4 Idaho Students Were Killed and Police Say They Have No Idea What Happened

The last time that University of Idaho students Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves—both 21-years-old— were seen alive was when they stopped by a popular food truck for some mac and cheese on their way home from a downtown bar early Sunday morning.  

Some time in the following hours, they were stabbed to death, along with two of their roommates Ethan Chapin, 20, and Xana Kernodle, 20, in the off-campus apartment in Moscow, Idaho, that they shared.

Days after the quadruple homicide, police are still yet to identify a suspect or any reason why the four students would be targeted. 

“What we don’t know: the identity and location of the suspect, the location of the knife, or any clothing that was worn by the suspect,” said Moscow Police Chief James Fry in a press conference Wednesday. 

One bit of evidence that investigators are using to retrace some of the victims’ movements that night is a livestream from the gaming platform Twitch showing Mogen and Goncalves stopping by the food truck, Grub Truckers. Part of Grub Trucker’s shtick is their nightly Twitch stream, which sometimes accrues thousands of viewers, showing hordes of hungry patrons flocking to their establishment for late-night comfort food.

At around 1:41 a.m. Sunday Mogen and Goncalves appeared in the Twitch stream outside Grub Truckers, as they ordered $10 worth of “Carbonara” mac and cheese. While waiting for about 10 minutes for their order, Mogen and Goncalves can be seen chatting with some of the other people waiting, and appear relaxed.  

The timeline of what ensued is still murky and full of holes. At some point before the killings, Gonclaves posted a group photo to Instagram (taken prior to that night) that showed her posing with Mogen, Chapin and Kernodle, with the caption “one lucky girl to be surrounded by these people every day” and a heart emoji. Mogen and Kernodle were part of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, Gonclaves belonged to the Alpha Phi sorority, and Chapin was in the Sigma Chi fraternity. When Mogen and Gonclaves returned home, they encountered Chapin and Kernodle who’d been at a party on campus that night. Their two other roommates were also home at the time of the killings but were not harmed or taken hostage, and are cooperating with law enforcement, according to CNN.

“There was other people home at that time, but we’re not just focusing just on them,” Fry said. “We’re focusing on everybody that may be coming and going from that residence.” When asked by a reporter whether the victims had hosted an afterparty at their apartment, Fry replied, “not that we know of.” 

Investigators believe that the apparent homicides took place in the “early hours” of Sunday. But police weren’t called until much later that day; at around noon, someone dialed 911 to report an “unconscious person” inside the residence. Fry wouldn’t say who called 911. 

Police are investigating the deaths as a crime. (Angela Palermo/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

When police arrived on scene, they found zero sign that someone had forcibly entered the residence. “Based on details at the scene, we believe this was an isolated targeted attack on our victims,” said Fry. Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told local news outlet KXLY earlier this week that there was “quite a bit of blood in the apartment.” 

Moscow’s mayor Art Bettge told The New York Times that authorities believe the suspected homicides were a “crime of passion.” But when reporters asked Fry about that assessment, he declined to elaborate. “We’re looking into every aspect of this, I’m not going to just stipulate whether it’s one thing or another,” the police chief replied. 

Reporters at Wednesday’s press conference appeared somewhat frustrated by some of the mixed messages coming from authorities. On one hand, police have said repeatedly that they believe the attack was “targeted and isolated.” Earlier this week, they stated that there was no threat to the public. University of Idaho officials are keeping the school open, continuing classes and leaving it up to students to decide “what’s best for them.” 

At the same time, police say they don’t know who was responsible for the stabbings, nor do they know where the murder weapon is. And on Wednesday, Fry appeared to backtrack on the police’s assessment that there was no ongoing threat to the public. 

“We cannot say there is no threat to the community, and as we have stated, please stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity,” he said.  

There is a lack of information from the University of Idaho and the local police, which only fuels false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media

When pressed by reporters, Fry seemed flustered. “So we did believe—we still believe—it’s a targeted attack, but the reality is there’s still a person out there who committed four horrible, horrible crimes,” he said. “So I think we got to go back to, there is a threat out there still, possibly. We don’t know—we don’t believe—it’s going to be, to anybody else, but we all have to be aware of our surroundings.” 

Kaylee Goncalves’ sister Autumn urged people to leave Moscow—which has a population of 25,000 people— in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “No one is in custody therefore no one is safe,” she wrote. “If you have friends, family or loved ones in Moscow our family encourages you to get them home.” 

Fry said investigators hope to learn more from the autopsies being conducted on the victims. There are 25 investigators working the case, he said, and the FBI are also helping in the investigation, combing through the victims’ social media for possible clues. 

Prior to Wednesday’s press conference, Jim Chapin —father of stabbing victim Ethan Chapin, who was one of triplets—put out a statement blasting authorities for their lack of transparency in the investigation. 

“There is a lack of information from the University of Idaho and the local police, which only fuels false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media,” Chapin wrote. “The silence further compounds our family’s agony after our son’s murder. For Ethan and his three dear friends slain in Moscow, Idaho, and all of our families, I urge officials to speak the truth, share what they know, find the assailant, and protect the greater community.”