Idaho university students were ‘likely sleeping’ when killer struck as coroner says victims were found in beds

The four University of Idaho students murdered in a brutal knife attack were “likely sleeping” when the killer struck, stabbing them multiple times with a large knife, the local coroner has revealed.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told NewsNation that the four victims were all found in their beds when police responded to a 911 call at the property around midday Sunday and came across the horrific scene.

The location of the bodies and the time of the murders has led officials to believe Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, may have been asleep when the violent attack unfolded.

“It was late at night or early in the morning so it seems likely maybe they were sleeping,” she said.

Ms Mabbutt said that the nature of the attack indicated a “pretty angry” individual was responsible for the killings – with the murderer or murderers still at large five days on.

“There were multiple stab wounds on them and most of them had just one that was the lethal stab wound. The fatal ones were to the chest area, the upper body area,” she said.

“It was a pretty large knife so it’s really hard to call them puncture wounds.

She added: “It has to be somebody that is pretty angry in order to stab four people to death.”

Despite the belief that they may have been asleep at the time, some of the victims are thought to have fought back against the attacker.

Based on his daughter’s defensive wounds, Kernodle’s grieving father told CBS5 he believes the “tough” 20-year-old fought her killer to the very end.

The autopsy findings were released on Thursday, ruling the deaths homicides by stabbing.

The coroner confirmed that the four victims were all stabbed multiple times with a large knife – sustaining injuries that caused them to bleed out inside their home.

There was no signs of sexual assault on any of the victims but they each suffered “pretty extensive” wounds, she told NBC News, confirming that each victim was stabbed a different amount of times and in different places on the body.

She added that it was not possible to determine from the injuries the order in which the four victims were attacked but officials are using “other text messages and other technology” to try to build up a timeline, she said.

She told local outlet Idaho News that the autopsies did reveal one thing: “It’s personal.”

From the start of the investigation, police have said the attack was “targeted” – but have not made any arrests or identified any suspects in the case.

The four victims were all found dead inside a college home at around midday on Sunday, after police received a mysterious 911 call at midday reporting an “unconscious individual”.

When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the four friends – all sorority or fraternity members at the college – dead inside the home. There was no sign of forced entry, the front door was open and nothing appears to have been taken, police said.

The three female students lived together at the home with two other students. Chapin was dating Kernodle and was staying the night with her. The two other roommates were present inside the home at the time, but were unharmed.

They are cooperating with the investigation and did not necessarily witness what happened, police said.

Despite the brutality of the violent slayings, local officials spent three days insisting that there was “no ongoing threat” to the public and that the victims were targeted in a “one-off”, “targeted” attack.

In this July 2022 photo provided by Jazzmin Kernodle shows University of Idaho students Xana Kernodle, right, and Ethan Chapin, left (Jazzmin Kernodle)
In this July 2022 photo provided by Jazzmin Kernodle shows University of Idaho students Xana Kernodle, right, and Ethan Chapin, left (Jazzmin Kernodle)

On Wednesday – in the first and only press conference so far given in the high-profile, unsolved case – officials appeared to walk back these comments, admitting that “there is a threat”.

“We still believe it’s a targeted attack, but the reality is, there’s still a person out there who committed horrible, horrible crimes,” said Moscow Police Chief Fry.

“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.”

Now, five days on, no suspects have been named, no arrests have been made and the murder has not been found.

Investigators are currently trying to piece together a timeline for what happened and are searching for a military-style Ka-Bar or “rambo” knife they believe to be the murder weapon.

The autopsies indicated that the victims were killed “early in the morning, sometime after 2am, but still during the night,” said Ms Mabbutt.

On the night of Saturday 12 November, Chapin and Kernodle had been at a campus party while Mogen and Goncalves spent the night at a bar in town.

They are all believed to have returned to the property sometime after 1.45am.

Officials previously said the victims were stabbed to death with an “edged weapon such as a knife” at around 3 or 4am on Sunday morning.

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, where they stayed for around 10 minutes ordering food, laughing, and chatting casually to other students at the food truck.

Slain University of Idaho students Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves (Instagram)
Slain University of Idaho students Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves (Instagram)

An unidentified man appears to arrive at the truck with them but Mogen and Goncalves leave the area alone.

The two best friends leave together, walking off at around 1.51am.

It is not clear if they got a taxi or walked home after this or if they went to another location. 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.

The unidentified man, who was chatting to another student at the time, was seen in the footage gesturing at the two women as they walk off, before he turns and walks off in the opposite direction to the two women.

Police confirmed that they are looking to speak to the other people in the footage. Neither the man nor anyone else in the footage has been identified as a suspect or person of interest in the case.

DNA samples and nail clipping have also been taken from the crime scene and sent for testing as the hunt for the killer or killers continues.

On Saturday – just hours before their murders – 21-year-old Goncalves had shared photos of the four victims and some of their other friends on her Instagram account.

In one carefree image, the group had their arms around each other, lifted each other on their shoulders and smiled into the camera.

“One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” Goncalves captioned the post.

Hours later, four of the friends were dead.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact the Moscow Police at 208-883-7054