Idaho College Student Murders: Summary and Timeline

The murder of four University of Idaho students in mid-November in an off-campus dorm stunned the small community of Moscow, Idaho, where investigators faced what the city police chief later called a “very complex” case.

No suspects were immediately named in the deaths of housemates Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Gonsalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, aged 20. The murder weapon, presumably a large fixed-blade knife, was also not found.

But the scrutiny of unsolved murders has prompted thousands of leads to the FBI.

Now, almost seven weeks later, with the public on edge and rumors swirling about who might have perpetrated such violence, police announced the arrest in Pennsylvania on Friday of a criminal justice doctoral student.

“This is not the end of this investigation,” Lata County Attorney Bill Thompson said at a press conference announcing the arrest. “Really, it’s a new beginning.”

Top left: Kaylee Gonsalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.
Top left: Kaylee Gonsalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.

Here is a chronology of key moments in the case.

November 12

Around 9 p.m., Kernodle and Chapin were spotted at a party at Chapin’s fraternity, Sigma Chi, a short walk from the apartment building on King Road where the roommates lived, investigators said.

That night, Gonçalves uploads photos to his Instagram account of photos of friends with the caption, “One happy girl surrounded by these people every day.”

Around 10 pm, Goncalves and Mogen go to the Moscow sports bar Corner Club.

the 13th of November

At around 1:30 a.m., Gonçalves and Mogen are ordering from a nearby food truck, according to the truck’s live feed.

Investigators say Cairnodle and Chapin return to their three-story home on King Road at about 1:45 a.m., while Gonsalves and Mogen drive home and arrive at about 1:56 a.m.

Meanwhile, two other housemates who left that night returned home earlier than the others, around 1 a.m., Moscow police said.

At 11:58 a.m., a housemate’s cell phone receives an emergency call asking for help for an “unconscious man”. (Both housemates were unharmed.)

The police are warning the public about the deaths in a press release, and while they say no one is in custody, they “do not believe there is an ongoing risk to the public based on the information gathered during the preliminary investigation.”

November 16

With no suspects in custody, Moscow police are dismissing previous comments that the predominantly rural city of nearly 26,000 is not threatened.

“At this time, we do not have a suspect and this person is still at large,” Moscow police chief James Fry said at a press conference. He adds that more than 25 Idaho State Police and FBI investigators are assisting in the case.

People lay flowers at the memorial in front of the entrance sign of the University of Idaho campus.
People lay flowers at a memorial in front of the entrance sign for the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, November 16. Ted S. Warren / AP file

November 17

Preliminary autopsy results indicate that the four victims were likely stabbed with a large knife and died sometime after 2 a.m. from multiple stab wounds, Lata County Coroner Cathy Mabbatt said.

She describes their wounds as “quite extensive”.

November 18th

Police say the victims were most likely asleep when they were killed and some of them had defensive wounds. There were also no signs of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, detectives seize the contents of three trash cans near the house looking for possible clues and contact local businesses to determine if the knife was recently purchased.

November 30th

A vigil is held at the University of Idaho in honor of the victims, attended by some family members.

“We will get justice,” says Steven Goncalves, Caylee’s father, adding that his daughter and Mogen have been best friends since sixth grade and found out they were in the same bed when they were murdered.

“They went to high school together, then they started looking for colleges, they came here together. In the end, they settled together in the same apartment, ”said Goncalves. “And in the end they died together.”

December 1

Moscow police confirm the quadruple murder was part of a “targeted attack” after authorities apparently suggested otherwise.

“We remain convinced that this was indeed a targeted attack, but have not concluded whether the residence or its occupants were the target,” a police spokesman said.

The department also continues to refute online rumors and speculation and says it has exonerated some of the people seen interacting with Gonçalves and Mogen the night they were killed. Police also say two housemates who were at home at the time of the attack were asleep that night.

December 2nd

Two housemates, Bethany Funke and Dylan Mortensen, are posting letters saying they are struggling to understand why the lives of “four wonderful people” were taken so brutally.

5th of December

The detectives focus on Chapin and Kernodle’s actions on the evening they were killed and ask the public for information about the nearly five hours that have passed from the time the couple arrived at the Sigma Chi party to the King Road apartment building.

December 6

Police say they are aware of how disappointing the lack of news can be for families and the public, but insist they don’t want to jeopardize the case.

“We’re at the stage of the investigation where we’re still gathering information, we’re still gathering clues, we’re still gathering evidence, we’re still doing whatever it takes,” Fry says in a video posted online. .

A police officer listens in on a house where police found four University of Idaho students with stab wounds.
A police officer bugs the house where police found four murdered University of Idaho students.Angela Palermo/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

December 7

The police begin to take out the personal belongings of the victims from the apartment building and return them to their families.

They also announce what appears to be an integral part of the investigation: they say they want to talk to any passengers on a white 2011-13 Hyundai Elantra with unknown license plates. They won’t say if they believe the driver is connected to the killer, but they say the man may have “critical information” to share.

December 15

Christy Goncalves, Kaylie’s mother, expresses her disappointment during an interview with NBC’s TODAY that she only became aware of the police interest in the Hyundai Elentra when the rest of the public found out, stressing that the families of some of the victims feel “left in the dark.” “

21 December

Fry tells NBC News that his department is in daily contact with the families and “we have asked for their patience” as the investigation progresses. The police chief again insists that the investigation is not a cold case and “our ultimate goal is to hold someone accountable for these families and these victims.”

December 30th

Police announce the arrest of a suspect: 28-year-old Brian Christopher Kochberger, a Pullman, Washington resident and doctoral student at the University of Washington. He is apprehended in northeastern Pennsylvania, about 2,500 miles from the Idaho campus, and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and burglary.

According to two law enforcement sources, DNA evidence played a key role in linking the murders to Kochberger.

At a press conference, Fry said he thought Koberger was the only suspect.

“What I can tell you is that we have a man in our custody who committed these heinous crimes,” he says, “and I believe our community is safe.”

Dec. 31

The public defender for Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where Kochberger is being held, says he intends to forego an extradition hearing to stand trial in Idaho.

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