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Idaho murders: What we don’t know about the brutal slayings of 4 university students

The small college town of Moscow is reeling after four University of Idaho students were savagely murdered more than one week ago – and a series of puzzling questions remain unanswered.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Xana Kernodle, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were stabbed to death Nov. 13 between 3 and 4 a.m. on the second and third floor of a rented house near campus.

Investigators, amateur online sleuths and the victims’ families are desperately searching for clues – alongside the Moscow Police Department, Idaho State Police and the FBI.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said the victims were likely ambushed in their sleep with a large knife – and some of the slain students had defensive wounds, suggesting a violent struggle. 

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Police have named the four victims of an apparent quadruple homicide at the University of Idaho as Maddie Mogen, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, and Kaylee Goncalves.
(Instagram: @maddiemogen, @kayleegoncalves, @ethanchapin4)

 Yet two other roommates, who were home at the time, didn’t notice any commotion and police weren’t called for more than eight hours.

“How do you take four lives and no one hears?” Joseph Morgan, distinguished scholar of applied forensics at Jacksonville State University, told G3 Box News Digital. “This sent shivers up my spine.” 

No suspect or murder weapon 

Officials have not identified any suspects or persons of interests in the killings or determined whether the attack was perpetrated by more than one assailant.

Police suspect a KaBar knife may have been used in slayings of four University Idaho students, inset. Caution tape surrounds the house near campus where the students were slaughtered.

Police suspect a KaBar knife may have been used in slayings of four University Idaho students, inset. Caution tape surrounds the house near campus where the students were slaughtered.
(Credit: Ka-Bar / Derek Shook for G3 Box News Digital)

The coroner previously said the killer(s) likely used a large knife to stab each of the victims multiple times in the chest – but police have not recovered a murder weapon.

Retired NYPD Sgt. Joseph Giacalone said that the investigation is complicated by most of the students leaving town for the holidays. 

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“If the killer is a fellow student, he’s long gone,” he said.

What is the motive for the shocking quadruple homicide?

Officials told G3 Box News Digital that they hadn’t zeroed in any potential motives and that all options remained on the table – including a crime of passion and a robbery gone awry.

Mabbutt said there was no sign any of the victims had been sexually assaulted. But the nature of the crime suggested it was personal, said Morgan. 

University of Idaho victims Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were close friends.

University of Idaho victims Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were close friends.
(Instagram/ @kayleegoncalves)

“This is passionate crime,” he said. “You have an individual who was willing to get so close that he could feel the breath of his victim when he drove the knife into their chests.”

He added that a crime can still be sexually motivated in the absence of a sexual assault.

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Giacalone agreed that the nature of the crime suggested the assailant(s) knew his victims. “Strangers can’t get you that mad,” he noted.

Who called 911? 

The surviving roommates summoned friends to the King Road home because they believed one of the victims on the second floor had passed out, police revealed Sunday at a press conference.

A forensics team returned to the street in front of the crime scene to measure tire marks.

A forensics team returned to the street in front of the crime scene to measure tire marks.
(Derek Shook for G3 Box News Digital)

At 11:58 a.m. a 911 call made from one of the surviving roommates’ cell phones requested aid for an unconscious person. Multiple people spoke to the dispatcher before police arrived.

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Police have not disclosed who made the initial call – but have cleared as suspects the surviving victims and the friends.

How were four people stabbed to death without anyone hearing a disturbance? 

The property manager, Merida McClanahan, told G3 Box News Digital that the single-family home has two bedrooms on each floor with bathrooms and hallways in between them. 

On the second floor, the rooms are separated by a living room and kitchen area.

Police have named the four victims of an apparent quadruple homicide at the University of Idaho as Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee GonCalves. 

Police have named the four victims of an apparent quadruple homicide at the University of Idaho as Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee GonCalves. 
(Moscow City Police Department/Instagram)

The victims were found on the second and third floors. Police did not say which floor was occupied by the two surviving roommates. 

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“This a college town. It’s not unusual for students living together to disregard loud music, laughing and screaming,” retired NYPD Det. Herman Weisberg told G3 Box News Digital. “It’s likely noises that would disrupt a normal household would go unnoticed in this environment.”

G3 Box News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report. 

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