“One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” Kaylee Goncalves wrote on social media on Saturday.
Just hours later, four of the smiling students were dead – stabbed to death in a mystery quadruple homicide that has rocked the small college town of Moscow and left many unanswered questions.
The bodies of Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Goncalves, 21, were found inside a home close to the university campus at around midday on Sunday (13 November).
For three days, local officials insisted that there was no ongoing threat to the community and that the murders were both “isolated” and “targeted”.
Students, locals and the victims’ families were less convinced, with many upping sticks and leaving town prior to the end of the college term.
On Wednesday, police suddenly walked back their claims around public safety, admitting “there is a threat out there still” and confessing that they have no suspect or suspects in mind.
Now, four days on from the murders, authorities appear to be no closer to catching the killer. No arrests have been made, no suspects have been identified and no murder weapon has been found.
Instead, several key questions remain.
What was the motive for the attack?
Was there more than one killer?
Who placed the puzzling 911 call?
And why were police only alerted several hours after the murders when two other people were inside the home?
Here’s what we know – and don’t know – about the mysterious and tragic case:
The murders and mystery 911 call
The unsolved tragedy came to light at around midday on Sunday when police were called to a home on King Road, Moscow, to a report of an “unconscious person”.
Moscow Police officers arrived on the scene to find the four student victims dead inside the property – stabbed to death with an “edged weapon such as a knife”. Autopsies were completed on Wednesday and are expected to reveal further information about cause and manner of death.
There was no sign of forced entry at the property, the front door was open and nothing appears to have been taken, police said.
No murder weapon was recovered from the scene. A local store has since claimed officers are looking for information about a Ka-Bar knife – a combat-style knife used by the military as well as outdoor enthusiasts.
As of Thursday morning, officials are remaining tightlipped about who placed the 911 call and why they would have said it was an “unconscious individual” given the bloody nature of the crime scene.
Police have not confirmed whether that person was on the scene when they arrived, or whether they are a potential suspect.
On Wednesday, in the first press conference given since the murders, police revealed that the victims’ two other roommates were in the home at the time of the murders and were still there when police arrived.
Mogen, Kernodle and Goncalves lived together in the six-bedroom property with two other female students, while Chapin was dating Kernodle.
The two roommates were unharmed in the attack and were not held hostage, revealed authorities.
Moscow Police refused to confirm if one of them placed the 911 call and would not divulge what information they had been able to provide. Chief James Fry said the pair were not “witnesses” to the grisly crime.
The two roommates are not considered suspects and are cooperating with the investigation, Idaho State Police said.
In the immediate aftermath of the grim discovery, a homicide investigation was launched and the college campus was plunged into lockdown.
The University of Idaho issued an alert to students to stay away from the area and shelter in place.
“Moscow PD is investigating a homicide on King Rd. near campus. Suspect is not known at this time,” tweeted the university on Sunday afternoon.
“Stay away from the area and shelter in place. More information will be made available when possible.”
Just one hour later, the shelter in place was lifted with authorities saying there was “no ongoing threat” to the public.
However, students were told to “remain vigilant” with the suspect “unknown” and still at large.
Last known movements
On Wednesday, new details emerged about the events leading up to the murders and the victims’ last known movements before they died.
Earlier on Sunday, Goncalves posted for the last time on Instagram, sharing the photo of herself and the other victims enjoying college life together.
That night, Chapin and Kernodle went to a party together on the university campus, while Mogen and Goncalves went to a bar in the downtown area.
They are all believed to have returned to the property sometime after 1.45am.
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.
An unidentified man appears to be walking with them, before he steps back as they approach the truck.
Mogen and Goncalves go up to the truck and order food, while the man stands a few feet behind them – before pulling his hood over his head.
Mogen appears to spot someone she recognises and walks over to a man, hugging him briefly before returning to Goncalves’ side.
After ordering, the two best friends move over to the collection side of the truck.
The mystery man who arrived with them follows and stands close by.
Over the next 10 minutes, the group of young people and students are seen laughing and chatting away as they wait for their orders.
The man is seen chatting and laughing to another man in the line, while Mogen and Goncalves appear to laugh and joke with each other and take photos.
When their food is ready, Mogen and Goncalves leave together, walking away from the truck and turning left.
The man, who was chatting to another student at the time appears to notice them walk off and gestures toward them, before he turns and walks away from the truck, turning right – the opposite direction.
In a press conference on Wednesday, police confirmed that they are looking to speak to the other people in the footage – as four days on the killer or killers remains at large and investigators are yet to identify any suspects.
The man in the footage has not been identified as a suspect or person of interest.
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.
Investigators believe the victims were killed in the early hours of the morning, at around 3 or 4am.
Suspect or suspects?
Four days on from the killings, no arrests have been made and no suspects identified.
Investigators are now exploring the possibility that more than one killer is responsible.
Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson told NBC’sTODAY show on Thursday that it “certainly is possible” that there may be more than killer out there.
“At this point, the investigators are looking at all possibilities. They don’t have a specific suspect,” he said.
“We’re really hoping for any information from the public to help recreate everyone’s activities.”
His comments come after it emerged that a group of students had been threatened by a man with a knife weeks before the murders.
The university’s security issued a “Vandal Alert” to students and staff back on 12 September warning them about an assailant armed with a knife.
The warning, described as a “Threat with Knife”, reported that a group of students had been walking through the campus when the man threatened them with a knife.
The assailant was described as a white male aged 18 to 22 years old, who was dressed in all black and is “not affiliated with the university”.
No one was harmed in the incident but officials felt the need to alert students and staff to the threat – taking place in what is a notoriously safe small town where no murders have been reported since 2015.
During a press conference on Wednesday evening, officials said that they do not have any evidence to suggest that the September incident is connected to the quadruple homicide and said that the man turned himself in to law enforcement back then.
Contradictory comments from officials
Over the course of the past four days, officials have given varying accounts about a possible motive in the attack – and have also gone from insisting there is “no ongoing threat” to the community to warning “there is a threat out there”.
Police initially described the slayings as “an isolated, targeted attack” and continued to insist “there is no imminent threat to the community at large” – stopping short of providing evidence which led them to that conclusion.
On Monday, Moscow Police Capt Anthony Dahlinger told local paper The Idaho Statesman that the four students are all being considered victims and not suspects in the killings – ruling out the possibility of a murder-suicide – and said a suspect was being sought.
“We certainly have a crime here, so we are looking for a suspect,” he said.
Moscow Mayor Art Bettge described the killings as a “crime of passion” and a “one-off type of situation”.
“Something had occurred that resulted in these deaths – there was no robbery,” he said. However, in an interview with Fox News Digital, the mayor appeared to admit that all potential motives were on the table.
“It’s one of any of a plenitude of possibilities, including burglary gone wrong, robbery gone wrong… any of those is a possibility and not one to the exclusion of others,” he said on Monday.
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.
Many students also felt unsafe given no arrests have been made and left Moscow for the Thanksgiving holiday early in light of the horror attack.
On Tuesday, Moscow Police released a detailed press release doubling down that there was no danger to the community.
On Wednesday, officials walked back this assertion and appeared to admit that their insistence that the public is not in danger may have been premature.
When asked how he could be so sure there was no ongoing threat, 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.”
The four victims killed in Sunday’s attack were all close friends, with touching social media posts showing Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, enjoying college life together.
Chapin was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, while Goncalves was a senior majoring in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority.
Both Kernodle and Mogen were members of the Pi Beta Phi sorority both majoring in marketing – the former a junior and the latter a senior.
The three young women were roommates, while Kernodle and Chapin were dating.
Mogen and Goncalves both graduated together from Lake City High School in 2019 and made the university’s dean’s list in spring 2021.
Several weeks ago, Goncalves posted a touching tribute for her “best friend” in celebration of her 21st birthday.
“swipe to watch me and @maddiemogen grow up together!!” she wrote, sharing a series of photos of the pair together.
“happy 21st maddie mayð¤ I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to be the main character in all my childhood stories. see you at the bars in 14 days, 14 minutes, and 14 seconds, i love you!!!”
Mogen replied: “I love you more than life! My best friend forever and more.”
Tributes pour in
Tributes poured in for the victims on social media while a vigil has been planned for after the Thanksgiving break.
The family of Goncalves shared a heartbreaking statement on social media where they revealed the 21-year-old was looking forward to a new start in Texas in a couple of months’ time.
“She was looking forward to her job in tech starting on 1/1, a move to Texas, road trips in her just purchased Range Rover, and a trip she planned out to Europe,” they wrote.
Describing her as “our defender and protector”, the family vowed to fight to get “justice” for her death.
“She’d never stop fighting for us and demanding the truth and justice and neither will we,” they wrote.
Goncalves’ grieving loved ones also urged people to “refrain from spreading harmful rumors” about the deaths, reminding people that they can see the comments and posts shared on social media.
The owners of local family-ran restaurant Mad Greek, where Mogen and Kernodle both worked part time, also paid tribute to the students in a Facebook post.
“Xana and Maddie have been servers here for several years and brought so much joy to our restaurant and all of those they encountered,” the tribute read.
“You will be greatly missed. Thank you for being a part of our family/team and for helping me so much over the years. Until we meet again.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Moscow Police Department, the Idaho State Police and other state and federal agencies are now working together to solve the case which has rocked the small, college town and left students on edge.
Anyone with information about the homicides is asked to call the Moscow Police Department at 208-883-7054