The four University of Idaho students who were found dead at an off-campus home Sunday were butchered with a knife in what police are now investigating as “targeted” murders, officials said.
The Moscow Police Department said Tuesday all four deaths have been ruled homicides, meaning that detectives believe that none of the victims was responsible for the killings.
“We certainly have a crime here, so we are looking for a suspect,” Moscow police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger told the Idaho Statesman.
In a press release offering an update on the probe, police said that while no weapons have been recovered, “based on preliminary information, investigators believe that an edged weapon such as a knife was used.”
Investigators were trying to establish a timeline to recreate the victims’ activities Saturday night and early Sunday morning, “following all leads and identifying persons of interest,” cops said.
Police identified the victims Monday as Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.
The college kids were found dead at a house off-campus just before noon Sunday, but Moscow Mayor Art Bettge said the crime was committed between 3 and 4 a.m. that morning.
Ethan Chapin’s mother, Sarah Chapin, told the news outlet that a friend discovered the bodies inside the home on King Road and called 911.
Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said autopsies would be conducted Wednesday, but ruled out that this was a murder-suicide.
In an interview with the New York Times, Bettge described the killings as a “crime of passion,” but he later told the Statesman that it was just one possible scenario, and that “police don’t know yet.”
The mayor also said law enforcement officials have told him that there was no active threat to the community based on the crime scene.
“I would say it was just a crime focused on this one location.” Bettge said.
The police department’s update Tuesday echoed the mayor’s words, stating that “investigators believe this was an isolated, targeted attack and there is no imminent threat to the community at large.”
According to social media posts, Chapin and Kernodle appeared to be in a relationship.
Goncalves’ sister, Alivea, described her sibling to station KREM2 as “tough and fair” and “the ultimate go getter” who craved adventures.
Chapin, a freshman from Mount Vernon, Washington, was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management, according to information released by the university.
Kernodle was a junior from Post Falls, Idaho, majoring in marketing. She was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
Mogen, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was a senior also majoring in marketing. Like Kernodle, she was a Pi Beta Phi member.
Gonclaves, from Rathdrum, Idaho, was a senior majoring in general studies. She was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority.
Mogen and Goncalves worked together as servers at Mad Greek, a family-owned restaurant located about a mile from the crime scene, the owner of the eatery wrote on Facebook.
“You will be greatly missed,” the post read in part. “Thank you for being a part of our family/team and for helping me so much over the years.”
University of Idaho president Scott Green said the students were all “killed” under tragic circumstances.
“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.