MOSCOW — Their lives were changed forever 365 days ago, but the students who spoke at a candlelight vigil Monday night said the strength of the community, Vandal family and friends are helping them move forward.
On the one-year anniversary of the murders of Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Ethan Chapin, a large group gathered on the University of Idaho campus to share tears, hugs and heartfelt memories of the young lives that ended Nov. 13, 2022.
A typical Sunday morning morphed into “shock, anger and sadness” as news of the brutal slayings spread, said Tanner McClain, UI student president. The deaths cast a pall over the campus as students came to grips with what had occurred.
Heather Blaschka, of Pi Beta Phi, said she’ll never forget that horrible day. The four students who were killed meant “so much to so many people,” and the loss was staggering.
Blaschka listed many of Mogen’s attributes, describing her as kind, loving, driven, stunning and outgoing, and “most of all — bright. The light she brought can never be replaced,” Blaschka said.
Madison Whitney, of Alpha Phi, read notes from other sorority sisters about Goncalves. No words can make this day any less hard, she read, but Goncalves’ contagious laugh, kindness and beauty will always be cherished. She was true, loyal, dedicated and “loved big,” Whitney said.
Zanna Miller, of Pi Beta Phi, said Kernodle made a crucial impact on the UI community. She was a ball of energy, vibrant, adventurous, kind, charming and one of a kind, Miller said.
“No one ever had a negative thing to say about Xana,” Miller said.
She remembers waking up that Sunday to 27 missed messages and feeling scared and confused. Evil becomes much more real when it happens next to you, she said.
“I vividly remember my FaceTime call to my parents that night,” Miller said.
The murders were difficult to process for everyone, Miller said. In the weeks that followed, the sorority house became quiet, and the campus was dark.
However, over the months, love spread throughout the tight-knit community, and people began to heal, Miller said. They are able to laugh again, look at pictures and talk about their friends without constantly crying.
“Her love lives in this community,” Miller said of Kernodle.
D.J. Myers, of Sigma Chi, spoke about Chapin and his optimism. He was happy, generous, compassionate and loved life. “He effortlessly put everyone around him in a good mood.”
Myers said he misses Kernodle’s hugs and is focusing on the good times with his friends. The strength and perseverance of the Vandal family has been an incredible support system for students, he said.
McClain agreed, saying light always perseveres. He thanked the staff, faculty, administration, governor and law enforcement, as well as other universities and alumni, for the continued support. He also praised the victims’ families for displaying “grace and poise” in the aftermath of the murders.
The “senseless and horrific tragedy” has served as a reminder to spend time with those you love, McClain said.
No trial date has been set for Bryan C. Kohberger, 28, who is accused of stabbing the four students at 1122 King Road. Kohberger, who entered a not guilty plea through the judge, remains in custody of the Latah County Jail.
Kerri Sandaine of the Lewiston Tribune wrote this story. You can follow her on X at @newsfromkerri.