U of I homicide investigation: Update, 12.5.22

As the investigation into the killings of four University of Idaho students enters its third week, Moscow’s police chief dismissed the idea that the case could go cold.

“I’m not even going to speculate on that, No. 1, because that’s not even in my mind,” James Fry said in an interview with Anthony Kuipers of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News last week. “We’re going to solve this. We’re going to continue to work until we solve it.”

In the interview, Fry defended police’s decision to release only limited information about the Nov. 13 homicides at an off-campus house.

“We’re always going to hold stuff back as much as we possibly can because when you’re talking about the integrity of the case, you’re talking about when this goes to trial, have you tainted jurors?” Fry told the Daily News. “There’s a way bigger picture here than just people knowing. Because for it to be a fair trial, you have to have people who don’t know facts and have already made up their own opinions on them.”

In a statement Monday, Moscow police elaborated on its communications strategy — and the rumor mill.

“There have been statements and speculation about this case, victim injuries, cause of death, evidence collection and processing, and investigative techniques. With the active criminal investigation, law enforcement has not released additional facts to the family or the public,” police said. “We recognize the frustration this causes and that speculation proliferates in the absence of facts. However, we firmly believe speculation and unvetted information is a disservice to the victims, their families, and our community.”

Police have not identified a suspect in the stabbings of Ethan Chapin, 20, a freshman from Mount Vernon, Wash.; Kaylee Goncalves, 21, a senior from Rathdrum; Xana Kernodle, 20, a junior from Post Falls; and Madison Mogen, 21, a senior from Coeur d’Alene.

But on Saturday, police released a few numbers on the investigation to date:

  • Police have received more than 2,645 email tips at [email protected]
  • Police have received more than 2,770 calls to its tipline, (208) 883-7180.
  • More than 1,084 digital media submissions have come in at fbi.gov/moscowidaho.
  • Police have investigated 113 pieces of physical evidence.
  • Police have gathered about 4,000 crime scene photographs.
  • Police have developed multiple three-dimensional scans of the residence.

On Friday, during a celebration of life honoring the victims, a Post Falls youth pastor read letters from the two surviving roommates who lived in the house. Angela Palermo of the Idaho Statesman reported on the service.

“They changed the way I look at life,” Dylan Mortensen wrote. “I know it’ll be hard to not have the four of them in our lives, but I know Xana, Ethan, Maddie and Kaylee would want us to live life and be happy. They would want us to celebrate their lives.”

“(Mogen) always told me that everything happens for a reason,” Bethany Funke wrote of Mogen. “But I’m having a really hard time trying to understand the reason for this.”

For a roundup on the investigation so far, here’s a weekend story from Rebecca Boone of the Associated Press.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday