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News >  Crime/Public Safety

UI students were found dead in their beds, may have been sleeping when attacked, coroner says

Nov. 18, 2022 Updated Fri., Nov. 18, 2022 at 9:50 p.m.

Photos of the four victims are on display Wednesday during a candlelight vigil in Coeur d’Alene.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Photos of the four victims are on display Wednesday during a candlelight vigil in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Four University of Idaho students killed Sunday in a home near the Moscow campus were found dead in their beds and were likely asleep when they were attacked, according to the Latah County coroner.

“It has to be somebody that’s pretty angry in order to stab four people to death,” Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told NewsNation, a cable news channel, Friday.

Moscow police Chief James Fry told KHQ he believes the students were killed in their sleep.

Mabbutt told The Spokesman-Review the students – Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Madison Mogen, 21 – were stabbed to death, based on the autopsies performed by the Spokane County Medical Examiner.

Police have no suspects “in custody,” the Facebook post said. Moscow police Chief James Fry called the killings “targeted” and “isolated.”

Aaron Snell, Idaho State Police communications director, told CNN the students were found on the second and third floors of the residence. Mabbutt told CNN there were defensive wounds on the hands of at least one student.

Mabbutt said the size and depth of the wounds indicated a large knife or something similar was used. All four deaths were classified as homicides.

Mabbutt said the students were stabbed multiple times and there were no indications of sexual assault.

The remains of the four students were 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 a news release.

Moscow police released a map Friday on its Facebook page outlining the time and locations of the students in the hours leading up to their deaths. It asked anyone who was near those areas and noticed suspicious behavior, or who has video surveillance or other relevant information, to call the tip line at (208) 883-7180 or email tipline@ci.moscow.id.us.

The map indicated Goncalves and Mogen were at the Corner Club, a popular downtown Moscow bar, from 10 p.m. Nov. 12 to 1:30 a.m. Nov. 13. The pair were seen on a Twitch livestream appearing to order food at 1:40 a.m. before returning to their King Road residence via a private vehicle five minutes later.

Meanwhile, Chapin and Kernodle attended a party at Sigma Chi fraternity, of which Chapin was a member, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 12. They also returned to the King Road home, where Kernodle, Mogen and Goncalves lived, at 1:45 a.m. the next day.

The fraternity and the home are separated by a large grass field. It’s unclear where Chapin and Kernodle were in the nearly five-hour gap from 9 p.m. to 1:45 a.m.

The four students were killed sometime in the early morning hours, Mabbutt said.

Two other roommates were at the residence that night. The two roommates who were home at the time of the attack are not believed to be suspects, according to another Moscow police Facebook post. Fry has said the roommates were uninjured and are cooperating with the investigation.

Officers responded to the home after a 911 caller reported an unconscious person at the home, the post said. Officials declined to release the 911 tapes and have not said who made the call.

Police discovered the four students dead when officers arrived at the house.

Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson said search warrant documents from the investigation are sealed. He said they will likely remain sealed until the investigation is complete.

“Typically they are sealed to protect the integrity of the investigation,” Thompson said.

Detectives seized the contents of three dumpsters on King Road, police said. They also contacted local businesses to determine if a large fixed-blade knife had been purchased recently.

Detectives have received nearly 500 tips as of late Friday afternoon, the post stated. Police conducted 38 interviews with people who may have information about the killings.

Moscow police is receiving assistance from the Idaho State Police, FBI and the Latah County Sheriff’s Office.

Moscow police has four detectives, 24 patrol officers and five support staff working the case. The FBI has 22 investigators in Moscow including two from the Behavior Analysis Unit.

Idaho State Police has 20 investigators, 15 troopers, a public information officer, Forensics Services and a mobile crime scene team, and 15 uniformed troopers to assist with community patrols.

A candlelight vigil for the slain students is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 30 on the east lawn of the Administration Building on the Moscow campus, according to the university’s Facebook page. Those who cannot attend are encouraged to light a candle, turn on stadium lights or hold a moment of silence. Use #VandalStrong or tag @uidaho in social media posts, the post stated.

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