Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

Speculation runs rampant in the small town of Moscow, Idaho, as the investigation into the murders of four University of Idaho students enters its second week. Police have yet to name a suspect and have been cautious about releasing details about the case, creating an information vacuum that is filled with rumours.

In the latest update from the Moscow Police Department (MPD), investigators said they had received hundreds of reports regarding the alleged stalker of one of the victims, 21-year-old Kaylee Goncalves, but had been unable to confirm or identify such a person. The town, home to about 25,000 people, has been rumored to be reporting a skinned dog that was found three weeks before the murders.

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Locals feared the two grotesque incidents were connected, but police said the skinned dog was “not connected” to the student murders. Police also dismissed a report of dead animals left on a local resident’s property as related to the case, saying the incidents were likely caused by wild animals.

Speculation about the animals may have been fueled by officers finding a dog at the crime scene on the night of the incident. Police say “the dog was unharmed and turned over to Animal Services.”

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It’s unclear what’s fueling the rumors that Goncalves has a stalker, but police have ruled out a person who was seen watching Goncalves and another victim, Madison Mogen, 21, in a food truck the night they were killed. Police said “the man on the Grub truck’s video surveillance camera” is not believed to be involved in the death.

An unconfirmed video posted on Twitter by local TV reporter John Webb appears to show the surveillance footage in question. A single man wearing a black coat, gray hoodie, black pants and a black baseball hat appears to be watching the two girls as they order food, but it’s unclear if he’s the man police are referring to.

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In a press release, Moscow police warned the public not to trust information not provided through official channels, saying: “Rumours and speculation continue to circulate about the ongoing investigation. The MPD warns the public not to rely on rumors and remains committed to informing the public.”

Investigators also added that online reports of the victims being bound and gagged were not accurate.

Moscow police have faced criticism for the lack of information released about the case, which shook the local community to its core and left the University of Idaho campus deserted ahead of Thanksgiving.

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The parent of one of the victims, Ethan Chapin, 20, even took aim at investigators’ stingy approach, writing in an email to The Associated Press that “the lack of information from the University of Idaho and local law enforcement only fuels false rumors and innuendo in the press and social media.”

“The silence adds to our family’s agony after our son’s murder,” Jim Chapin wrote. “For Ethan and his three dear friends killed in Moscow, Idaho, and all of our families, I’m calling on officials to tell the truth, share what they know, find the assailant, and protect the greater community.”

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Latest event timeline

Police have determined that four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death and possibly ambushed while they slept in the early hours of November 13th. The weapon used in the murder has yet to be found, but police believe a large “fixed blade knife” was used.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told NewsNation that the victims were stabbed in the chest and upper body, adding that the perpetrator “has to be someone pretty angry to stab four people to death.”

Police reconstructed an incomplete timeline of the victims’ movements and said that on the evening of November 12, Goncalves and Mogen were at a local bar, The Corner Club. Meanwhile, Chapin and Xana Kernodle, 20, the fourth victim, were seen at the Sigma Chi fraternity house, of which Chapin was a member, on the University of Idaho campus.

A screenshot of an Instagram photo showing four victims in a recent homicide investigation in Moscow, Idaho, posing together on the same day they were killed.

Instagram

Goncalves, Mogen and Kernodle were roommates and sorority members, and Chapin was Kernodle’s boyfriend. They all appeared to be close friends in their social media posts. The three women had two other roommates who police said were at another event that night and arrived home around 1 a.m.

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Around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 13, Goncalves and Mogen were seen on video at a local food vendor called Grub Truck and police say they were using a “private party to drive home.” Police have also ruled out this private party as a suspect.

All four victims arrived home at 1122 King Rd. around 1:45 PM and Chapin decided to spend the night at Kernodle’s. The victims lived on the second and third floors of the house.

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The four victims were stabbed to death around 3 to 4 a.m., according to the Latah County Coroner. The coroner stated that “the four victims were probably asleep, some had defensive wounds, and each was stabbed multiple times.” Examinations found no traces of sexual assault on any of the victims.

The two surviving roommates at the residence did not wake up until later in the morning and believed one of the victims had passed out on the second floor. They called other friends to the house for help because the victim did not wake up. At 11:58, the police received an ambulance from the apartment with a report of an unconscious person.

The call came from the cell phone of one of the surviving roommates, but several people spoke to an emergency dispatcher before Moscow police arrived on the scene. When officers investigated the residence, they found four victims dead on the second and third floors.

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The home where four University of Idaho students were found dead Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.

Angela Palermo/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Police do not believe the two surviving roommates were involved in the murders.

As part of their investigation, police seized the contents of three dumpsters on King Road to locate possible evidence. Investigators were also made aware of multiple phone calls made by the victims of Goncalves and Mogen to the man, but did not provide additional details.

Local businesses have been contacted to check if any fixed blade knives have been purchased recently as police continue to search for the weapon used in the murder.

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Moscow police have gone through nearly 700 reports and conducted 90 interviews, according to a press release, but still have not named a suspect.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping with the case and has sent 22 investigators to Moscow and two behavioral analysis units, which are known for profiling criminals based on their crimes. Twenty agents also work in other locations in Idaho, Utah and West Virginia.