Moscow police: ‘Edged weapon’ used in University of Idaho attack that killed 4 students

Moscow police search for edged weapon, such as knife, suspects.

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University of Idaho homicides

Four U of I students were found dead in a house off campus on Sunday. Follow all our breaking coverage here.

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Moscow police released new details on Tuesday about the homicide investigation into the deaths of four University of Idaho students, revealing that, based on preliminary information, an “edged weapon” such as a knife was used in the attack.

Investigators were trying to locate a weapon in what police have characterized as the murder of four. They continued to say that they believe the attack was isolated and targeted. “There is no imminent threat to the community at large,” police said in a news release.

The four victims killed were U of I seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington.

No suspects were in custody, police said.

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Moscow police, with help from outside state and federal agencies, continue their investigation into a suspected homicide just off the University of Idaho campus that left four students dead. On Tuesday, police said they don’t have any suspects in custody. Angela Palermo apalermo@idahostatesman.com

Chapin’s mother, Stacy Chapin, told the Idaho Statesman that police called her Tuesday and said the four victims died from stab wounds. Her son was staying over for the night with his girlfriend, Kernodle, who lived in the single-family home, she said.

“They were stabbed,” Stacy Chapin said in a Facebook message to the Statesman. “We got the call. I don’t want people to make assumptions about our kids. It wasn’t drugs and it was definitely not some passion thing between these kids. Someone entered the house.”

Moscow Mayor Art Bettge told the Statesman on Monday night that the attack, at the home just off campus in the 1100 block of King Road, occurred sometime between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., though police didn’t find the victims until noon that same day. He was previously quoted by The New York Times calling the homicide incident a “crime of passion,” but later told the Statesman that was just one of several potential scenarios he offered up.

Police: We’re following all leads

Mogen, Goncalves and two other female roommates also lived in the home with Kernodle, Maya Hippenstiel, Kernodle’s close friend, told the Statesman in a Facebook message. Hippensteil established a GoFundMe page for Kernodle.

Police on Tuesday would not say who lived in the six-bedroom, three-bathroom rental. “It’s part of the investigation,” Moscow police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger said by phone.

Police said they were following all leads and identifying “persons of interest.” They remain focused on establishing a timeline of events as they re-create the four victims’ activities on Saturday evening, Nov. 12, and early Sunday morning, Nov. 13.

Autopsies of the four students’ bodies were scheduled for later this week, police said. They’re hoping the results offer more definitive details on the exact causes of the students’ deaths.

Resident: ‘A lot of people are not feeling safe’

The Latah County Coroner’s Office did not respond Monday or Tuesday to Statesman requests for more information.

The students’ deaths have rocked the small North Idaho city of about 26,000 people — nearly half of it made up by the U of I student body. The university is the state’s fourth-largest by population.

Moscow resident Natasha Rodgers was just settling into work Tuesday morning at a local sporting goods store. She said the lack of information from police and city officials — almost 48 hours after authorities first arrived to the crime scene — has contributed the community’s sense of grief over the unthinkable tragedy.

“It’s just really surreal,” Rodgers said in an interview. “A lot of people are not feeling safe because of the lack of information they’ve been giving to the public. But we’re still going on. We’re grieving and we feel so incredibly sad for what’s happened to this little town, but there’s an unnerving sense of not feeling safe.”

FBI joins investigation

Idaho State Police and other state and federal law enforcement agencies are assisting the Moscow Police Department with the investigation. The FBI is at least one of the federal agencies involved, an agency spokesperson told the Statesman by email Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, Latah County sheriff’s deputy Scott Mikolajczyk, a 28-year veteran of the department, was outside the home where the four students were killed to make sure no one without permission went inside.

“I’ve been here a long time and stuff like this doesn’t happen often in Moscow,” he said.

Mikolajczyk said he’s seen and heard many people leave town as a result of the incident.

“They (students) were packing up yesterday,” he said. “One guy came over and said he was getting out of Dodge.”

Vigil postponed, call for vigilance renewed

A vigil scheduled for Wednesday was postponed to sometime during the week of Nov. 28 after many students left campus.

As safety concerns persisted, Moscow police refused to explain how and why residents need not worry at the same time they asked for vigilance.

“At this time, we have shared every piece of information that we can without compromising the ongoing investigation,” police said in another news release Tuesday night. “As soon as we have more information that we are able to share with the community, state and nation, we will.”

The university continued to offer counseling and mental health appointments to students and staff, a spokesperson said by email on Tuesday. Drop-in services were available to students at the university’s student union building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. Students were invited to drop by the dean of students’ office if they need help.

Police were still asking anyone with information about the incident to contact them at 208-883-7054.

Reporter Shaun Goodwin contributed.

This story was originally published November 15, 2022 9:46 AM.

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Kevin Fixler is an investigative reporter with the Idaho Statesman. He previously covered local government, environment and transportation at The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, and the Summit Daily News in Breckenridge, Colorado. He holds degrees from the University of Denver and UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
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Angela Palermo covers business and public health for the Idaho Statesman. She grew up in Hagerman and graduated from the University of Idaho, where she studied journalism and business. Angela previously covered education for the Lewiston Tribune and Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
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