New Details Emerge on University of Idaho Murders: What We Know

MOSCOW, Idaho — In the early hours of the morning when four college students died in a brutal stabbing near the University of Idaho, multiple unanswered calls were received from one of the victim’s phones to her longtime boyfriend, unveiling the mystery of her death nearly a week later deepened the killings.

The coroner who performed the autopsies on the four friends said some of the victims appeared to have fought back and may have been attacked while they slept in their beds.

The vicious stabbings in the university city of Moscow, Idaho, have unsettled students and residents as local officials have made sometimes conflicting statements and have yet to identify suspects or motives.

The few details they have revealed have raised more questions as detectives, internet sleuths and the victims’ own relatives try to determine who might have had a motive for killing the four young people after a Saturday night of college revelry. The FBI has nearly 50 employees assigned to the case.

Three of the victims – Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20 – lived at the house not far from the campus where the attack took place while the fourth victim, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin, was there to visit his girlfriend, Ms Kernodle.

Here’s what else is known about the murders.

Police said that while the four friends were killed, two other housemates were inside the house but were not attacked. Both were women.

Investigators said they did not believe either of them were involved in the crime. But no one called 911 until just before noon on Sunday — many hours after the attack, which authorities said took place in the early hours of the morning. The possibility that 911 hours elapsed between the crime and the call suggests the housemates may have overslept the attack, though police didn’t explain the delay.

Cathy Mabbutt, the Latah County coroner, said the victims all appeared to have been stabbed multiple times with a large knife, although no weapon was found. Judging from the night time, she said they were probably asleep when they were attacked. The house they lived in had six bedrooms, two on each floor.

Ms Mabbutt said she believes at least one victim, and possibly more, tried to fight off the attacker.

“It’s such a terrible crime,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine that anyone, whether they live here or have been here, would commit something like this and be at large.”

None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, Ms Mabbutt said, and toxicology reports have not yet been finalized.

According to her older sister Alivea Goncalves, there were seven unanswered calls from the phone of one of the victims, Ms Goncalves, to her longtime boyfriend in the early hours on Sunday, based on phone logs she was able to download from the phone company.

The first call to the man, Jack DuCoeur, was made at 2:26am and six others followed over the next 26 minutes, the last at 2:52am, Ms Goncalves said. She said Mr. DuCoeur, also a student at the university, missed her because he was sleeping and that her sister’s phone account showed no other calls.

Ms Goncalves said Mr DuCoeur was a childhood friend of her sister’s and they had been together for years until they decided to take a friendly break. Ms Goncalves said she and her family “stand behind Jack 100 per cent and know he has absolutely nothing to do with it”.

She also said the number of calls wasn’t unusual: Kaylee Goncalves would often call people late at night and often until they answered, even to ask a mundane question, like what she said to have for dinner her sister.

Bill Thompson, the chief prosecutor for Latah County, said investigators looked at data from cell phone towers and information from social media to determine who was in the immediate area at the time of the killings.

It had been a typical Saturday night in Moscow, with many students walking off campus to meet up after watching a University of Idaho football game.

Mr Chapin and Ms Kernodle, who had been dating since the spring semester, attended a party from around 8pm to 9pm at the Sigma Chi fraternity near the home where the attack later took place, authorities said.

Ms Mogen and Ms Goncalves had gone to the Corner Club bar together around 11pm and stayed there until 1:30am

A live stream video from a popular late night food truck showed Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves at the truck at around 1:40 am. The two hung out, chatting and smiling before getting their food and driving off. A “private company” drove her home, the police said.

Authorities said all four friends were back at the rented apartment south of campus around 1:45 a.m

There were no arrests, although police appear to have ruled out several people.

They include a man seen in video footage of the food truck, investigators said, as well as the two housemates who were at home during the attack.

Authorities have left open the possibility that there could be more than one perpetrator.

Investigators contacted local businesses to see if anyone had recently purchased a fixed-blade knife from them.

For the first few days after the killings, the Moscow Police Department downplayed residents’ fears that a killer was at large, saying on the day of the attack that the department “does not believe there is an ongoing risk to the community” and two days later that there was “no immediate threat to the community as a whole”.

Then, on Wednesday – three days after the killings – Chief James Fry backed out of the earlier assurances. “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” he said at a news conference.

The about-face was one of several conflicting comments from city and county officials.

Art Bettge, the mayor of Moscow, had told the New York Times a day after the killings that the case was being considered a “crime of passion,” but he later said he couldn’t say for sure.

A consistent police report is that the attack appears to have been targeted.

Moscow is a municipality of about 25,000 people on the Washington state border and the university has 11,000 students.

The city hadn’t recorded a murder in more than seven years. Students said in interviews that they typically feel safe walking around town late at night or leaving bikes unlocked on campus. But after the murder, many students left campus early for the Thanksgiving holiday, concerned about an apparent killer at large.

Some students who stayed have started taking more precautions and walking around in groups. One cafe told patrons it closes early so staff can get home before dark.

Madison Mogen, who called himself Maddie, was a senior from Coeur d’Alene who specialized in marketing. Her grandmother, Kim Cheeley, said Ms Mogen was always a gentle and caring person, enjoying many long-lasting friendships and close ties to an extended family.

Ms Mogen’s boyfriend, Jake Schriger, said she was looking forward to graduating next year and has spoken of wanting to explore other parts of the world. Ms Mogen always spread positivity and showed kind acts to others, said Mr Schriger, adding that he hoped people would remember her for the love she gave to others.

“There are no words that can really describe her – how amazing she was and what a wonderful person she was,” said Mr. Schriger.

Kaylee Goncalves, who was from Rathdrum, Idaho, was due to graduate in early December and was planning to move to Austin, Texas with one of her close friends in June. Friend, Jordyn Quesnell, said Ms Goncalves has secured a position with a marketing firm and is excited to explore more of the country.

“We wanted this adventure,” Ms. Quesnell said. “I would say, ‘Let’s do this,’ and she would say, ‘Get off!'”

Alivea Goncalves said her younger sister and wife Mogen served as bridesmaids at their wedding. Her sister, she said, still shared a dog with her former boyfriend, and the two seemed likely to get back together.

Ethan Chapin, out Conway, Washington, was one of three triplets and had spent much of November 12, the day before the murders, with his two siblings, who are also students at the University of Idaho, her mother, Stacy Chapin, said. In the evening they all went together to a dance put on by his sister’s sorority, she said.

“My children are very grateful that it was a time well spent with him,” said Ms. Chapin. “He was literally the life of the party. He made everyone laugh. He was just the nicest person.”

Mr. Chapin played basketball in high school and was known among friends and family for having a big smile ever since he was a baby. Ms Chapin described her son as “just the brightest light”.

Xana Kernodle grew up in Idaho but had spent some time in Arizona in recent years, according to an interview her father, Jeffrey Kernodle, gave to an Arizona television station.

Mr Kernodle told the broadcaster that his daughter is strong-willed and has enjoyed leading an independent life in college.

He said his daughter showed up to try and fight her attacker, a report supported by Ms Mabbutt, the coroner. Mr Kernodle expressed his shock that she could be killed while she was at home with friends and said he too had no idea who might have committed the attacks.

“She was with her friends all the time,” said Mr. Kernodle.

Serge F. Kovaleski contributed reporting. Susan C Beachy and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.