Idaho police are investigating the deaths of four college students after their bodies were discovered Sunday in a house near the University of Idaho campus. The sudden deaths have sent shockwaves through the college town of Moscow, with students and community members left with few answers about what transpired.
Moscow police have not yet released a cause of death for the four students but did characterize them as “homicide victims” in a press release. Moscow Police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger also confirmed to the Idaho Statesman on Monday night that police are treating the deaths as murders.
Based on a preliminary investigation, police are saying they don’t believe the killings pose “an ongoing community risk.” As of Tuesday, no suspect has yet been taken into custody.
The University of Idaho cancelled classes on Monday in the wake of the news and opened up drop-in counselling sessions for its students.
The university is also organizing security personnel to walk students around campus for the remainder of the week, CBS reported, but many are still concerned about campus safety due to the lack of information about the deaths. University of Idaho president Scott Green urged professors to be “empathetic, flexible and to work with our students,” as some choose to leave for American Thanksgiving break early.
“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 said.
- Ethan Chapin, 20, from Conway, Wash. Chapin was a freshman majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
- Xana Kernodle, 20, from Avondale, Ariz.. Kernodle was a junior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
- Madison Mogen, 21, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Mogen was a senior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
- Kaylee Goncalves, 21, from Rathdrum, Idaho. Goncalves was a senior majoring in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority.
According to social media photos, the four students appeared to be close friends. On the day of their deaths, Goncalves, one of the victims, posted a picture to Instagram where she posed with the three other victims. In the photo, Mogen, who is wearing an “Idaho” sweatshirt, is sitting on Goncalves’ shoulders, while Chapin wraps his arm around Kernodle.
Moscow police said they discovered the dead students after receiving a call about an unconscious person around noon on Sunday.
Moscow’s mayor, Art Bettge, told The New York Times that the killings appear to be a “crime of passion,” adding that police still need more time to investigate.
“With a crime of this magnitude, it’s very difficult to work through,” Bettge said in the interview. “The overall assessment is that it’s a crime of passion.”
Speaking to ABC News, Bettge added that the killings seem to be a “one-off type situation.”
“Something had occurred that resulted in these deaths — there was no robbery,” he said.
Cathy Mabbutt, the Latah County coroner, told the New York Times that the deaths were not a case of murder-suicide, and that her office is planning to conduct autopsies on Wednesday. The paper also reported that Moscow has not seen a murder in its town since 2015.
Mayor Bettge said the students’ deaths serve 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 community,” in a press release. “Today, we grieve for those who were lost and those they leave behind.”
“The Moscow Police Department and the City of Moscow is deeply saddened for the families of these individuals, fellow students and friends, and our community during this time,” the police department said. “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to each and every person affected by this incident.”
Local restaurant Mad Greek posted a heartfelt tribute to two of the students on its Facebook page, writing, “Xana and Maddie have been servers here for several years and brought so much joy to our restaurant and all of those they encountered.”
“You will be greatly missed. Thank you for being a part of our family/team and for helping me so much over the years. Until we meet again.”