1,000 Tips, No Suspects: Latest on the University of Idaho Killings

The gruesome stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students remain unsolved 10 days later. The police asked the public to continue sending tips.

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Two of the four University of Idaho students who were found stabbed to death in a home near campus were captured on a livestream arriving at a food truck on the night of their murders.CreditCredit...Rajah Bose

MOSCOW, Idaho — Investigators have now processed more than 1,000 tips in the aftermath of the gruesome stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students, but the authorities said Wednesday that they still do not have a suspect in the killings that have mystified and shaken this college town.

After the early-morning killing spree in Moscow, Idaho, on Nov. 13, the authorities sought to calm the community by saying that the attack at a home near campus was an isolated case and that there was no danger to the public. But the authorities have walked back those assurances in the days since then.

On Wednesday, investigators said they had collected 103 pieces of evidence, taken about 4,000 photographs, produced multiple three-dimensional scans of the crime scene and conducted more than 150 interviews. They vowed to continue working through the Thanksgiving holiday and asked the public for both patience and tips.

“This is our highest priority,” said Capt. Roger Lanier of the Moscow Police Department. “It will remain our highest priority. We owe that to the families.”

The details that have emerged have only deepened the mystery surrounding the grisly killings of the four students, who appeared to have been spending a typical Saturday night in a community that had not recorded a murder in seven years. They were stabbed to death inside a rental house, while two others who lived there apparently slept through the attack. Phone logs indicate that two of the victims made several unanswered calls to a friend in the early hours, and no one called 911 to report the attack until about noon.

Three of the victims — Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20 — lived at the house, and the fourth —  Ethan Chapin, 20 — was there visiting his girlfriend, Ms. Kernodle.

Here is what else we know so far:

A timeline

In the hours before the killings, many students were out for a typical Saturday night of socializing, following a University of Idaho football game.

From about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., Mr. Chapin and Ms. Kernodle attended a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity, the police said. The couple, who had been dating since the spring, returned to Ms. Kernodle’s home at about 1:45 a.m.

At about 11 p.m., Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves went to the Corner Club bar together, staying there until 1:30 a.m., investigators said.

About 10 minutes later. Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves stopped at a late-night food truck, where a livestream video camera captured them arriving to order food. They mingled with others along the sidewalk, chatting and smiling, and then departed once their food was ready. The police said a “private party” gave them a ride home.

At 1:56 a.m., a neighbor’s surveillance camera showed Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves returning to the house, Ms. Goncalves’s older sister said.

Between 2:26 and 2:52 a.m., phone logs show that seven unanswered phone calls were placed from Ms. Goncalves’s phone to a friend, according to her older sister, Alivea Goncalves. Several calls to the same friend were also placed using Ms. Mogen’s phone, the police said.

Alivea Goncalves said the calls were to Jack DuCoeur, a fellow student who had been Kaylee Goncalves’s boyfriend for several years until recently, when they decided to take an amicable break. She said Mr. DuCoeur missed the calls because he was sleeping and that her sister’s phone account did not show any other calls for that time period.

Mr. DuCoeur declined to discuss the calls. Alivea Goncalves said she and her family “stand behind Jack 100 percent and know he absolutely had nothing to do with this at all.”

She said that her sister frequently called people late at night — and often kept calling until they picked up — even if to ask a mundane question like what she ought to have for a meal.

The attack

Investigators have said that the four victims were killed early on Sunday, Nov. 13, but they have not specified a time.

All four were probably asleep at the time they were attacked and may have been in their beds, according to Cathy Mabbutt, the Latah County coroner. She said that all four appeared to have been stabbed multiple times with a large knife and that some of the victims probably tried to fight back. The attacks left a gruesome, bloody scene that investigators have been examining for days.

“It’s such a horrific crime,” Ms. Mabbutt said. “It’s hard to think that somebody, whether they live here or they were here, commits something like that and is at large.”

None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, Ms. Mabbutt said last week, adding that toxicology reports had not yet been completed.

The police said that while the four friends were being killed, two other female housemates were in the house but were not attacked.

Investigators suggested that those two had slept through the killings. The house has six bedrooms, with two on each floor. The police said the victims were found on the second and third floors and declined to say whether there was evidence of the attacker visiting the first floor.

When the two surviving housemates woke up, they called some of their friends to the house because they believed that one of the women who lived upstairs “had passed out and was not waking up.” After the friends arrived, someone from the group called 911 just before noon, and the police arrived to find the four stabbing victims. Investigators have declined to release a recording or transcript of the 911 call.

The police said the two surviving housemates had each been out of town, separately, on Saturday and had returned to the house by about 1 a.m.

ImageInvestigators at the apartment where the victims were found.
Credit...Rajah Bose

Source: City of Moscow, Idaho

Eleanor Lutz

THE PURSUIT

Investigators have yet to identify a suspect. They have, however, preliminarily ruled out several people, including:

  • A man seen with Ms. Goncalves and Ms. Mogen in the video footage at the food truck.

  • The man who gave Ms. Goncalves and Ms. Mogen a ride home.

  • The two surviving housemates, who were in the house during the attack.

  • The friends who were called to the house by the surviving housemates the morning after the attacks.

  • Mr. DuCoeur, the former boyfriend of one victim.

  • The victims themselves.

The authorities have left open the possibility that there may have been more than one perpetrator. Investigators contacted local businesses to see if anyone had recently bought a fixed-blade knife.

Chief James Fry of the Moscow Police Department said on Sunday that he could not say whether the killer was still in town or had fled.

“I can’t say if the person’s here,” he said. “I can’t say what community the person’s in.”

With no one under arrest in the case, people in Moscow and internet sleuths have been trading theories and unverified stories, prompting the authorities to plead for people to stop spreading rumors. After stories began to spread this week about mysterious animal deaths before the killings, including a report that a dog had been skinned, investigators said they had determined that the animal deaths were unrelated to the deaths of the four students.

On Wednesday, investigators said they had been told in interviews that Ms. Goncalves had “made some comments” about a stalker before her death. They said they have been unable to corroborate that information but continued to examine it. Ms. Goncalves’s sister said she had not been aware of any such concerns.

CHANGING SIGNALS

In the first few days after the killings, the Moscow Police Department played down residents’ fears about a killer on the loose. They said on the day of the attack that the department “does not believe there is an ongoing community risk” and, two days later, that there was “no imminent threat to the community at large.”

But on Wednesday — three days after the killings — Chief James Fry pulled back from those earlier assurances. “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” he said at a news conference that day.

The about-face was one of several contradictory comments from city and county officials.

Art Bettge, the mayor of Moscow, told The New York Times a day after the killings that the case was considered a “crime of passion,” but he said later that he could not say for sure.

One consistent message from the police has been that the attack appeared to have been targeted and not random. On Wednesday, investigators reiterated that assessment but declined to elaborate.

“We are not going to release why we think that,” Capt. Lanier said.

THE TOWN

Moscow is a community of about 25,000 people on the Washington State border, and the university has 11,000 students.

The city had not recorded a murder in more than seven years. Students said in interviews that they normally felt safe walking around town late at night or leaving bikes unlocked around campus. But after the killings, many students left campus early for Thanksgiving break, worried about an apparent killer on the loose.

Some students who remained have started taking more precautions and walking around in groups. A coffee shop told patrons it was closing early so that employees could get home before dark.

C. Scott Green, the president of the University of Idaho, said on Sunday that the campus was heightening security and also suggested that the campus may operate classes remotely after Thanksgiving break.

“We’re also planning for the very real possibility that some students aren’t comfortable returning to campus,” he said.

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THE VICTIMS

Madison Mogen, who went by Maddie, was a senior from Coeur d’Alene who was majoring in marketing. Her grandmother, Kim Cheeley, said Ms. Mogen had always been a gentle and caring person who kept many long-term friendships and close ties with an extended family.

Ms. Mogen’s boyfriend, Jake Schriger, said she had been excited for graduation next year and talked about wanting to explore other parts of the world. Ms. Mogen always spread positivity and brought acts of kindness to others, Mr. Schriger said, adding that he hoped people would remember her for the love she had given to others.

“There’s no words that I can really describe her — how amazing she was and how wonderful of a person she was,” Mr. Schriger said.

Kaylee Goncalves, who was from Rathdrum, Idaho, had been set to graduate early in December and planned to move to Austin, Texas, with one of her close friends in June. The friend, Jordyn Quesnell, said Ms. Goncalves had secured a position with a marketing firm and was excited to explore more of the country.

“We wanted that adventure,” Ms. Quesnell said. “I would be like, ‘Let’s go do this,’ and she’d be like, ‘Down!’”

Alivea Goncalves said her younger sister and Ms. Mogen had served as bridesmaids for her wedding. Her sister, she said, still shared a dog with her former boyfriend, and the two had seemed likely to get back together.

Ethan Chapin, from Conway, Wash., was one of three triplets and had spent much of Nov. 12, the day before the killings, with both of his siblings, who are also University of Idaho students, their mother, Stacy Chapin, said. In the evening, they all attended a dance together held by his sister’s sorority, she said.

“My kids are very thankful that it was time well spent with him,” Ms. Chapin said. “He was literally the life of the party. He made everybody laugh. He was just the kindest person.”

Mr. Chapin played basketball in high school and was known by friends and family members for always having a big smile, ever since he was a baby. Ms. Chapin described her son as “just the brightest light.”

Xana Kernodle grew up in Idaho but spent time in Arizona in recent years, according to an interview that her father, Jeffrey Kernodle, gave to an Arizona TV station.

Mr. Kernodle told the station that his daughter was strong-willed and had enjoyed having an independent life in college.

He said his daughter had apparently tried to fight her attacker, an account backed up by Ms. Mabbutt, the coroner. Mr. Kernodle expressed shock that his daughter could be killed while at home with friends and said that he, too, had no idea who could have committed the attacks.

“She was with her friends all the time,” Mr. Kernodle said.

Serge F. Kovaleski contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.