Timeline: What we know so far about the murder of four University of Idaho students

Officials say the students were killed between 3am and 4am on Sunday morning, just hours after one of them posted smiling photos on Instagram

Io Dodds
San Francisco
,Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 23 November 2022 19:00 GMT
Video shows mystery man with slain Idaho students

Officials in the small town of Moscow, Idaho, have been a little cryptic about what happened to four University of Idaho students who were murdered last weekend.

Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Kaylee Goncalves were found dead at a house near the University of Idaho campus on Sunday, mere hours after posting smiling photographs on Instagram.

So far, neither the suspect nor the murder weapon have been traced and the police have cautioned the small town of 25,000 people to remain vigilant.

So what exactly happened in the hours before and after the students' bodies were discovered?

Here's the best timeline we currently have.

Monday 22 August – Term begins

The University of Idaho's fall semester began on 22 August, drawing all four students back to campus.

Chapin was from Conway in northwestern Washington state, while Kernodle was from the suburbs of Phoenix in Arizona. Mogen and Goncalves were both from Idaho, near the city of Coeur d’Alene about 84 miles north of Moscow.

Mogen, Goncalves, Kernodle and two other female students lived together in a six-bedroom home off campus – the home where the murders took place. Kernodle and Chapin were dating.

“Love this place. Love this people,” Goncalves said on Instagram in October, posting a happy picture of herself. A previous post, commemorating Mogen's 21st birthday in May, showed a timeline of the pair “growing up together”, going all the way back to their childhoods.

Slain University of Idaho students Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves (GoFundme)

12 September – ‘Knife threat’ on campus

The university’s security issued a “Vandal Alert” to students and staff warning them about an assailant armed with a knife.

The warning, described as a “Threat with Knife”, reported that a group of students had been walking through the campus when the man threatened them with a knife.

“The Moscow Police Department received a report that a group of students was walking between the Steam Plant parking lot (Lot #14) and the Student Recreation Center on Paradise Path and were threatened by a person with a knife,” it read.

The assailant was described as a white male aged 18 to 22 years old, who was dressed in all black.

No one was harmed in the incident but officials felt the need to alert students and staff to the threat – taking place in what is a notoriously safe small town where no murders have been reported since 2015.

12 November – 'One lucky girl'

At 8.57 local time, Goncalves posted for the last time on Instagram, including a picture of herself and all three other slain students standing together arm-in-arm on the porch of a house.

"One lucky girl to be surrounded by these people everyday," she wrote in her caption.

Two other women are also shown in the photo, which was taken in daylight and therefore at least an hour or two beforehand.

That night, Chapin and Kernodle went to a party together on the university campus, while Mogen and Goncalves went to a bar in town.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died (Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)

13 November – 1.41am – Victims last seen alive in footage

In the early hours of Sunday morning, Mogen and Goncalves were seen stopping by a local food truck for a late-night bit to eat.

Twitch footage, seen by The Independent, captured the two best friends arriving at the food truck at around 1.41am.

An unidentified man appears to be walking with them, before he steps back as they approach the truck.

Mogen and Goncalves go up to the truck and order food, while the man stands a few feet behind them – before pulling his hood over his head.

Mogen appears to spot someone she recognises and walks over to a man, hugging him briefly before returning to Goncalves’ side. After ordering, the two best friends move over to the collection side of the truck.

The mystery man who arrived with them follows and stands close by.

Over the next 10 minutes, the group of young people and students are seen laughing and chatting away as they wait for their orders.

The man is seen chatting and laughing to another man in the line, while Mogen and Goncalves appear to laugh and joke with each other and take photos.

When their food is ready, Mogen and Goncalves leave together, walking away from the truck and turning left.

A screenshot from a food truck live stream shows Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, and another person entering the frame from the right (GrubTruckers via Twitch)

The man, who was chatting to another student at the time appears to notice them walk off and gestures at them, before he turns and walks away from the truck, turning right – the opposite direction to the two women.

On 18 November, Moscow Police revealed that Mogen and Goncalves “used a private party” for a ride home from the downtown area after visiting the food truck. The driver dropped them off at their home at around 1.45am.

Meanwhile, police said Chapin and Kernodle were seen at the Sigma Chi fraternity house.

They also returned to the home sometime after 1.45am.

The two other surviving roommates had also been out on the Saturday night and returned to the property at around 1am, police said.

Goncalves’s sister revealed that multiple calls were made from the phones of Goncalves and Mogen to the phone of Goncalves’ former longtime boyfriend between 2.26am and 2.52am. Between the two best friends, 10 calls were made. None of the calls were answered.

13 November – 3am to 4am – Murders

Officials believe the students were killed some time between 3am and 4am on Sunday (13 November).

All four were stabbed to death with an “edged weapon such as a knife” – though the murder weapon has not been found.

There was no sign of forced entry, the door appeared to be unlocked and nothing seems to have been taken.

Few details have been released about the murders including how the assailant or assailants was able to kill all four students.

The two other roommates were home at the time of the attack but were unharmed. Police said that they were not necessarily witnesses to the incident, there was no hostage situation and they appear to have slept through the murders. The pair have been cooperating with investigators.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said the victims were “likely sleeping” when they were killed as all four were found in bed.

Ms Mabbutt confirmed that each victim was stabbed multiple times, describing their wounds as “pretty extensive” and revealing that they bled out inside their student home.

“It’s pretty traumatic when there’s four dead college students ... who’ve been stabbed to death in one location,” she said.

“I’ve been coroner for 16 years... we have had multiple [victim] murders in the past, but nothing, nothing like this.”

Candles and flowers are left at a make-shift memorial honoring four slain University of Idaho students (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

13 November – Noon – Mystery 911 call

Law enforcement were called to the home on King Road at 11.58am on Sunday after a 911 call came in alerting them to “an unconscious individual”.

The call was made from the cellphone of one of the surviving roommates but police have refused to confirm the identity of the caller.

Police said that the roommates woke up on the Sunday and called some unidentified friends to the home because they believed that one of the victims on the second floor “had passed out and was not waking up”.

After the friends arrived on the scene, one person in the group made the 911 call.

When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the four victims dead from a knife attack. Their bodies were found on the second and third floors of the three-storey home.

The two roommates and an unknown number of unidentified friends were in the home when police arrived.

13 November– 2pm – Shelter in place

Not long after the bodies were discovered, the University of Idaho put its campus into lockdown.

"VANDAL ALERT," said the institution's official Twitter account, addressing students by their school nickname (drawn from its sports team the Idaho Vandals).

"Moscow Police Department is investigating a homicide on King Road near campus. Suspect is not known at this time. Stay away from the area and shelter in place."

The shelter in place was lifted around one hour later as police said the incident was “an isolated, targeted attack” posing “no imminent threat to the community at large”.

14 November – Mystery

On Monday, the Moscow Police Department named the four students, but officials gave confusing accounts of their fate.

Mr Bettge told The New York Times that he believed the killing was a “crime of passion”, and later admitted to another outlet: “We don’t really know what it was.”

Moscow Police Chief Fry said that a murder-suicide had been ruled out and that a suspect was wanted for the slayings.

Police continued to insist that there was no ongoing threat to the public.

University president Scott Green said Monday classes would be cancelled “out of respect for these fellow Vandals”.

Tributes poured in from the victims’ families, fellow students and members of the community, shocked at the horrific murders in the small college town.

Officers remove evidence from the home where four University of Idaho students were killed (©Daily News)

15 November – Backlash

As the mystery deepened, Moscow residents and students began to post on social media about their dissatisfaction with the explanations coming from local officials.

Following Mayor Bettge’s “crime of passion” remarks, he told the Statesman that he was simply suggesting this as one potential motive, saying: “It could be any of a number of things. The police don’t know yet. I haven’t been told.”

He added: “They have ascertained that there’s no other threat to the community. I would say it was just a crime focused on this one location.”

The same day, Annie Reneau, who said she was the mother of a University of Idaho senior, wrote a lengthy Twitter thread that summed up the community’s fears.

"I’m not sure if people who aren’t directly tied to the University of Idaho in some way understand how little information students, parents and community members have gotten about the murder of 4 students in an off-campus apt two days ago," Ms Reneau said.

"Police believe it was an isolated, targeted attack. Okay, but somebody who was crazy/angry/drugged up/whatever enough to stab four people to death, even if targeted, is out there somewhere. I’m not generally paranoid, but that doesn’t sit well, does it?"

On Tuesday, police revealed that the victims’ had been killed with a knife, saying that further information would be available following the autopsies.

Police continue to try to reassure the public that there is no ongoing threat.

16 November – Police walk back safety assurances to public

On Wednesday, the video of Mogen and Goncalves at the food truck in the early hours of Sunday morning emerged, providing new details about the victims’ movements leading up to the attack.

Police held their first press conference on Wednesday evening, where they confirmed that they are looking to speak to the other people in the footage. None of the people in the video have been identified as suspects or persons of interest.

Police also revealed other details for the first time: that the four had been out at a bar and party that night, that the other two roommates were in the home at the time of the murders and that there was no sign of a forced entry.

After spending days trying to reassure the public that there is no ongoing threat, officials walked back the assertion.

“We cannot say there’s no threat to the community and as we have stated, please stay vigilant, report any suspicious activity and be aware of your surroundings at all times,” said Chief Fry.

No arrests have been made and no suspects identified.

Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were dating each other (Jazzmin Kernodle)

Family members of the victims hit out at law enforcement over their response.

Goncalves’ sister Autumn Goncalves urged people to leave the small town as the killer remains at large.

“No one is in custody therefore no one is safe,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “If you have friends, family or loved ones in Moscow our family encourages you to get them home,” she added.

Chapin’s father Jim Chapin urged the local police to release further information about the killings.

“There is a lack of information from the University of Idaho and the local police, which only fuels false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media,” Mr Chapin said.

“The silence further compounds our family’s agony after our son’s murder. For Ethan and his three dear friends slain in Moscow, Idaho, and all of our families, I urge officials to speak the truth, share what they know, find the assailant, and protect the greater community.”

16 November – Autopsy findings released

Autopsy findings for the victims were released on Thursday, officially ruling their deaths homicides by stabbing.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt confirmed that each victim was stabbed multiple times with a “large knife”, describing their wounds as “pretty extensive” and revealing that they bled out inside their student home.

She said the autopsies confirmed that the victims were killed “early in the morning, sometime after 2am, but still during the night” but that it was not been possible to determine from the injuries the order in which the victims were attacked.

DNA samples and nail clipping have also been taken from the crime scene with the coroner saying that it is “possible” that the tests could turn up DNA from people besides the victims.

A local prosecutor revealed that investigators are now exploring the possibility that more than one killer is responsible for the killings while officers are searching for a military-style Ka-Bar knife believed to be the murder weapon.

17 November - Suspects ruled out

The two surviving roommates who were at home at the time of the attack and the man seen near Mogen and Goncalves on the food truck surveillance footage have now been ruled out as suspects, police confirmed.

“At this time in the investigation, detectives do not believe the two surviving roommates or the male in the Grub Truck surveillance video are involved in this crime,” a statement read.

Police also debunk rumours that the victims were bound and gagged.

Moscow Police Department released this map of locations described as ‘areas of interest' (Moscow PD)

18 November – Police give second press conference

Police gave their second press conference in the case, revealing new details about the timeline surrounding the murders and the investigation.

Investigators have ruled out as suspects the friends who were inside the house when the 911 call came in as well as the person who gave Goncalves and Mogen a ride home. Police also said that the calls to Goncalves’ former boyfriend are not believed to be connected to the killings.

Police are still searching for a murder weapon in the killing of four University of Idaho students (Sheila Flynn / The Independent)

Officials also urged businesses and homes within “two areas of interest” to share all outside surveillance video taken between 3am and 6am on 13 November – whether there appears to be motion and content or not.

The areas include: West Taylor Ave (north boundary), West Palouse River Dr (south boundary), Highway 95 south to the 2700 block of Highway 95 S (east boundary) and Arboretum & Botanical Garden (west boundary).

The Independent also witnessed a grassroots search being carried out in the arboretum on Sunday, organised by Kernodle’s cousin.

Family members, friends and local volunteers were seen combing through the grounds – located on the same road as several Greek houses, including the Sigma Chi house where Kernodle and Chapin spent their last night – looking for any clues that could help track down the killer.

November 19 Victim’s phone activity revealed, families decry conspiracies

Goncalvez’ sister Alivea came forward about her phone activity on the night of the murders. She said that her sister had called her ex-boyfriend seven times the night she was killed but he had missed the calls because he was sleeping.

“At 2.26am, Kaylee starts to call [redacted]” Ms Goncalves told Inside Edition. “Kaylee calls [redacted] six times between 2.26 am and 2.44am. From 2.44am to 2.52am Maddie calls [redacted] three times, then Kaylee makes a final call to him at 2.52am.”

Ms Goncalves gave the first name of the man in question, but The Independent has redacted it to avoid undue speculation. On Sunday, Moscow Police said that the man was not considered a suspect in the investigations.

She also told The New York Times that her family “stand behind Jack 100% and know he absolutely had nothing to do with this at all.”

Meanwhile, parents of the victims have decried conspiracy theories from internet sleuths, saying they were harmful to the actual investigation into the killings.

20 November – More is learned about 911 called, individuals ruled out

Moscow, Idaho police announced new details about the role of the victims’ roommates, who were likely home at the time of the murder.

Goncalves, Mogen, and Kernodle shared a rental with two roommates, who arrived back at home around 1am, according to police, not long before the murders are thought to have taken place.

However, once the roommates were home, they fell asleep and didn’t wake up until “later on November 13th,” Moscow police said, helping to explain why a 911 call was not made until noon later that day.

That call was “made from inside the residence on one of the roommates’ cell phones,” police added. Authorities added that the surviving roommates had “summoned friends” to the home because they believed one of the victims had passed out.

It is unclear if they saw the crime scene before making the call.

During a press conference on Sunday, authorities said that the two surviving roommates, a male seen on Twitch video that also featured Goncalves and Mogen at a food truck hours before the murders, and an individual who drove the two of them home that night are not considered suspects.

Investigators also said they are seeking surveillance footage from “two areas of interest” around the city of Moscow as they hunt for the knife-wielding assailant who stabbed four University of Idaho students to death inside their off-campus home.

Businesses and homes within the geographical areas are being asked to share all outside surveillance video taken between 3am and 6am on 13 November – whether there appears to be motion and content or not.

“Investigators have determined the two areas of interests within the city and have provided maps which are on our Facebook page and on our website,” Roger Lanier, operations captain of Moscow Police Department, said at a press conference on Sunday. “And these are areas that they have canvassed for additional surveillance video and tips and have contacted several residents in the areas.”

The areas include: West Taylor Ave (north boundary), West Palouse River Dr (south boundary), Highway 95 south to the 2700 block of Highway 95 S (east boundary) and Arboretum & Botanical Garden (west boundary).

22 November – Police rule out murders connection to dog found ‘filleted’ nearby and reveal unharmed dog was found in the crime scene

“Detectives are aware of a Latah County Sheriff’s Office incident of the report of a skinned dog and have determined it is unrelated to this incident,” a Moscow Police Department spokesperson told The Independent.

The clarification came after reports said that an elderly couple’s Mini Australian shepherd dog was “filleted” just three miles away from where the students were murdered.

“It was like a deer that someone had hunted,” Pam Colbert, the owner of the dog was quoted as saying to the Daily Mail.

“They cut him around the neck and just skinned him. His little legs had fur and his little face had fur, but the rest of him was just skinned.”

Police also confirmed that an unharmed dog was found at the crime scene of the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students.

The Moscow Police Department said that officers responding to the fatal stabbings at 1122 King Road on 13 November located a dog at the residence.

The pet was unharmed and turned over to Animal Service, police said. It has since been released to a “responsible party.”

It is unclear whether the dog belongs to one of the surviving roommates or the victims — Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and 20-year-old Ethan Chapin, who did not live in the home but was visiting Kernodle.

It was not disclosed whether police believe that the killer spared the dog’s life or never came into contact with it.

22 November – Investigators look into reports that victim had a stalker

The Moscow Police Department said on Tuesday night that it has “looked extensively” into reports that murder victim Kaylee Goncalves may have complained about a stalker.

Authorities have released limited and often contradicting information about the investigation ever since.

“Investigators have looked extensively into information they received about Kaylee Goncalves having a stalker. They have pursued hundreds of pieces of information related to this topic and have not been able to verify or identify a stalker,” the department wrote on Facebook on Tuesday night.

MPD, which did not respond to requests from The Independent, urged anyone with information regarding the alleged stalker to contact the tip line at 208-883-7180.

23 November – University vows to be flexible amid mass exodus of scared students

The University of Idaho plans to provide accommodations for students who have left campus after the murder of four students.

University of Idaho senior student Dylan Bartels told The Independent that he estimated half of the students had left Moscow and gone home before the Thanksgiving break. Others, like Mr Bartels, don’t have that option and have stayed on campus.

“Normally, I have to drive around five minutes trying to find a parking spot; I pulled in and one of the closest spots is open,” Mr Bartels said. “I mean, literally, the student population going to class declined by 50 per cent. Overnight.”

In a release on Tuesday, university president Scott Greene said that the college plans to “be flexible through the end of the semester,” and that faculty were asked to prepare in-person and remote learning options for the final two weeks of the semester.

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