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

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It’s been more than a month 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 in the crime. 

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. Two other roommates lived in the home, but were not attacked and police said they believe they slept through the killings. 

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,” Moscow police said in a Dec. 5 news release. “Any interactions, contacts, direction and method of travel, or anything abnormal could add context to what occurred.”

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

The two 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. Neither of the surviving roommates were publicly identified for weeks after the murders took place, until the duo — Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke — shared a letter at a memorial service in early December. 

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

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, including Mortenson, Funke and people police identified as “other friends” before Moscow police arrived on the scene. 

Former FBI behavioral analysis expert discusses Idaho murder case 05:14

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, and 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.

In a letter written by the two surviving roommates, Mortenson and Funke, and read aloud by their pastor, they called Chapin and Kernodle’s relationship “unstoppable” and “perfect” before praising the foursome. 

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

What have authorities learned?

Authorities have frequently shared updates about the investigation, though the release of detailed information has been rare so as to “preserve the integrity of the investigation,” police said. 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.

On Dec. 20, Moscow police chief James Fry said the department had so far received about 16,500 tips concerning the slayings, including “hundreds of” tips about a stalker that Kaylee Goncalves was rumored to have. Investigators “looked extensively” into those reports, Moscow police said on Nov. 22, but “have not been able to verify or identify a stalker. ” 

Scenes in Moscow, Idaho after four students found dead in their residence A small frame remembering Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee Goncalves sits in the snow outside of the residence where the four students were killed on November 13 in Moscow, Idaho, U.S., November 30, 2022. LINDSEY WASSON / REUTERS

In addition to the tips called in, police have been working their way through more than 113 pieces of physical evidence from the home, as well as looking at “approximately 4,000 photographs” and “multiple” 3-D scans that crime scene investigators took. As of Dec. 20, police said they had conducted “over 250 interviews.” 

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 were 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, police had seized the contents of three dumpsters, but said no useful evidence was found.

In addition to evidence collected from the home, the police have put out requests for “all outside surveillance” from several Moscow sites from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, the morning the students were killed. 

“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.

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. A vehicle matching that description was captured in police body camera footage from a different incident that night, but Fry said on Dec. 8 that it is not the car investigators are looking for. On Dec. 12, police said that investigators were prioritizing tips related to the car.

The update reiterated authorities’ interest in the vehicle, as information submitted by members of the public has “led investigators to look for additional information” about the car being in “the immediate area” of the deceased students’ home during the early morning hours, when the killings took place. 

On Dec. 20, the department said they were “aware of a Hyundai Elantra located in Eugene, Oregon.” Eugene is about an eight-hour drive from Moscow. 

Police initially said they were “working with the local jurisdiction to determine if the vehicle is related to our case,” and then in a later statement said they had spoken to the Elantra’s owner, and found that the Colorado-registered car was involved in a collision and subsequently impounded. However, the female owner of the vehicle was not believed to have any relation to the house where the students were killed, or have any other involvement in the ongoing investigation.  

“The public is asked to stop contacting the owner,” said the Moscow Police Department. 

Idaho police seek Hyundai Elantra as they investigate quadruple murder 00:26

A suspect has not been named and no arrests have been made, but police have cleared several suspects. The two surviving roommates and the “other friends” who called 911 are not believed have been involved in the killings, police said; a sixth person also listed on the home’s lease moved out at the beginning of the school year and has also been cleared. 

Several people who the students crossed paths with before their deaths, including a man seen in the background of surveillance footage at a food truck and a “private party” who drove Goncalves and Mogen home, have also been cleared. Police also do not believe Goncalves’ ex-boyfriend is a suspect, despite the early-morning phone calls. 

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.

On Dec. 20, police said they were aware of another video that is believed to have been taken at an unidentified downtown Moscow business on the night of the murders. Investigators have identified “an individual called ‘Adam'” from the tape, and that person is “cooperating with detectives.” Police did not clarify what led them to the tape, why they believe the individual is relevant to the case or what their cooperation entails. 

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.

Alivea Goncalves, the sister of victim Kaylee Goncalves, told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo on Nov. 28 that police had not explained that to the families either.

Were Idaho students targeted in quadruple murder? Authorities make conflicting statements 02:01

“Law enforcement is kind of throwing around this word ‘targeted,’ but we don’t know what 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.”

In a statement on Nov. 30, the department appeared to walk back their earlier claims 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.” Later that week, police clarified that they still believed the attack was targeted, “but have not concluded if the target was the residence or its occupants.”

Toward the end of December, a TikTok personality alleged in a series of viral videos that Rebecca Scofield, an associate professor and the chair of the University of Idaho history department, was involved in the killings. Moscow police stated on Dec. 27 that they do not believe Scofield was involved. A week earlier, Scofield had sued the social media personality who made the accusations for defamation.

As the investigation entered its fourth week without a suspect or arrest, Moscow Police Captain Roger Lanier acknowledged in a video message that questions and rumors have continued to swirl online in the absence of more concrete information from officials working the case.

“I want to let everybody know that we are still 100% committed to solving this crime,” said Lanier. “There’s a lot of information to sort through, and the information keeps coming in. Not all of the information is relevant, but you don’t know if a tip is valid until you take the time to examine that tip and see how it relates to other information that you might have.”

“We want more than just an arrest. We want a conviction. We owe that justice to Xana, Kaylee, Madison and Ethan,” he added, before encouraging the community to continue submitting tips to the FBI via phone or email because “anything could break this open for us.”

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