The four University of Idaho students murdered in a horror attack in an off-campus home suffered “multiple” stab wounds from a “large knife”, according to the local coroner – as she revealed that DNA samples have been collected from the crime scene.
Autopsy findings for Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were released on Thursday, officially ruling their deaths homicides by stabbing.
Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt confirmed that each victim was stabbed multiple times, describing their wounds as “pretty extensive” and revealing that they bled out inside their student home.
“It’s pretty traumatic when there’s four dead college students ... who’ve been stabbed to death in one location,” she said.
“I’ve been coroner for 16 years... we have had multiple [victim] murders in the past, but nothing, nothing like this.”
DNA samples and nail clipping have also been taken from the crime scene and sent for testing as the hunt for the killer or killers continues, with no suspects named and no arrests made five days into the investigation. Ms Mabbutt said it was “possible” that the tests could turn up DNA from people besides the victims.
The new details come as law enforcement appear to be no closer to catching the perpetrator behind the brutal attack that has rocked the small college town of Moscow, Idaho.
Ms Mabbutt told NBC News that officials are now hoping that the autopsy findings can narrow down a timeline for what exactly happened inside the home as well as the murder weapon used to carry out the slayings.
The autopsies confirmed that the victims were killed “early in the morning, sometime after 2am, but still during the night,” she said.
It has not been possible to determine from the injuries the order in which the four victims were attacked but officials are using “other text messages and other technology” to try to build up a timeline, she said.
She stopped short of detailing how many times each victim was stabbed or where on the bodies, but did confirm they were stabbed a different amount of times and in different places on the body.
On the night of Saturday 12 November, Chapin and Kernodle had been at a campus party while Mogen and Goncalves spent the night at a bar in town.
They are all believed to have returned to the property sometime after 1.45am.
Officials previously said the victims were stabbed to death with an “edged weapon such as a knife” at around 3 or 4am on Sunday morning.
Twitch footage, seen by The Independent, captured Mogen and Goncalves stopping by a local food truck for a late-night bit to eat – not long before the murders unfolded.
The footage shows the two best friends arriving at the food truck at around 1.41am, where they stayed for around 10 minutes ordering food, laughing, and chatting casually to other students at the food truck.
An unidentified man appears to arrive at the truck with them but Mogen and Goncalves leave the area alone.
The two best friends leave together, walking off at around 1.51am.
It is not clear if they got a taxi or walked home after this or if they went to another location. The truck was just over a mile walk from the victims’ home. If Mogen and Goncalves had walked, it would have taken around 20 to 25 minutes.
The unidentified man, who was chatting to another student at the time, was seen in the footage gesturing at the two women as they walk off, before he turns and walks off in the opposite direction to the two women.
Police confirmed that they are looking to speak to the other people in the footage. Neither the man nor anyone else in the footage has been identified as a suspect or person of interest in the case.
The murder weapon used in the brutal slayings is also yet to be recovered, with the coroner revealing that – based on the extent of the victims’ wounds – “a bigger knife” was used in the attack.
Investigators are hunting for a military-style knife thought to be the murder weapon and are now exploring the possibility that more than one killer is responsible for the killings.
Over the last few days, police officers have come knocking at a local home improvement store to inquire about potential sales of a Ka-Bar knife – as they continue to try to locate the murder weapon.
Scott Jutte, the general manager of Moscow Building Supply, revealed to the Idaho Statesman that officers have turned up multiple times but that he has been unable to help as the store does not stock those knives.
Ka-Bar knives typically have a six inch-long blade with a smooth edge on one side and a serrated edge on the other. They became popular with the US military after first being adopted by the US Marines during the Second World War. Today, they are popular tactical-style knives for outdoor enthusiasts. While Ka-Bar is actually the name for the brand Ka-Bar Knives Inc, the name is now used to describe any knife of a similar blade pattern.
Mr Jutte described the blades as being “similar to the knife Rambo has” – referring to the Sylvester Stallone character – describing it as “more of a combat knife” whereas the store stocks mainly hunting knives.
The four victims were all found dead inside the home at around midday on Sunday, after police received a mysterious 911 call at midday reporting an “unconscious individual”.
When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the four friends – all sorority or fraternity members at the college – dead inside the home. There was no sign of forced entry, the front door was open and nothing appears to have been taken, police said.
The three female students lived together at the home with two other students. Chapin was dating Kernodle and was staying the night with her.
The two other roommates were present inside the home at the time, but were unharmed.
Officials are refusing to say who called 911, why the caller reported an “unconscious individual” when officials have described a crime scene covered in “a lot of blood” and why it took around eight hours for the victims to be discovered when two other students were home at the time.
Idaho State Police spokesman Aaron Snell said on Thursday that the two surviving students could be “the key to this whole thing”.
In the first and only press conference so far given in the high-profile case, officials said they have not identified any suspects in the murders and no arrests have been made – as they appeared to walk back their insistence that the public is not in danger.
When asked how he could be so sure there was no ongoing threat, Moscow Police Chief Fry said: “That’s kind of unknown... we still believe it’s a targeted attack, but the reality is, there’s still a person out there who committed horrible, horrible crimes.
“So there is a threat out there still, possibly. We don’t know it’s going to be to anybody else. But we all have to be aware of our surroundings and make sure that we’re watching out for each other.”
For the past three days, officials said that there was “no ongoing threat” and that the victims were targeted in a “one-off” incident.
Family members of the victims have balked at the assertion – given the killer or killers remain at large – with Goncalves’ sister warning on social media that “no one is safe” and urging students to leave town.
On Saturday – just hours before their murders – 21-year-old Goncalves had shared photos of the four victims and some of their other friends on her Instagram account.
In one carefree image, the group had their arms around each other, lifted each other on their shoulders and smiled into the camera.
“One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” Goncalves captioned the post.
Hours later, four of the friends were dead.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact the Moscow Police at 208-883-7054