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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Four UI students stabbed to death, Latah County coroner rules

Nov. 17, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 17, 2022 at 10:06 p.m.

A memorial for four University of Idaho students who died in a homicide is seen on Wednesday 2022, outside Mad Greek in Moscow. Two of the students who died, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen, worked at the restaurant.  (Geoff Crimmins/For The Spokesman)
A memorial for four University of Idaho students who died in a homicide is seen on Wednesday 2022, outside Mad Greek in Moscow. Two of the students who died, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen, worked at the restaurant. (Geoff Crimmins/For The Spokesman)
By Garrett Cabeza and Emma Epperly The Spokesman-Review

Autopsies performed on the four University of Idaho students found dead in a home near the campus confirmed they were stabbed to death with a “large knife” early Sunday morning, according to the Latah County coroner.

Police have no suspects, no persons of interest and have not recovered a weapon, said Aaron Snell, communications director at Idaho State Police.

Moscow police Chief James Fry said in a news conference Wednesday that the killings of Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Madison Mogen, 21, were a “targeted, isolated” attack.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office completed the autopsies. Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said the size and depth of the wounds indicated a large knife was used. If another weapon was used, it was similar to a large knife, she said. All four deaths were classified as homicides.

Mabbutt said the students were stabbed more than once and may have sustained defensive wounds. There were no indications of sexual assault.

Mabbutt said the students died around the same time – the early morning hours of Sunday.

She said she likely won’t receive the full autopsy report for another three to six weeks when toxicology reports are completed. The toxicology reports will not affect the manner or cause of death, Mabbutt said.

Evidence collected during the autopsies was transferred to the Moscow Police Department, according to a news release, and shared with Mabbutt.

The remains of the four students have been released to their families.

“On behalf of the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office, I would like to extend condolences to the loved ones of these young people and to everyone impacted by this terrible event,” Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Veena Singh said in the release.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner has contracts with the majority of smaller counties, including Latah County, in the region to perform autopsies, which is why the bodies were taken to Spokane.

Mogen’s aunt, Katie Blackshear, said the past few days have been “excruciating” for the family, which is frustrated with how the case has been handled.

“The police need social media that is not Facebook, they police a college town in 2022 and need to communicate with college kids,” Blackshear wrote in a message to The Spokesman-Review. “The lack of information, statements from left field from the mayor and lack of outreach to the public to gain information for the case has made this even more painful for all of us to experience.”

Moscow Mayor Art Bettge told the New York Times the killings were a “crime of passion,” only to walk back the statement.

Investigators should have held daily news briefings from the start to reach the public and ask for pictures, videos and information from the night before the killings sooner, Blackshear said.

Fry acknowledged his lack of public appearances at Wednesday’s news conference.

“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.”

But that didn’t satisfy Mogen’s family.

“Of course we are all worried and petrified for the other students at U of I,” she wrote. “(Chief) Fry certainly didn’t gain our confidence at the briefing yesterday. We are devastated.”

Mogen’s family was not aware roommates were present during the attack, which has the family “reeling,” Blackshear said.

The two roommates who were home at the time of the attack were not injured, Fry said, and are cooperating fully with the investigation. Snell declined to say whether the roommates were awake when the stabbings occurred or whether they were the ones who called 911 many hours after the attack.

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

Snell said police received an increase in tips since Wednesday’s news conference and more tips will help the investigation. He said investigators are working on leads.

Idaho State Police personnel were at the crime scene Thursday reviewing the house to ensure all evidence was collected. Flashes believed to be from a camera could be seen through a window on the side of the home.

The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit is in Moscow supporting the investigation, the FBI confirmed Thursday.

Agents in the unit help local agencies profile suspects and use forensics and interviewing techniques to support complex investigations.

Idaho State Police troopers provided an extra police presence Thursday morning at Moscow schools and UI, Snell said.

Snell said many of Moscow police’s resources are dedicated to the investigation, so troopers were sent to schools.

“It’s not that common that you would have that many state troopers in a specific area unless it’s like an emphasis of some sort,” Snell said.

In a memo Thursday from UI President Scott Green to students and employees, Green wrote there will be an increased security presence through the weekend on campus.

“This is an intentional increase in response to your concerns and not a reflection of any new information or heightened threat communicated by MPD,” the memo said.

Fry said Wednesday that although investigators believe a targeted attack led to the killings, he could not rule out that there could be a threat to the community.

“The reality is there still is a person out there who committed four very horrible, horrible crimes,” he said.

Green said campus security is available to escort students, employees and visitors across campus. Counseling services are also available.

Flowers and stuffed animals continue to be seen throughout town to honor and remember the slain students.

On Thursday, three bouquets of flowers and a teddy bear were on the perimeter of the crime scene.

Candles with the four victims’ names written on them, as well as flowers surrounding the white candles, were on a table outside Mad Greek, a downtown Moscow restaurant where Kernodle and Mogen were servers.

The restaurant closed to allow staff to grieve but has since reopened, according to Mad Greek’s Facebook page.

Flowers, messages and stuffed animals lined the UI brick welcoming sign on state Highway 8. A few candles placed at the site were lit.

Candlelight vigils were held Wednesday in Coeur d’Alene and Thursday in Boise .

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