MOSCOW, Idaho — Moscow police released new details on Tuesday about the homicide investigation into the deaths of four University of Idaho students, revealing that, based on preliminary information, an “edged weapon” such as a knife was used in the attack.
So far, investigators have not located a weapon in what police have characterized as a murder. They continue to affirm that they believe this was an isolated and targeted incident. “There is no imminent threat to the community at large,” police said in a news release.
The four victims killed were 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.
Chapin’s mother, Stacy Chapin, told the Idaho Statesman that police called her Tuesday and said the four victims died from stab wounds. Her son was staying over for the night with his girlfriend, Kernodle, who lived in the single-family home, she said.
“They were stabbed,” Stacy Chapin said in a Facebook message to the Statesman. “We got the call. I don’t want people to make assumptions about our kids. It wasn’t drugs and it was definitely not some passion thing between these kids. Someone entered the house.”
Moscow Mayor Art Bettge told the Statesman on Monday night that the attack, at the home just off campus in the 1100 block of King Road, occurred sometime between 3 and 4 a.m., though police didn’t find the victims until noon that same day. He was previously quoted by The New York Times calling the homicide incident a “crime of passion,” but later told the Statesman that was just one of several potential scenarios he offered up.
Mogen, Goncalves and two other female roommates also lived in the home with Kernodle, Maya Hippenstiel, Kernodle’s close friend, told the Statesman in a Facebook message. Hippensteil established a GoFundMe page for Kernodle.
Police on Tuesday continued to refuse to say who lived in the six-bedroom, three-bathroom rental. “I cannot say. It’s part of the investigation,” Moscow police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger said by phone.
Police said Tuesday that they were following all leads and identifying “persons of interest.” They remain focused on establishing a timeline of events as they recreate the four victims’ activities on Saturday evening, Nov. 12, and early Sunday morning, Nov. 13.
Autopsies of the four students’ bodies were scheduled for later this week, police said. They’re hoping the results offer more definitive details on the exact causes of the students’ deaths.
The Latah County Coroner’s Office did not respond Monday or Tuesday to Statesman requests for more information.
The students’ deaths have rocked the small North Idaho city of about 26,000 people — nearly half of it made up by the U of I student body. The university is the state’s fourth-largest by population.
Moscow resident Natasha Rodgers was just settling into work Tuesday morning at a local sporting goods store. She said the lack of information from police and city officials — almost 48 hours after authorities first arrived to the crime scene — has contributed the community’s sense of grief over the unthinkable tragedy.
“It’s just really surreal,” Rodgers said in an interview. “A lot of people are not feeling safe because of the lack of information they’ve been giving to the public. But we’re still going on. We’re grieving and we feel so incredibly sad for what’s happened to this little town, but there’s an unnerving sense of not feeling safe.”
Idaho State Police, as well as other state and federal law enforcement agencies, is assisting the Moscow Police Department with the investigation. The FBI is at least one of the federal agencies involved, an agency spokesperson told the Statesman by email Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, Latah County sheriff’s deputy Scott Mikolajczyk, a 28-year veteran of the department, was outside the home where the four students were killed to make sure no one without permission went inside.
“I’ve been here a long time and stuff like this doesn’t happen often in Moscow,” he said.
Mikolajczyk said he’s seen and heard many people leave town as a result of the incident.
“They (students) were packing up yesterday,” he said. “One guy came over and said he was getting out of Dodge.”
The U of I continued to offer counseling and mental health appointments to students and staff, a university spokesperson said by email on Tuesday. Drop-in services were available to students at the university’s student union building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. Students were welcomed to drop by the dean of students’ office if they need help.
Police was still asking anyone with information about the incident to contact them at 208-883-7054.
(Idaho Statesman reporter Shaun Goodwin contributed to this report.)