Multiple student murder sends shockwaves through Moscow, Idaho

A massive FBI and State Police hunt is underway after the fatal stabbing of four friends in the small university community. Two weeks after the tragedy, no suspects have been identified

Hundreds of people gather at a vigil for the four victims at the University of Idaho's Kibbie Dome on November 30.
Hundreds of people gather at a vigil for the four victims at the University of Idaho's Kibbie Dome on November 30.Ted S. Warren (AP)

Hundreds of people held a vigil at the University of Idaho on Wednesday night in remembrance of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin, four students who were stabbed to death while they slept on November 13. Two weeks later, US law enforcement agencies remain in the dark about the case. No arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. Detectives have asked the public for patience as they investigate the multiple murder. Hundreds of pieces of evidence have been collected but there is little certainty in the small and quiet town of Moscow, where the crimes were committed.

Those who attended the vigil, held at the Kibbie Dome on the university’s Moscow campus in conjunction with others across the state, mourned the victims, all of whom were aged 20 and 21 and had known each other for years. Schools turned on the floodlights of their football fields as a tribute. The families of the victims asked people all over Idaho to leave their porch lights on. “The only cure there is for the pain is love, it’s the only thing that’s going to heal us,” said Steve Goncalves, Kaylee’s father, during the ceremony.

Kaylee and Madison were inseparable friends. “They went to high school together, started looking for colleges together and that’s how they came to be here. They were roommates. And in the end, they died together, in the same room, in the same bed,” Steve Goncalves said through tears.

The four victims shared a rental house near the Moscow campus, a small university and agricultural community surrounded by fields of wheat and beans. Of the town’s population of just over 25,000, 10,000 are students. The tragedy has shattered the peace of the town, where there had not been a recorded homicide in seven years.

Local police guard the house in Moscow, Idaho, where the four students were found on November 13.
Local police guard the house in Moscow, Idaho, where the four students were found on November 13.Ted S. Warren (AP)

The mayor, Art Bettge, ruled out the possibility that a serial killer was at large days after the four students were found. Bettge said there was “no perceived danger” to the community and called on the local and national media to wait for the investigation to be concluded. With that investigation now stalled, he was forced to backtrack on his comments and asked the population to remain vigilant. After two weeks, there have been no significant advances in the case.

Local law enforcement responded to an emergency call on November 13 alerting them to an unconscious individual inside the house shared by the four students. When they arrived on the scene, they found four bodies. The county coroner quickly ruled out the possibility of a homicide-suicide.

The coroner believes that the murders took place between 3am and 4am on the morning of November 13. Two other male students, who were roommates of the victims and slept in the basement, said they had arrived at the residence at 1am. They told detectives they were asleep and did not hear anything unusual when the murders were committed. Investigators have ruled them out as suspects.

As yet, the police have not identified any persons of interest in the case. The murder weapon, which they believe to be a small knife of the kind used for hunting and other outdoor activities, has also not been located.

The mystery surrounding the case has led Idaho Governor Brad Little to allocate $1 million in state funds earmarked for emergencies to help fund the investigation. The FBI has assigned 44 agents to the investigation, more than half of whom are deployed in Moscow. The Idaho State Police has also allocated a further 20 uniformed officers to the hunt for the perpetrator.

The University of Idaho, which specializes primarily in engineering and agriculture, has asked its lecturers to allow students to log on remotely upon request. University officials have acknowledged that some of the student population has not returned to campus following the Thanksgiving holiday due to safety fears. To reassure those who did return to campus, surveillance has been stepped up around dorms and escorts have been provided to accompany students to housing located within the complex.

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