AP

EXPLAINER: Deaths of 4 Idaho students fuel online sleuths

Dec 2, 2022, 1:59 PM
Flyer for killings of University of Idaho students...
A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found dead on Nov. 13, 2022, is displayed on a table along with buttons and bracelets, Wednesday, Nov. 30 during a vigil in memory of the victims in Moscow, Idaho. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The deaths of four University of Idaho students nearly three weeks ago has riled up thousands of would-be armchair sleuths, many of whom are posting speculation and unfounded rumors about the fatal stabbings online.

Relatively few details have been released in the horrific case that has left the small town of Moscow stunned and grieving for Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin.

The unanswered questions are fueling extensive interest in details about what happened. Here is a look at what is known about the killings, and what remains a mystery:

IS THERE A SUSPECT?

The Moscow Police Department has not yet named a suspect or made any arrests. Investigators have also not yet found a weapon, the department wrote in a news release Wednesday. Autopsies determined the four students were stabbed to death, likely with a fixed-blade knife, and investigators checked with local stores to see if any had sold military-style knives recently.

WHO WERE THE VICTIMS?

All four were friends and members of the university’s Greek system. Xana Kernodle, 20, was a junior studying marketing. She was from Post Falls, Idaho, and joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority on campus. She lived at the rental home with the other two women who were stabbed, and she was dating Ethan Chapin, who was visiting the night of the killings.

Chapin, also 20, was from Mount Vernon, Washington and was a triplet. His brother and sister also attend UI, and both Chapin and his brother were members of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen were both 21 and friends who grew up together in northern Idaho. Mogen worked with Kernodle at a local Greek restaurant in Moscow. She was also a member of Pi Beta Phi.

Goncalves was a senior majoring in general studies, a member of the Alpha Phi sorority and was planning a trip to Europe next year.

WERE THE VICTIMS TARGETED?

It’s unclear whether the killer or killers knew the victims. Police and the county prosecutor’s office have released confusing — and at times contradictory — statements about whether the victims were “targeted.”

On Thursday, the police department issued this statement: “We remain consistent in our belief that this was a targeted attack, but investigators have not concluded if the target was the residence or if it was the occupants.”

Investigators say nothing appears to have been stolen from the home.

WHAT HAPPENED THE NIGHT AND MORNING OF THE ATTACK?

Goncalves and Mogen went to a local bar, stopped at a food truck and then caught a ride home with a private party around 1:56 a.m., according to a police timeline of the evening.

Chapin and Kernodle were at the Sigma Chi house — just a short walk away — and returned to Kernodle’s house around 1:45 a.m., police said.
Two other roommates who live in the home were also out that evening, but returned home by 1 a.m., police said. They didn’t wake up until later that morning.

After they woke up, they called friends to come to the house because they believed one of the victims found on the second floor had passed out and wasn’t waking up. At 11:58 a.m., someone inside the home called 911, using a roommate’s cell phone. Multiple people talked with the dispatcher before police arrived.

Police found two of the victims on the second floor of the three-story home, and two on the third floor. A dog was also at the home, unharmed.

Autopsies showed the four were all likely asleep when they were attacked, some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times. There was no sign of sexual assault, police said.

HAS ANYONE BEEN CLEARED?

Police say that neither the two surviving roommates nor anyone who was at the home during the 911 call are believed to be involved with the attack. Police also say some of the people seen out with Goncalves and Mogen, including the person who drove them home, are not believed to be involved.

A sixth person is also listed on the rental lease for the house, police revealed Thursday, but detectives do not believe that person was at home during the attack.

ARE OTHER AGENCIES HELPING WITH THE INVESTIGATION?

A lot of manpower and resources have been focused on the investigation. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has made $1 million in emergency funding available for the investigation.

The Moscow Police Department has four detectives and dozens of officers on the case. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has assigned more than 40 agents, with about half stationed in Moscow. The Idaho State Police has roughly 20 investigators assisting, and several troopers patrolling the town.

IS THERE ANY THREAT TO THE COMMUNITY?

Police initially said there was no threat to the community, then later walked back that statement. Because the killer (or killers) is unknown, and because whether the attack was “targeted” is hazy, many in the community are fearful.

The University of Idaho has allowed students to switch to fully remote learning, and Dean of Students Blaine Eckles said Wednesday that less than half of the students left campus in favor of online classes.

The university has also hired an additional security firm to help with campus safety. Students can request escorts while on campus.

DID ANY OF THE VICTIMS RAISE SECURITY CONCERNS BEFORE THE ATTACKS?

Neither the university nor the police department have said whether any of the students reported unusual activity or expressed safety concerns in the months or weeks before the attack.

The police department has looked into reports that Goncalves may have had a stalker, but despite pursuing hundreds of tips, has been unable to verify that claim, according to a ” Frequently Asked Questions ” document released by the department.

WHAT ABOUT THAT ONE PERSON? OR SO-AND-SO?

Rumors, speculation and unfounded theories abound online, many targeting people that police have already said aren’t involved in the crime.

“There is speculation, without factual backing, stoking community fears and spreading false facts,” the police department wrote in a Facebook post Thursday evening. “We encourage referencing official releases for accurate information and updated progress.”

Police frequently hold back some information about criminal cases because releasing it could harm the investigation. Sometimes crucial evidence doesn’t become publicly known until after an arrest is made and the case goes to trial.

Detectives are looking for tips, surveillance videos from the area and other information that could provide context about the killings. They are asking that people call or email the police department with tips and upload any digital media to a special FBI website.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November ...
Meg Kinnard and Michelle L. Price

Trump says beating of Nichols ‘never should have happened’

Former President Donald Trump says the footage of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers is “horrible” and that the attack “never should have happened.”
2 days ago
Demonstrators participate in a protest against the police killing of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 20...
Adrian Sainz, Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing five Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, a Black man, has been made public.
3 days ago
An Egyptian archeologist speaks at a recently discovered tomb dated to the Old Kingdom, 2700–2200...
MOHAMED WAGDY

Egypt unveils tombs and sarcophagus in new excavation

Egypt on Thursday unveiled dozens of new archaeological discoveries, including two ancient tombs, at a Pharaonic necropolis just outside of the capital Cairo.
3 days ago
This image taken from video provided by the NAOJ & Asahi Shimbun, shows spiral swirling through...
Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press

Camera captures night sky spiral after SpaceX rocket launch

A camera atop Hawaii's tallest mountain has captured what looks like a spiral swirling through the night sky. Researchers believe it shows the aftereffects of a SpaceX rocket launch when the company's Falcon 9 rocket sent a GPS satellite into orbit.
3 days ago
Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, i...
LINDSEY BAHR AP Film Writer

‘A Thousand and One’ wins Sundance grand jury prize

"A Thousand and One," a drama about an impoverished single mother and her son in New York City, won the Sundance Film Festival's grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition, while "Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project" was awarded the top prize in the U.S. documentary category.
3 days ago
A Yanomami youth carries a toddler on his shoulders at the Saude Indigenous House, a center respons...
Eleoneore Hughes and Edmar Barros, Associated Press

Why Brazil’s Yanomami are being decimated by disease, mining

Severe malnutrition and disease, particularly malaria, are decimating the Yanomami population in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, and on Jan. 20 the federal government declared a public health emergency.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
EXPLAINER: Deaths of 4 Idaho students fuel online sleuths