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What we know so far about the investigation into the Idaho college student murders

Police seek answers in Idaho murders
Idaho police seek answers in the murders of four university students 05:14

It's been more than two weeks since four University of Idaho students were found stabbed to death on Nov. 13 at a home in Moscow, Idaho — but so far, police say a suspect or suspects have not been identified. 

Here's what we know so far.

What happened

Police responded to a report of an unconscious person that they received around 11:58 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13. There, members of the Moscow Police Department found four University of Idaho students dead on the second and third floors of the home. 

Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves and Xana Kernodle were roommates who lived in the home while the fourth victim, Ethan Chapin, did not live there but was dating Kernodle.

On Saturday night, police said, Chapin and Kernodle were at a party at a Sigma Chi house on the University of Idaho campus. They returned home around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Mogen and Goncalves were at a bar called The Corner Club in downtown Moscow that night. They left the bar, stopped at a food truck, and then also returned home at about 1:45 a.m., police said. 

Investigators are confident about the accuracy of Mogen and Goncalves' reported whereabouts throughout the night — witnesses say they saw both women at the club, described as a popular nightlife spot for university students, and video footage from a livestream confirmed their visit to the food truck, But authorities have acknowledged that there are gaps in the timeline of Chapin and Kernodle's evening, the details of which are somewhat unclear.

"Detectives continue investigating what occurred from approximately 9 p.m. on November 12th to 1:45 a.m. on November 13th, when Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were believed to be at the Sigma Chi house on the University of Idaho Campus at 735 Nez Perce Drive," said Moscow Police in a Dec. 5 news release. "Any interactions, contacts, direction and method of travel, or anything abnormal could add context to what occurred."

The coroner said the victims were likely asleep, some had defensive wounds and each was stabbed multiple times, according to police. There was no evidence of sexual assault, police said. The timing of multiple calls to the cellphone of Kaylee Goncalves' ex-boyfriend places the murders sometime after 3 a.m.

Two other surviving roommates who lived in the house were out separately in Moscow and returned home by 1 a.m. on Nov. 13, according to police. They appear to have slept through the stabbings, police said. Neither was injured and police have said they do not believe the surviving roommates were involved in the killings.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said the 911 call was made using one of the surviving roommates' phones, but he would not confirm the caller's identity. In a later statement, police said the 911 dispatcher spoke to multiple people before Moscow police arrived on the scene. 

Who were the victims?

Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, was a senior at the university, majoring in marketing. Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho, was also a senior, with a major in general studies. The two met as sixth graders and were best friends, Kaylee's father, Steve Goncalves, told a crowd of hundreds who attended a vigil for the slain students.

"They went to high school together, then they started looking at colleges, they came here together. They eventually got into the same apartment together," Steve Goncalves said. "And in the end, they died together, in the same room, in the same bed."

Ben Mogen, Madison's father, said at the vigil she was his only child, so "everything she ever did was such a big deal." Talking about "Maddie" was his pride, Mogen said, and the two loved attending music concerts together.

Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho, was a marketing major and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Ethan Chapin, a 20-year-old freshman from Mount Vernon, Washington, was a member of Sigma Chi. He majored in recreation, sport and tourism management, according to the school.

A flyer seeking information on the murders of four students in Moscow, Idaho
A flyer asks the public for information as police investigate the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students in Moscow, Idaho. LINDSEY WASSON / REUTERS

Ethan Chapin was part of a set of triplets with a brother and sister, said his mother, Stacy Chapin. The family always tried to eat dinner together when time allowed, she said, she described spending countless hours taking the kids to various sporting events when they were younger. The triplets chose the University of Idaho because they wanted a small town and a beautiful campus with a thriving Greek system, she said.

What have authorities learned?

Authorities said that so far they have collected "hundreds of pieces of information," which on Wednesday, Nov. 30, they said included more than 113 pieces of physical evidence. Crime scene investigators took "approximately 4,000 photographs" and conducted "multiple" 3-D scans of the home. In total, investigators have "conducted 150 interviews," police said on Nov. 23. As of Dec. 6, police said they had received 2,645 tips by email, 2,770 over the phone, and 1,084 digital media submissions. 

"We believe someone has information that will add context to the picture investigators are creating of what occurred that evening. Our focus is the investigation, not the activities. Your information, whether you believe it is significant or not, might be one of the puzzle pieces that help solve these murders," said the Moscow police department in a statement issued Dec. 6, adding that they are still seeking "all outside surveillance" from several Moscow sites from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13. 

On Dec. 7, police said in a press release that they were looking for the occupant or occupants of a 2011-2013 white Hyundai Elantra that was "in the area" when the students were killed, because they may have "critical information to share" regarding the murders. 

On Dec. 6, police said that beginning the following day they would be removing some of the victims' personal belongings from the house and releasing them to their families, as they are no longer needed for the investigation. The house remained an active crime scene, police said. On Nov. 30, authorities moved five cars from the crime scene so that they could continue processing evidence.  Earlier in the investigation, they had seized the contents of three dumpsters, but said no useful evidence was found.

On Nov. 16, Fry told reporters that investigators believed it was "a targeted attack." In the ensuing days, however, police did not clarify that comment, or explain how they could make that statement without a suspect.

But in a statement Nov. 30, the department appeared to walk that back while addressing recent conflicting comments made by Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson, who had said at least one of the victims was "undoubtedly targeted" in the attack. The department Wednesday called Thompson's comments the result of a "miscommunication." On Thursday, police clarified that they still believed the attack was targeted, "but have not concluded if the target was the residence or its occupants."

Alivea Goncalves, the sister of victim Kaylee Goncalves, told NewsNation's Chris Cuomo on Nov. 28 that police have not given the families any more information. 

"Law enforcement is kind of throwing around this word 'targeted,' but we don't know that means, and it almost makes it feel alienating because we don't have any more information on that," Goncalves said. "I don't know who that target was, if it was one of them, if it was all of them. I just don't know."

Police tape outside the house where four University of Idaho students were killed
Four University of Idaho students were found murdered at this home in Moscow, Idaho, on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.  Angela Palermo/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Police said they questioned both a man in a white hoodie who was seen in a video of Mogen and Goncalves at the food truck and the person who drove the two home that night. Police said they do not believe either was involved in the killings.

Police also do not believe Goncalves' ex-boyfriend is a suspect, despite the early-morning phone calls. 

Police Chief James Fry said the 911 call was made using one of the surviving roommates' phones, but he would not confirm the caller's identity. In addition to the two surviving roommates, there were "other friends" at the house at the time the 911 call was made, Fry said. He said during a press conference on Nov. 20 — a week after the killings — that police were not sure how many people were in the home when the 911 call was placed and did not clarify when the "other friends" arrived. 

Neither the surviving roommates nor the "other friends" were publicly identified for weeks after the murders took place. The roommates' names — Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke — were ultimately revealed during a memorial service in early December, where they spoke about the killings for the first time in a written message read aloud by a local pastor. 

"To Xana and Ethan: they were the perfect pair together and had this unstoppable relationship," Mortensen wrote in the letter.

"You were all gifts to this world in your own special way, and it just won't be the same without you," Funke said.

Police later clarified in a statement that "the surviving roommates summoned friends to the residence" because they thought one of the victims had passed out and wasn't waking up. Several people spoke to the 911 dispatcher, police said. None of the people who were in the home at the time the call was made are believed to have been involved in the killings, police said.

Investigators have "looked extensively" into reports that Goncalves had a stalker, Moscow police said. "They have pursued hundreds of pieces of information related to this topic and have not been able to verify or identify a stalker," police said on Nov. 22. 

In an update shared on Dec. 5, Moscow Police said investigators had identified an incident between Goncalves and a man, who they did not publicly name, that "may have been the stalker reference she made to friends and family." Detectives did not find evidence suggesting that there was a pattern of stalking linked to this specific incident, according to the police.

"In mid-October, two males were seen inside a local business; they parted ways, and one male appeared to follow Kaylee inside the business and as she exited to walk toward her car. The male turned away, and it did not appear he made any contact with her," police said. 

"Detectives contacted both males and learned the two were attempting to meet women at the business," the update continued, adding that additional probing led investigators to "believe this was an isolated incident and not an ongoing pattern of stalking." There is no evidence that suggests either of the men was involved in the murders, police said.

A murder weapon, which police described as a large fixed-blade knife, has not been found. Former FBI agent and retired profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole, who is not part of the investigation, told CBS News it was highly likely the offender left a lot of physical evidence behind and may have even cut themself as they stabbed the victims.

It was likely "a pretty sturdy knife" she said, calling it a "very effective cutting instrument" and one the offender likely had experience using. As a result, O'Toole said, the offender probably would not get rid of the weapon.

Police said Dec. 1 that investigators learned of a sixth person who was listed on the home's lease. However, investigators "do not believe that individual was present during the incident," police said in a statement. The person was not identified.

The department said on Sunday, Nov. 27, that tips continued to pour in while community members additionally uploaded more than 500 digital submissions to the FBI link seeking information in the case. Dozens of members of the Moscow Police Department, FBI and Idaho State Police have been involved in the investigation, and Gov. Brad Little directed up to $1 million in state emergency funds for the ongoing investigation.

"We understand there is a sense of fear within our community," Moscow police said.

Although detectives have already used various tips and surveillance videos to rule out potential suspects, they are currently seeking additional tips and surveillance footage of "any unusual behavior" observed during the night of Nov. 12 — while Goncalves and Mogen were out in downtown Moscow and Kernodle and Chapin were at the university's Sigma Chi fraternity house — and into the early hours of Nov. 13. 

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