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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Moscow Police: Killer of 4 UI students remains unidentified and on the loose

By Emma Epperly and Garrett Cabeza The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – The brutal killings of four University of Idaho students remained unsolved Wednesday as officials said more than two dozen investigators from four agencies had been assigned to the case.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said in a news conference that detectives believe the homicides on Sunday at a home near campus were a “targeted, isolated” attack. But he stressed that they still haven’t found the weapon and don’t have a suspect.

“We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Fry said at news conference attended by more than 40 local and national media members Wednesday afternoon. “We still believe it’s a targeted attack. But the reality is there still is a person out there who committed four very horrible, horrible crimes.”

He asked that anyone who has information relevant to the case to call a tip line at (208) 883-7180.

Until the news conference, officials had said they did not believe there was a continuing threat to the public, and police declined to answer questions related to the slayings. Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20 were killed in the attack.

Mogen, Goncalves and Kernodle were roommates. The Latah County coroner ruled all four deaths as homicides. Autopsies were being performed Wednesday, Fry said.

Fry said two other roommates were home during the killings and at the time police arrived on scene. Fry said the roommates were not injured during the attacks. He declined to say whether they were able to provide an account of the killings. When a reporter asked a question referring to the surviving roommates as witnesses, Fry clarified: “I don’t think I ever said they were witnesses. I said they were there.”

Fry said investigators do not believe anyone was held hostage during the incident.

Police have determined the students were killed in the early morning hours of Sunday. Police discovered the bodies after a person called 911 to report “an unconscious” person around noon Sunday, Fry said. He declined to say who called 911.

“We don’t know why that call came in at noon and not in the middle of the night,” Fry said.

On Saturday night, Chapin and Kernodle were together at a party on campus, Fry said. Mogen and Goncalves were together at a downtown bar and arrived home sometime after 1:45 a.m. Sunday, he said, confirming the women were seen in a Twitch livestream getting food from a local food truck.

Fry said the four students were stabbed with a knife but police have not recovered a weapon. He said there were no signs of forced entry and a door to the home was open when police arrived. There’s no indication anything was missing from the home, Fry said.

Aaron Snell, Idaho State Police communications director, said the people in the house have “fully cooperated with the investigation” and investigators have not established whether weapons other than a knife were used in the attack.

Fry urged the community to “remain vigilant.”

“We all have to be aware of our surroundings and be watching out for each other,” Fry said.

He said there are 25 or more investigators working on the case from Moscow police, Latah County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police and the FBI.

“We are providing every resource that we can to make sure that this comes to a conclusion and that the person or people that are responsible are brought to justice,” said Idaho State Police Col. and Director Kedrick Wills.

University of Idaho students and families of the victims expressed frustration Tuesday at the lack of information released to the public. Many students left Moscow early for Thanksgiving break.

“The reality is I probably should have been standing here a day or so ago,” Fry said. “But I’m here now. We’re going to continue to be here.”

Snell is taking over communications related to the incident.

UI President C. Scott Green said the university will support students who have decided to leave campus. He added that officials decided not to cancel classes because many students prefer to stay.

“To us, this crime and the loss of these young lives is simply beyond comprehension,” said Green, who fought back tears before wiping one away at one point.

“While our small community is certainly not immune to such things, it’s not a situation our close-knit campus is used to dealing with.”

Green said the four students were “bright lights in our community.”

Some students who remained in Moscow to attend classes said they’re questioning if they’re safe on campus.

Blaine Eckles, UI Dean of Students, said the university has increased campus safety patrols since the killings. Campus safety officials are available to escort students across campus.

Investigators are continuing to collect evidence, review videos and establish a timeline of events, Fry said.

Fry promised a thorough investigation.

“We are looking at everything – every tip we get, every lead we get,” Fry said. “There’s no one that we’re not going to talk to. There’s no one we’re not going to interview. There’s no one that we’re not going to look into.”