IIt could have been anyone, in any American college town, on any Saturday night. This is how typical the behavior of the murdered students was in Moscow, Idaho, just hours before they were brutally stabbed to death.
The hours leading up to the Nov. 13 stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were the subject of intense scrutiny for weeks as authorities worked tirelessly to catch the killer. Finally, 47 days after the killings, a suspect was taken into custody, according to reports.
The University of Idaho campus had been busy this Saturday hours before the victims were killed, a sea of gold and cash as the Vandals prepared for a home game against the UC Davis Aggies in the 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome. It was 28 degrees at kick-off – the weather was listed as a daunting “icy fog” – but happy and loyal fans turned out; The Vandals’ 44-26 loss was disappointing but didn’t deter the students from preparing to hit the town.
Among them were five girls living in a three-bedroom rental house on King Road, just over a mile from the stadium and just two blocks from the edge of campus. Kaylee Goncalves and Maddie Mogen, both 21-year-old childhood best friends, were heading to bars downtown together. Xana Kernodle, 20, planned to go out with her boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20. The girls’ other two roommates would also spend the night outside.
The city of Moscow, which has 25,000 inhabitants, is really centered on the university. Sprawling over 1,600 acres on the southwest corner of downtown, UI is the area’s largest employer, and its 11,500 listings make up almost half of Moscow’s population. Students are dispersed in off-campus housing, sharing apartments, rental houses, sororities, and fraternities.
The girls’ house was among the closest to campus, located on and against a hill amidst other affordable houses and complexes, all with undergraduate decor: fairy lights, peeling paint, second-hand furniture and school cars. opportunity outside. The King Road Residence was known for hosting parties; roommates even mock themselves for it in TikTok videos.
The five young roommates would have been highly regarded, with most, if not all, involved in sororities. Xana’s boyfriend – who was a triplet – was a member of the Signa Chi fraternity, along with her brother, Hunter. The Sigma Chi house, on Nez Perce Drive, is almost visible from the girls’ house at 1122 King Road; the walk down the hill, through a road and lawn and up another hill is about the length of a football pitch and a half.
Moscow’s tiny downtown area is also walkable from King Road and from campus, though most students — especially during Idaho’s harsh winters — benefit from an elevator ride. It’s unclear how Kaylee and Maddie made their way to Main Street, but by 10:30 p.m. the young women were at the Corner Club, a low-slung hotspot with its own party bus that’s a “city staple,” according to Dylan Bartels, IU senior, 22.
It has a large following but is particularly popular with members of fraternities and sororities, students say The Independent. As in many colleges in the Greek system, there is a big divide between Greek and non-Greek social life, the students said, but there is no palpable animosity and everyone tends to coexist at the friendly. Maddie, Xana, and another housemate were members of Pi Beta Phi; Kaylee has engaged with Alpha Phi.
Both blonde and bubbly, Kaylee and Maddie were dressed in college bar casual attire – Kaylee in faded ripped jeans and an Idaho sweatshirt, Maddie in a black jacket, darker denim jeans and black shoes. They spent about three hours at the Corner Club at the north end of Main Street; by the time they left, the streets were teeming with other middle schoolers looking for food and rides as they finished the night.
The couple walked down Main Street to a red brick building that once housed the now defunct Garden Lounge. a favorite food truck, Grub Wandering Kitchen – affectionately called Grub Truck by its many local fans – often parks outside on Main Street.
Kaylee and Maddie ordered, laughed and chatted with friends as they received their pasta carbonara; according to police, they were driven home from a “private party” and returned to King Road at around 1.45am.
Xana and Ethan, meanwhile, had gone to a party across the road at Sigma Chi. The fraternity house is built into the hillside and rises upward facing Nez Perce Drive, which winds through campus and passes the Arboretum a few steps beyond. The IU Arboretum and Botanical Garden grounds are large, beautiful, and wind up Taylor Road, a block from the Girls’ House, which you have to cross to get to Sigma Chi. This same road winds west past the arboretum and up into a hilly residential area; to the east, it intersects Highway 95.
During the investigation, police specifically requested surveillance footage of areas around the highway and the arboretum.
Xana and Ethan returned to King Road around the same time as Kaylee and Maddie. Their whereabouts between 9 p.m. and 1:45 a.m. are unknown; the area would have been busy at this time, surrounded by other student accommodation, as other young people were also returning home. Bars close at 2am.
The other two King Road housemates – who have yet to be named by authorities – were home first, around 1 a.m., and fell asleep, police said.
Maddie and Kaylee both made multiple calls to the same number about an hour after returning home. Kaylee’s sister said the unanswered calls went to Jack DeCoeur, who dated his sister for years before amicably parting ways, still sharing a dog named Murphy. Police said early on that DeCoeur was not considered a suspect.
Calls aside, the rest of the night has long remained a mystery. More than six weeks later, that could change, as police are expected to announce “developments” at a press conference on Friday December 30.
Hours before that press conference, news broke that a 25-year-old suspect had been arrested in connection with the murders. He was taken into custody in Pennsylvania, law enforcement sources said.
Authorities have previously said they believe one or more killers fatally stabbed Ethan, Xana, Kaylee and Maddie between 3am and 4am; their bodies were found on the second and third floors of the house. The surviving roommates, who were in the basement, slept through everything that happened and didn’t wake up until hours later, police said.
“The surviving housemates called friends to the residence because they believed one of the victims on the second floor had passed out and was not waking up,” the Moscow Police Department said in a Facebook post hours later. after the discovery of the bodies. “At 11:58 a.m. a 911 call requested assistance for an unconscious person. The call came from inside the residence on one of the surviving roommates’ cell phones. Several people spoke with the 911 dispatcher before a Moscow police officer arrived on the scene.
It’s still unclear when the “friends” arrived or who they are, and the circumstances surrounding the 911 call have been murky from the start. But the call sparked the official discovery of a brutal scene, with the four victims stabbed with what police call a “fixed blade knife”.
The location of the murder weapon remains a mystery.
According to autopsies, the victims “were likely asleep, some had defensive wounds, and each was stabbed multiple times. There were no signs of sexual assault,” police wrote on Facebook.
Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said the injuries were “quite extensive” and told NBC News that each victim was stabbed a different number of times and in different places on the body.
She added that it was not possible to determine from the wounds the order in which the four victims were attacked. She told the local outlet Idaho News that the autopsies revealed one thing: “It’s personal.”
From the start of the investigation, police said the attack was “targeted” – but did not shed light on what led to that conclusion.
Now, 47 days after the murders, clarity may finally be coming to Moscow.
This story was originally published on November 23 and was updated on December 30 to reflect details of a suspect’s arrest.