MOSCOW, Idaho — In the early hours of the morning when four college students died in a brutal stabbing near the University of Idaho, several unanswered phone calls went from one of the victim’s phones to his longtime boyfriend, delving into the mystery of their deaths nearly a week after the killings.
The coroner who carried out autopsies on the four friends said some of the victims appeared to have fought back and may have been attacked while sleeping in their beds.
The vicious stabbings in the college town of Moscow, Idaho have baffled students and residents as local officials have issued sometimes conflicting statements and have yet to identify suspects or motives.
The few details they leaked have raised more questions as sleuths, internet sleuths and the victims’ own relatives try to piece together who might have had a motive in killing the four youngsters after a Saturday night of college revelry. The FBI assigned nearly 50 employees to the case.
Three of the victims – Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Gonçalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20 – lived in the house not far from campus where the attack happened, while the fourth victim, Ethan Chapin, 20, was there to visit his girlfriend, Ms Kernodle.
Here’s what else we know about the murders.
Two housemates survived the attack.
Police say while the four friends were killed, two other housemates were in the house but were not attacked. Both were women.
Investigators said they don’t believe any of them were involved in the crime. But no one called 911 until shortly before noon Sunday – several hours after the attack, which authorities said took place in the early morning hours. The possibility that hours elapsed between the crime and the time someone called 911 suggests the housemates may have slept through the attack, though police have not explained the delay.
Cathy Mabbutt, the Latah County coroner, said the victims all appeared to have been stabbed multiple times with a large knife, although no weapons were recovered. Based on the time of night, she said, they were probably sleeping when they were attacked. The house they lived in had six bedrooms, two on each floor.
Ms Mabbutt said she believed at least one victim, and possibly more, tried to fend off the attacker.
“It’s such a horrific crime,” she said. “It’s hard to think that anyone, whether they live here or have been here, would do something like this and go free.”
What to know about the Idaho murders
Authorities are still trying to piece together what happened at a house near the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho, where four students were found dead.
- The victims: Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee Goncalves were found dead on November 13in what the local mayor called a “crime of passion”.
- fear on campus: After the discovery of the bodies, some university students ready to leave town. Others stayed, fearing the uncertainty around them.
- A Persistent Threat?: As police work to identify a suspect, officials said they could not rule out the risks for the University Town community.
- Highlights: Detectives, internet sleuths, and relatives of the victims attempted to determine who might have had a motive for killing the students. Here’s what we know.
None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, Ms Mabbutt said, and toxicology reports have not been completed.
One victim’s phone records showed calls to a boyfriend before she was killed.
There were seven unanswered phone calls made from the phone of one of the victims, Ms Goncalves, to her longtime boyfriend in the early hours of Sunday morning, according to her older sister, Alivea Goncalves, based on the logs phones that she was able to download. from the telephone provider.
The first call to the man, Jack DuCoeur, came at 2.26am, and there were six more over the next 26 minutes, the last at 2.52am, Ms Goncalves said. She said Mr. DuCoeur, also a college student, missed them because he was sleeping and his sister’s phone account showed no other calls.
Ms Goncalves said Mr DuCoeur, who did not respond to a request to discuss the case, was a childhood friend of her sister. She said they had been dating for years until recently when they decided to take an amicable break. Ms Goncalves said she and her family ‘support Jack 100 per cent and know he had absolutely nothing to do with this’.
She also said the number of calls was not unusual: Kaylee Goncalves frequently called people late at night, and often until they picked up, even to ask a trivial question like what she should have for a meal, her sister said.
Bill Thompson, Latah County’s lead prosecutor, said investigators are reviewing cellphone tower data and social media information to try to determine who was in the immediate area at the time of the killings.
The victims had spent the night socializing.
It had been a typical Saturday night in Moscow, with many students on campus heading out to socialize after watching a University of Idaho football game.
Mr. Chapin and Ms. Kernodle, who had been dating since the spring semester, attended a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity from about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. near the house where the attack later occurred, said authorities said.
Ms Mogen and Ms Goncalves had gone to the Corner Club bar together around 11 p.m., staying there until 1.30 a.m.
Live video from a popular late-night food truck showed Ms Mogen and Ms Goncalves at the truck around 1:40 a.m. The two mingled in the area, chatting and smiling before grabbing their food and leaving. A “private party” took them home, police said.
Authorities said the four friends returned to the rental house south of campus around 1:45 a.m.
No one has been arrested.
There were no arrests, although police appear to have ruled out several people.
That includes a man seen in video footage from the food truck, investigators said, as well as the two roommates who were home during the attack.
The authorities left open the possibility that there could be more than one perpetrator.
Investigators contacted local businesses to see if anyone had recently purchased a fixed-blade knife from them.
Authorities have backtracked on earlier statements.
In the first days after the killings, the Moscow Police Department played down residents’ fears of a killer on the run, saying the day of the attack that the department “does not believe there is an ongoing risk to the community” and, two days laterthat there was “no imminent threat to the community as a whole”.
Then on Wednesday – three days after the murders – Chief James Fry backed down from previous assurances. “We cannot say there is no threat to the community,” he told a news conference.
The about-face was one of many conflicting comments from city and county officials.
Art Bettge, the mayor of Moscow, told The New York Times a day after the murders that the case was considered a “crime of passion”, but he later said he could not say for sure.
A constant message from the police is that the attack appears to have been targeted.
Moscow had not recorded a murder for seven years.
Moscow is a community of about 25,000 people bordering Washington State, and the university has 11,000 students.
The city had not recorded a murder in over seven years. Students said in interviews that they normally felt safe walking late at night or leaving unlocked bikes on campus. But after the murder, many students left campus early for the Thanksgiving holiday, worried about an apparent killer on the loose.
Some students who stayed began to take more precautions and walk around in groups. A cafe told customers it was closing early so employees could get home before dark.
Here’s what we know about the victims.
Madison Mogen, who went by the name Maddie, was a senior from Coeur d’Alene who majored in marketing. Her grandmother, Kim Cheeley, said Ms Mogen had always been a sweet and caring person who had many long-term friendships and close ties to extended family.
Ms Mogen’s boyfriend Jake Schriger said she was delighted to graduate next year and spoke of wanting to explore other parts of the world. Ms Mogen has 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 gave to others.
“There are no words I can really describe – how amazing she was and how wonderful she was,” Mr. Schriger said.
Kaylee Goncalves, a native of Rathdrum, Idaho, was due to graduate in early December and planned to move to Austin, Texas with one of his close friends in June. The friend, Jordyn Quesnell, said Ms Goncalves had secured a position with a marketing company and was excited to explore the country further.
“We wanted this adventure,” Ms Quesnell said. “I’d say, ‘Let’s go do that,’ and she’d be like, ‘Down!'”
Alivea Goncalves said her younger sister and Ms Mogen 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, of Conway, Washington, was one of three triplets and had spent much of Nov. 12, the day before the murders, with his two siblings, who are also students at the University of Idaho, their mother, Stacy Chapin, said. In the evening, they had all attended a dance organized by her sister’s sorority, she said.
“My children are very grateful that this time was well spent with him,” Ms Chapin said. “He was literally the life of the party. He made everyone laugh. He was just the nicest person.
Mr. Chapin played basketball in high school and was known to friends and family 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 had spent time in Arizona in recent years, according to an interview that her father, Jeffrey Kernodle, given to an Arizona television station.
Mr Kernodle told the station his daughter was strong-willed and enjoyed having an independent life at university.
He said his daughter appeared to try and fight off her attacker, an account supported by Ms Mabbutt, the coroner. Mr Kernodle expressed shock that she could be killed while with friends at home and said he too had no idea who might have carried out the attacks.
“She was with her friends all the time,” Mr Kernodle said.
Serge F. Kovaleski contributed report. Susan C. Beachy and Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.