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Bizarre quadruple homicide baffles, terrifies University of Idaho students

SF Gate 11/20/2022 Katie Dowd

The town of Moscow, Idaho, is reeling in the aftermath of a quadruple homicide in a house full of college students.

University of Idaho students Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in an off-campus rented home on Nov. 13. Mogen, Goncalves and Kernodle were roommates; adding to the strangeness of the blitz attack is the fact that two other roommates were at home and unharmed.

According to Moscow police, a cellphone belonging to one of the survivors was used to call 911 when the bodies were found around noon on Nov. 13. Police declined to specify who made the call, citing the ongoing investigation. A reporter who referred to the surviving roommates as witnesses was corrected by Moscow police Chief James Fry at a press conference Wednesday. “I don’t think I ever said they were witnesses,” Fry said. “I said they were there.”

There are scant details in the case that’s rattled the college town. Moscow sees little violent crime; its last murder was reported about five years ago. 

All four victims were out enjoying their Saturday before horror struck. Sometime during the day, Goncalves posted photos on Instagram of her roommates and Chapin. “One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” she wrote.

Later that evening, Chapin and Kernodle attended a party at Sigma Chi, while Mogen and Goncalves hit up a bar in downtown Moscow before grabbing food at a truck; a livestream posted by the food truck shows the pair smiling and ordering. Mogen and Goncalves then called a “private party driver” to get home. On Saturday, police said they did not believe the driver was involved in the killings.

It appears all four students were home by about 2 a.m. At least two of them, Mogen and Goncalves, repeatedly called a man when they returned home.

“Detectives are aware of multiple phone calls from victims Madison and Kaylee to a male,” Moscow police said in a statement Saturday. “This information is part of the ongoing investigation.”

According to police, the killings may have been “targeted,” and there were no signs of forced entry. Nothing was taken from the home that would indicate a robbery, and there were no signs of sexual assault. Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said at least some of the victims were likely asleep in bed when they were attacked, although some did have defensive wounds that indicate they fought back. Victims were discovered on the second and third floors of the three-story, six-bedroom home.

The Idaho Statesman reported that detectives have been visiting local hardware stores asking about Ka-Bar brand and other “fixed-blade” style knives.

What we know about the four victims

Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Mogen was a senior and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She was majoring in marketing in the College of Business and Economics.

Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho: Goncalves was a senior in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, and she belonged to the Alpha Phi sorority.

“( maddie and kaylee) did everything right,” Goncalves’ sister Autumn posted on Instagram. “they went out together, they locked their doors. they were smart and they were fighters and this STILL happened.”

Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho: Kernodle was a junior marketing major in the College of Business and Economics. Like Mogen, she was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

“You rarely get to meet someone like Xana,” sister Jazzmin Kernodle told CNN. “She was so positive, funny and was loved by everyone who met her. She was so lighthearted, and always lifted up a room.”

Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington: Chapin was a freshman majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management. He belonged to the Sigma Chi fraternity where he and Kernodle attended a party the night they were killed. According to family, Chapin was one of a set of triplets. All three went to the University of Idaho.

Police seek any new leads

The Moscow Police Department is looking for surveillance footage or photos around the area of the victims’ residence at 1122 King Road. Anyone with information is asked to email tipline@ci.moscow.id.us or call the tip line at 208-883-7180. A press conference will be held by Moscow police at 3 p.m. Sunday.

After initially saying there was no ongoing danger, police walked that back on Wednesday. “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Fry said. “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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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