a.m., police have said.
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 a friend. Alivea said her sister was known for frequently making late-night phone calls, according to The New York Times.
Have police cleared anyone?
Detectives have said they do not believe that the two surviving roommates, the sixth roommate on the lease, or any individuals summoned to the household on the morning of the deaths were involved.
The police also cleared a male singled out in surveillance footage of the Grub Truck food truck, the driver who took Goncalves and Mogen home early that morning, and the individual whose phone was 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 that the Moscow stabbings are not tied to a 1999 double stabbing in Pullman, Washington, or a 2021 double stabbing in Salem, Oregon.
On Nov. 23, Lanier first acknowledged that police had been unable to validate reports that Goncalves had a stalker. Police then elaborated on what could have led to the reports.
“In mid-October, two males were seen inside a local business; they parted ways, and one male appeared to follow Kaylee inside the business and as she exited to walk toward her car,” they said Monday in a release. “The male turned away, and it did not appear he made any contact with her.”
Police also said a February 2022 death in Moscow was not related to the quadruple homicide investigation. Police said the Latah County Coroner’s Office ruled that death an overdose.
Reports that a red Mustang on South Deakin Street was being processed as part of the investigation were not true; the vehicle “is not connected to this incident,” police have said.
Moscow police also said in a press release that an incident at Taylor Avenue and Band Field in the early hours of Nov. 13 was unrelated. The incident was an alcohol-related offense and was addressed by an on-scene officer, according to law enforcement.
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 were asked to prepare both in-person and remote learning options so students who did not wish to return to Moscow until the spring semester could finish their fall courses online.
Drop-in counseling for students through the Counseling and Testing Center will remain throughout the semester. 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 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.
U of I held a candlelight vigil on Nov. 30 inside the university’s Kibbie Dome. More than 1,000 people attended. The families of Chapin, Mogen and Goncalves attended the vigil.