Coroner: Idaho students stabbed to death, were likely asleep

Idaho College Killings

(NewsNation) — Four University of Idaho students who were found dead Sunday inside a home all died from stab wounds and were likely asleep at the time, according to preliminary findings by a county coroner.

The investigation into who committed the vicious crime was ongoing Friday as the suspect, or suspects, remained at large and unidentified. Police have begun to lay out a timeline of what happened in the hours leading up to the killings, though much remains unknown.

New video has surfaced showing two of the victims, identified as Madison Mogen, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, ordering at a late-night food truck in Moscow, Idaho.

As an investigation into this incident is ongoing, the food truck’s live Twitch stream showed the pair ordered and waited about 10 minutes for their food at about 1:40 a.m. Police said the video has helped with the case and are working to identify one of the individuals seen in the video.

According to a press release on Friday, detectives do not believe that the two surviving roommates or the male seen in the food truck surveillance video were involved in the crime.

The release also said Kaylee and Madison took an Uber from Grub Truck to their house. However, an updated release Friday night changed that line to say they “used a private party for a ride home.”

The victims, including Ethan Chapin, 20, and Xana Kernodle, 20, all close friends, were found dead in an off-campus rental home around noon Sunday. Officials said they likely were killed several hours earlier.

According to a report from The Hill, police said Chapin and Kerndole were at a party on campus before the attack, while Mogen and Goncalves were at a downtown bar.

All four students eventually returned home, where the attack occurred.

Sometime between 1:45 a.m. and the call to police around noon Sunday, police say the four college students were violently attacked, while two other female roommates were left unharmed.

The identity of the 911 caller has not been released.

“The four were stabbed with a knife but no weapon has been found,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said in a news conference Wednesday.

While looking for possible evidence, authorities seized the contents of three dumpsters on King Road. Police appear to be looking for a Rambo-style knife. 

The Idaho Statesman reported police were at a local hardware store looking for a Ka-Bar brand knife, a brand that particular store reportedly didn’t sell. 

Cathy Mabbutt, the Latah County coroner, ruled all four deaths a homicide and said the students died from stabbings. Autopsies were completed by a medical examiner in Spokane, Washington, and authorities have released the victims’ bodies to families, who will now start the process of laying their loved ones to rest.

Providing more information about the deaths Thursday on “Banfield,” Mabbutt said the bodies of the four students were found in beds and each had multiple stab wounds. Fatal stabs were delivered to the upper torso or chest area, Mabbutt said.

“It seems likely that maybe they were sleeping,” Mabbutt said.

 Mabbutt also told NewsNation that each victim suffered multiple stab wounds from a “pretty large knife.”

“It has to be somebody pretty angry in order to stab four people to death,” Mabbutt told NewsNation. The victims were stabbed in the chest and upper body, the coroner said.

Mabbutt went on to describe the early Sunday attacks as “personal,” according to Idaho News, which cited a CBS report.

Evidence collected at the scene has been sent for DNA testing. Mabbutt said evidence was collected on multiple floors of the house, but she was not authorized to disclose whether the bodies themselves were found on multiple floors.

There have been reports from neighbors saying they heard a party happening at the home, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Since the discovery of the bloody crime scene, the community of 26,000 has been on high alert. Moscow hasn’t had a murder since 2015, and now some university students packed up and left early for Thanksgiving break.

The father of Chapin issued a statement imploring police to release more information. 

Fry said that residents should be cautious and warned there could be an ongoing threat to the residents of the city.

“We still believe it is a targeted attack,” Fry said. “But the reality is there is a person out there who committed four horrible horrible crimes so we’ve got to go back to that there is a threat out there, we don’t think … to anyone else, but we all have to be aware of our surroundings and look out for one another.”

On social media, Goncalves’ sister implored students to leave the area.

“If you have friends, family, or loved ones in Moscow, our family encourages you to get them home,” she posted in part. “Police say ‘isolated, targeted attack’ but it is isolated until it isn’t.”

“No one is in custody, therefore no one is safe,” the younger sister added.

The University of Idaho has offered counseling services to students and has increased patrols, which President Scott Green said would continue through the weekend.

“We continue to push for justice,” Green said in an email Thursday to students and staff. “We need to remain flexible this week and grant our students and colleagues room to process these unprecedented events in their own ways. Students, you are encouraged to do what is right for you. Whether this is going home early or staying in class, you have our support.”

Detectives have received nearly 500 tips which are being processed, investigated and cleared. Thirty-eight interviews have been conducted as well, according to Friday’s press release.

A candlelight vigil to honor the victims is scheduled for Nov. 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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