A month after the gruesome killings of four University of Idaho students in their off-campus home, authorities have yet to name a suspect or locate the murder weapon as hundreds of students take final exams before winter break.
The students, Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20; were likely asleep when they were each stabbed multiple times in the early morning hours of November 13, authorities have said. Some of the victims had defensive wounds, a coroner has said.
The killings – still enveloped in more questions than answers – shook the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, which had not recorded a murder since 2015.
Many residents and victims’ loved ones are still on edge as authorities have kept many details from the public, saying they are protecting the integrity of the investigation.
“We are still 100% committed to solving this crime,” Moscow Police Department Capt. Roger Lanier said Monday in a video update on the investigation.
“We’re not releasing specific details because we do not want to compromise this investigation. It’s what we must do. We owe that to the families, and we owe that to the victims. We want more than just an arrest, we want a conviction,” Lanier continued.
Lanier’s remarks come as hundreds of University of Idaho students are taking final exams this week before the fall semester ends and investigators comb through more than 6,000 tips they’ve received in the case.
“Our analysts have spent hours sorting through and trying to come up with the most relevant tips first for the investigators to follow up on. They have reinterviewed some of the folks we’ve interviewed earlier in this investigation to clarify information,” Lanier said Monday.
Last week, authorities sought information from the public regarding a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra they believe was “in the immediate area” of the crime scene around the time of the killings.
“We also believe that the occupant or occupants may have seen something. They may not know they have seen something,” Lanier said Monday, noting investigators want to speak with whoever was in the car.
As the investigation continues, Lanier pointed out that everyone in Moscow should be aware of their surroundings, avoid walking in dark places and walk in groups when possible.
“This is not an indication of a specific elevated risk, but something that we should be vigilant with just in our daily lives,” Lanier noted.
A month later, authorities still want public’s help
Authorities have received an overwhelming number of tips since making the call for information on the white Elantra, police said Friday.
Those calls have gone through the FBI call center, which helps sort those leads before they’re sent to investigators.
“The FBI is prioritizing and vetting those tips for use in the investigation. The public is asked to continue to use the Tip Line to report any information about the vehicle,” police said in a news release.
The investigation into the homicides is being handled by dozens working around the clock across the local police department, the FBI and the Idaho State Police.
“We have teams in Moscow, Salt Lake City and in Virginia as well as other locations across the country. And we’re prepared to do interviews and follow up on information at any point anywhere,” Lanier said.
And while the home remains a crime scene being monitored by a contracted private security company, authorities last week began returning some of the victims’ belongings to their family.
“It’s time for us to give those things back that really mean something to those families and hopefully to help with some of their healing,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said last week in a video statement. “I’m a dad, I understand the meaning behind some of those things.”
The removed items were “no longer needed for the investigation,” the police department noted.
Authorities clear up falsehoods
Throughout the investigation, police have urged the public to rely on official news releases for accurate information on the case.
“Tracking down rumors and quelling rumors about specific individuals or specific events that may or may not have happened is a huge distraction for investigators and oftentimes is the result of social media propagation,” Lanier said. “It is very, very frustrating to investigators and hard to stay on track.”
Police have already debunked several rumors surrounding the mysterious deaths, including refuting online reports that the victims were tied and gagged.
Additionally, police noted the students’ killings are not related to two other stabbing incidents in neighboring Washington and Oregon – in 1999 and 2021, respectively – which may “share similarities,” but “there does not appear to be any evidence to support the cases are related,” according to a news release earlier this month.
Police have also reassured the public that a September incident that involved an argument between a group of people walking on the University of Idaho bike path and a cyclist, who displayed a folding knife, is not connected to the students’ killings.
Additionally, police have released information eliminating some people as suspects, including a person listed on the lease of the residence where the killings happened.
“They have spoken to this individual and confirmed they moved out prior to the start of the school year and was not present at the time of the incident. Detectives do not believe this person has any involvement in the murders,” Moscow police said.
Police also ruled out the two surviving roommates who were in the house at the time of the killings and other people inside the house when the 911 call was made.
Goncalves and Mogen, two of the victims, were driven home by someone after the pair purchased food from a truck hours before they were killed; authorities have ruled out the driver as a suspect.
Additionally, a man seen in surveillance video from the food truck visited by Goncalves and Mogen, and another man the pair called “numerous times” in the hours before their deaths, were also ruled out as suspects by police.