What we know about the 4 deaths at the University of Idaho as police investigate

UPDATE: The Idaho Statesman published new information about the homicide case on Monday night. Click here for the story. The Moscow Police Department also released new details surrounding the homicide investigation Tuesday morning, which you can read by clicking here.

Shortly before noon Pacific time Sunday, Moscow police officers responded to a call about an unconscious person near the University of Idaho campus. They walked into an apartment to find four dead bodies.

Authorities have released little information about the event. Here’s what we know so far.

What happened?

Police received a phone call saying an individual was unconscious at a house in the 1100 block of King Road in Moscow.

At 11:58 a.m. Pacific, officers arrived on the scene. Inside the apartment, they found four people dead. Moscow mayor Art Bettge told the Statesman in a phone interview that the crime happened between 3 and 4 a.m. Sunday, Pacific time.

Police originally stated the students were found in a Moscow house that had been converted into apartments. Property management company Team Idaho Real Estate & Property Management told the Idaho Statesman that was not the case. The entire home was being rented under a 12-month lease that began June 5.

Who died?

All four people who died were students at the University of Idaho. Three were from Idaho.

Police and the university identified the deceased as Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene; Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls; and Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington. (Note: Some of the identifying details were not consistent between the police and university news releases. This reflects the university’s spellings and hometowns.)

Chapin was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management. Kernodle, a junior majoring in marketing, was also part of the university’s Greek life as a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Mogen and Goncalves were both seniors, majoring in marketing and general studies, respectively.

Goncalves, second from left, posted a photo to Instagram on Saturday with Mogen, second from right, and Kernodle, on right end. The third photo in the slideshow also includes Chapin.

GoFundMe’s have been set up for Kernodle, Mogen and Goncalves. The latter two have a combined fundraiser with a goal of $40,000 which says that all donations will go to the families of the two victims, while Kernodle has a separate fundraiser with a goal of $15,000 that will go toward funeral and memorial costs.

How did they die?

Moscow police said they are investigating the four deaths as a homicide. The University of Idaho referred to all the deceased as “victims.”

Although the Moscow Police Department is yet to determine a cause of death, the department said in a news release on Tuesday morning that investigators believe that an “edged weapon such as a knife” was used despite not locating a weapon at the scene. Investigators also believe that the event was an “isolated, targeted attack” based on preliminary information.

Ethan Chapin’s mother, Stacey Chapin, told the Idaho Statesman that the four students were stabbed. She refuted speculation about the case, including a New York Times report that quoted a Moscow official calling it a “crime of passion.”

Moscow police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger reaffirmed on Monday evening that all four people are considered victims and none of them are believed responsible for the deaths.

“This tragedy serves as a sobering reminder that senseless acts of violence can occur anywhere, at any time, and we are not immune from such events here in our own community,” Bettge said in a written statement. “Today, we grieve for those who were lost and those they leave behind. Let us come together in support of each other, and be there for each other, as we mourn as a community.”

‘So hard not to panic’: University of Idaho community reacts online to student homicides

What is the definition of homicide?

While police are investigating the incident as a homicide, that does not necessarily mean a murder was committed. A homicide is considered as when “one human being causes the death of another,” according to Cornell Law.

While homicide could mean murder — when one individual unlawfully kills another individual — it could also refer to manslaughter, which includes intentionally or unintentionally killing another person. Homicide can also be justified by affirmative defense, such as pleading self-defense or insanity.

What do we know about the shelter-in-place order?

U of I told people to “stay away from the area and shelter in place” at 2:07 p.m. PT as the police department investigated a homicide. Nearly 90 minutes later, at 2:46 p.m. PT, the university tweeted that the shelter in place was lifted but for Moscow residents to “remain vigilant.”

According to the U of I website, a shelter-in-place order can be issued by the University Office of Public Safety and Security in response to a hazardous spill, hostile intruder or weather emergency. A shelter-in-place order, which is sent out using the Vandal Alert system, requires students, faculty and visitors to take refuge in an interior room with no or few windows.

You can sign up for the Vandal Alert System online to receive future alerts.

Officers investigate a homicide at an apartment complex south of the University of Idaho campus on Sunday.
Officers investigate a homicide at an apartment complex south of the University of Idaho campus on Sunday.

Where is Moscow, Idaho?

Moscow is situated along the Idaho-Washington border in the Idaho panhandle, about 30 miles north of Lewiston and 85 miles south of Coeur d’Alene. Moscow has a population of about 25,850, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is home to the University of Idaho, which boasts an enrollment of 11,507 students.

The city is also just a 9-mile drive from Pullman, Washington, which is home to the larger Washington State University.

What don’t we know?

Law enforcement and school officials have remained tight-lipped on many aspects of the case. There is still much the public does not know, including:

The cause and manner of death. The identity of the caller. Whether police have identified any suspects. The reason police believe there is no active threat. Whether any of the students were tenants at the home.

Who can you reach out to?

Idaho State Police and state and federal law enforcement agencies are assisting the Moscow Police Department with the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police at 208-883-7054.

Counseling services are also available to U of I students through the university’s mental health center and the school’s student union from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.