Updated on: November 15, 2022 / 12:17 PM / CBS/AP
Investigators think an edged weapon was used in the deaths of four University of Idaho students, police said Tuesday. Officials said all four students, who were found dead inside a home near campus on Sunday, are considered victims in the case.
No weapons have been located thus far, police said, but based on preliminary information, “investigators believe that an edged weapon such as a knife was used,” Moscow Police Captain Anthony Dahlinger said in a statement. There are no suspects in custody.
Autopsies scheduled to be completed later this week could provide more information on the exact cause of death.
Police discovered the students’ bodies just before noon Sunday as they responded to a report of an unconscious person at a home steps away from the Moscow, Idaho, campus. The victims were identified as Ethan Chapin, a 20-year-old from Conway, Washington; Madison Mogen, a 21-year-old from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, from Avondale, Arizona; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, from Rathdrum, Idaho.
The Moscow Police Department has labeled the deaths as “homicides” but maintains there is not an active risk to the community.
The university said Chapin was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and Kernodle was a junior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Mogen was a senior also majoring in marketing and a member of Pi Beta Phi, and Goncalves was a senior majoring in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, the university said. The university also had different hometown listed for Chapin and Kernodle than the towns listed in the Moscow Police Department release: The school said Chapin was from Mount Vernon, Washington, and Kernodle was from Post Falls, Idaho.
Mogen and Kernodle worked at Mad Greek, a family-owned restaurant just over a mile from the home where the students were found, the establishment said on Facebook. The owners wrote a heartfelt tribute to the two students.
“Xana and Maddie have been servers here for several years and brought so much joy to our restaurant and all of those they encountered,” wrote the restaurant, noting that Mogen had also managed much of their social media. “… You will be greatly missed. Thank you for being a part of our family/team and for helping me so much over the years. Until we meet again.”
The family of Goncalves released an emotional statement about the loss of their daughter and sister, according to CBS affiliate KREM-TV.
“Kaylee was, is, and will always be our defender and protector,” wrote the family, in part. “… She did absolutely everything she set her mind to. She didn’t hold back on love, fights, or life.”
In the statement, the family also asked that people “refrain from spreading harmful rumors” about the deaths of the four students.
University of Idaho president Scott Green said the students were all “killed” under tragic circumstances, and Moscow Mayor Art Bettge said all four of the students were considered victims in the investigation. Moscow Police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger told the Idaho Statesman Monday night that none of the deceased students are believed to be responsible for the deaths.
The students likely died between 3 and 4 a.m., but they weren’t discovered for hours, Bettge said.
“The police got there at noon, nothing happened in the interim and nothing happened afterward, so it seemed to be a unique occurrence that was not apt to be repeated,” said Bettge. That timeline helped authorities determine that there was not an active risk, he said.
Dahlinger declined to confirm or deny Bettge’s description of the timeline.
The university canceled classes on Monday, and said additional security staffers were available to walk students across campus if needed during the remainder of the week.
Still, the lack of information about the cause of deaths – and the fact that police have said there is no one in custody – had many parents worried about campus safety and some students leaving for Thanksgiving break early.
In a memo released Monday afternoon, University of Idaho President Scott Green urged university employees to be empathetic and flexible and work with students who decided to leave classes to spend time with their families.
“Words cannot adequately describe the light these students brought to this world or ease the depth of suffering we feel at their passing under these tragic circumstances,” Green wrote of the slain students.
The police said anyone with information should contact the department at 208-883-7054 and asked that people respect the privacy of the victims’ family and friends.
Brian Nickerson, the fire chief of the Moscow Volunteer Fire and EMS Department, said police were the first to arrive at the home. The first responders from the fire and EMS department didn’t go inside or transport anyone from the scene, Nickerson said.
The city of Moscow is a close-knit college town nestled in the rolling hills of north-central Idaho, about 80 miles southeast of Spokane, Washington.
A vigil for the slain students set for this week was postponed until after the school’s fall break next week, University of Idaho spokesman Kyle Pfannenstiel told CBS News on Tuesday.
Shortly after Moscow police announced the homicide investigation, students at the University of Virginia were also told to shelter in place after police said a suspect gunned down fellow students on a bus as they returned from a school field trip. The shooting left three members of the school’s football team dead and two other students injured. The shooting touched off an intense manhunt Sunday, and authorities announced Monday that a suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., had been apprehended.