- The University of Idaho is holding vigils Wednesday for four students who were stabbed in a home near campus on Nov. 13.
- Fear and uncertainty lingers at the university, and across the community, with a killer at large. Police have not identified a suspect in the case.
- University officials are prompting faculty to shift to alternative teaching methods for students who are afraid of returning to campus for the remaining two weeks of the semester.
MOSCOW, Idaho – This town and its neighboring communities are mourning four University of Idaho students who were stabbed multiple times in their sleep in a home near the campus on Nov. 13 – and the peace that once surrounded the school.
On Wednesday evening, students and faculty were expected to gather to remember Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21 and Xana Kernodle, 20, in a series of candlelight vigils including in the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center in Moscow, in front of the University of Idaho Water Center in Boise and in a cafeteria on the College of Eastern Idaho campus.
Ahead of the remembrance, university officials said they were committed to working with law enforcement to make students feel as safe as possible. Police haven’t named a suspect in the killings in this community of about 26,000 people on the border of Washington state.
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“We continue to push for answers to this case while recognizing the enormity of the task ahead for dozens of law enforcement experts across agencies,” said Scott Green, president of the University of Idaho. “We are not accustomed to this kind of violence in our town or at our university and are grateful to the Idaho State Police for increasing their visibility on our campus and in our community. This will continue for the foreseeable future.”
Where does the investigation into the University of Idaho killings stand?
The four students were reportedly stabbed in their sleep. Police discovered the students’ bodies after being called to the home, authorities said.
Prior to the homicide, Goncalves and Mogen were at a local bar called Corner Club in downtown Moscow from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m, police said. They were then seen on video at a local food vendor called the Grub Truck before they went to their home at 1122 King Road around 1:56 a.m.
Authorities said Chapin and Kernodle were seen at the Sigma Chi house campus and returned to the same residence at about 1:45 a.m. Police said Chapin, a member of the fraternity, was visiting the residence. There were two surviving roommates in the residence who did not wake up until later that morning, the summary from police reads.
“The surviving roommates summoned friends to the residence because they believed one of the second-floor victims had passed out and was not waking up. At 11:58 a.m., a 911 call requested aid for an unconscious person… Officers entered the residence and found two victims on the second floor and two victims on the third floor,” police said.
Police also said the roommates are not considered suspects.
“The Latah County Coroner confirmed the identity of the four victims and their cause and manner of death as homicide by stabbing. The coroner stated the four victims were likely asleep, some had defensive wounds, and each was stabbed multiple times. There was no sign of sexual assault,” the summary reads.
Authorities are asking anyone with information about the crime to contact them at 208-883-7180 or email their tip line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“At this time, there are no named suspects, no arrests and no weapon has been found,” said Rachel Doniger, a spokesperson for the Moscow Police Department.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little has directed up to $1 million for the investigation.
How is the Moscow community coping with the loss?
More than two weeks after the killings, the community remains on high alert.
Students who attend the university, and those who attend the nearby Washington State University, described an unsettling atmosphere in interviews with USA TODAY. Many said they are afraid to go to school with a killer on the loose, and several said they have decided to pivot to remote schooling for the rest of the school year.
And as they mourn the loss of the victims and friends, many students said they were angry because there has been no resolution in the crime and were concerned about what’s next for their small-town community. The school has about 11,500 students.
“We are hearing from faculty that about 2/3 of the students are in person,” Jodi Walker, a spokeswoman from the university, said.
More:All 4 University of Idaho students were stabbed to death, coroner says
Sophomore Riley Kesey, 20, said she and her roommates are taking extra precautions right now. They walk to their cars in groups, take classes online, carry pepper spray and text each other constantly about their whereabouts.
“You just feel on edge because none of it was likely to happen, so it could be likely to happen again,” said Kesey.
Unlike many students who left the day after the homicides, Kesey remained on campus for the rest of the school week. She called the campus a “ghost town” on the days following the incident.
After that Sunday, when the University of Idaho sent out an alert notifying students of a homicide investigation, third-year student Grace Faulkner packed her bags and left for home the next day. She hasn’t been to campus since. Faulkner, 21, said she felt uneasy going to class on campus without a declared suspect.
“What if we are passing the suspect every day?” she said.
Faulkner, who was friends with Goncalves, said she went home to spend time with her family to not only grieve, but also meet with school friends in the area to comfort each other and tell stories about their beloved friend.
More:Memorial services for four University of Idaho students stabbed near campus are underway
University of Idaho senior Juliana Nelson said she quit working her on-campus job until she could feel comfortable being alone again. Nelson said she noticed classrooms going from 200 to 70 students immediately after the killings.
“There is still kind of the bustle of the normal community, but everybody feels a little bit more on edge and always looking behind their shoulder now,” Nelson said. “If you saw a stranger, usually you’d smile and say hi. It’s not as much of a friendly interaction now.”
In addition to increased Idaho State Police presence on campus, the university said it has “increased our own security force,” including officers who are available to walk students to their cars, and to and from residence halls and fraternity and sorority chapter houses.
All four victims were involved in fraternity or sorority organizations. Kernodle and Mogen were part of the Pi Beta Phi sorority and Goncalves was part of the Alpha Phi sorority.
D. Timothy Sanderson, international president of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, said the organization “grieves for the loss of our brother” and is thinking about and praying for Chapin’s family and the families of the other three victims.
“We continue to provide as much support as possible to the men of our Gamma Eta chapter, all of whom are heartbroken over their loss,” Sanderson said. “Finally, we extend our sincerest condolences and most tender sympathies to the University of Idaho and Moscow communities, with special consideration to the women of Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Phi.”
Police: 4 University of Idaho students were likely killed with an ‘edged weapon’
University of Idaho offers help to students after deaths
The university said it is working with faculty to be flexible with students in the final weeks of the fall semester, given some don’t want to return with a killer at large.
“We have heard from many of you about how you hope we will proceed as a university after Fall Break,” their website reads. “Each idea, concern and fear has been heard and considered. We will strive to respond accordingly. As such, faculty have been asked to prepare in-person teaching and remote learning options so that each student can choose their method of engagement for the final two weeks of the semester.”
The university also set up an emergency fund to help support students process the tragedy. “Vandals – The path ahead may seem daunting, but we will move forward together,” said Green, referring to the university’s mascot, Joe Vandal, who the university says “represents the confident and resolute spirit.”
The university was still deliberating how to move forward with the remainder of the school year.
“As the case unfolds, we will better know how to proceed in the new year,” Green told students last week. “We will endeavor to find balance among safety concerns, the need to grieve and the long-term needs of all our students and employees.”
Students aren’t the only ones who have been affected by the killings, city officials said.
“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,” said Moscow Mayor Art Bettge. “Let us come together in support of each other, and be there for each other, as we mourn as a community.”
Reach Kayla Jimenez at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kaylajjimenez.