U of I to examine academic options following quadruple homicide

Updated: 9:56 a.m., with additional details about the 911 call. 

University of Idaho officials are examining the school’s approach to the remainder of the academic year, one week after a harrowing quadruple homicide left four college students dead and a community in shock.

“We are making security our top priority,” U of I President C. Scott Green said in a news conference Sunday afternoon. “We are also planning for the very real possibility that some students aren’t comfortable returning to campus. We will do our best to meet the needs of all students.”

Unease has spread throughout the Moscow community in the wake of the homicides. An unknown number of the U of I’s 9,100 undergraduate and graduate students flocked home just days before the university’s Thanksgiving-week break.

With no suspect in custody, some students are hesitant to return to school after this week’s Thanksgiving break. Others want to return to campus for structure and the comfort of the community, Green said Sunday.

“All reactions and feelings are valid, we all process tragedies differently,” he said.

The university is asking faculty to accommodate both sets of students. Instructors are considering alternative learning options, including those utilized during COVID-19 closures, to allow students to study from home or on campus.

The university will send an announcement early this week, hoping to give Vandal families time to plan over break.

The U of I has also amped up campus safety and security, with help from the Idaho State Police. Counseling services will continue to be offered to students.

Police report few new details in Sunday press conference

After an eerily quiet start to the investigation, a few details have come forward about the homicides in the past week.

The victims — 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 — were stabbed to death, according to a Latah County coroner’s report released Thursday.

The same or a similar knife was used on all four victims. They were likely sleeping when the attacks occurred, and were found on the second and third floors of a six-bedroom home.

Two female roommates survived the attack, but are not believed to be involved in the crime, police say. The initial call reporting the crime came from one of the roommate’s phones, but the caller’s identity has not been released.

Police revealed in a Sunday press release that multiple non-residents were at the King Road home at the time of the 911 call, after the surviving roommates called friends for help because they “believed one of the second-floor victims had passed out and was not waking up.” Several people spoke with the dispatcher.

Officers don’t believe anyone at the residence at the time of the call is involved in the crime.

Investigators are piecing together a timeline of the slain students’ whereabouts Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The Moscow Police Department released a timeline showing the four victims’ known whereabouts Saturday and Sunday.

Chapin and Kernodle attended a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity house and returned home by 1:45 a.m.  Sunday. Goncalves and Mogen also returned home by 1:45 a.m., after visiting a bar, The Corner Club, and a food truck in downtown Moscow.

They were taken home by a private party driver, who is not believed to be involved in the homicide, according to police. An individual in a white hoodie, spotted in footage of the two girls at the food truck, is also not a suspect.

Investigators are also aware of multiple calls made from Mogen’s and Goncalves’ phones to a male subject that Saturday night, but Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Sunday police do not believe the calls are connected to the murders.

The victims were not tied or gagged, said Roger Lanier, a Moscow Police Department captain.

We know that people want answers, we want answers, too,” said Idaho State Police director Kedrick Wills, encouraging the community to rely on official sources of information and refrain from spreading rumors. 

We have an absolute commitment to working together to solve these senseless murders,” he said. 

While police initially reported that the crimes posed no threat to the community, Fry walked back that statement Wednesday.

The department maintains that the homicides were targeted attacks, but will not speak to the details leading to that determination to protect the investigation.

“We take the totality of the things that we see … and try to make the best educated decision that we can,” Fry said in the department’s first press conference Wednesday.

Over 100 officers, investigators and support staff from Moscow police, the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, ISP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are on the case.

Officers have received over 600 tips, and conducted 90 interviews since the case began.

Police are asking anyone with information — including surveillance footage — to call 208-883-7180 or email [email protected] with tips.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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