Investigators believe a live weapon was used in the deaths of four people‘ the police said on Tuesday. Officials said all four students found dead in a home near campus on Sunday are believed to be victims in the case.
No weapons have been found so far, police said, but based on preliminary information “investigators believe a sharp weapon such as a knife was used,” Moscow Police Captain Anthony Dahlinger said in a statement. There are no suspects in custody.
Autopsies, due to be completed later this week, could provide more information on the exact cause of death.
Police discovered the bodies of the students just before noon on Sunday while responding to a report of an unconscious person at a home just steps from the campus in Moscow, Idaho. The victims were identified as Ethan Chapin, a 20-year-old from Conway, Washington; Madison Mogen, a 21-year-old from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho.
The Moscow Police Department has described the deaths as “homicides” but claims there is no active risk to the community.
The university said Chapin was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and Kernodle was a junior majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi fraternity. Mogen was a senior major in marketing and a member of Pi Beta Phi, and Goncalves was a senior major in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, the university said. The university also had a different hometown for Chapin and Kernodle than the towns listed in the Moscow Police Department’s publication: the school said Chapin was from Mount Vernon, Washington, and Kernodle from Post Falls, Idaho.
Mogen and Kernodle worked at Mad Greek, a family-owned restaurant just over a mile from the home where the students were found, the company said on Facebook. The owners wrote a warm tribute to the two students.
“Xana and Maddie have been waiters here for several years and have brought so much joy to our restaurant and everyone they have come across,” the restaurant wrote, noting that Mogen had also managed much of their social media. “…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.”
The Goncalves family released an emotional statement about the loss of their daughter and sister, according to CBS affiliate KREM-TV.
“Kaylee was, is and always will be our defender and protector,” the family wrote in part. “…She did absolutely everything she set out to do. She didn’t hold back the love, the fights, or life.”
In the statement, the family also demanded that people “stop spreading harmful rumors” about the deaths of the four students.
University of Idaho President Scott Green said the students were all “killed” in tragic circumstances, and Moscow Mayor Art Bettge said all four students were victims of the investigation. Moscow Police Captain Anthony Dahlinger told the Idaho Statesman Monday night that none of the students who died were responsible for the deaths.
The students likely died between 3 and 4 a.m., but they weren’t spotted for hours, Bettge said.
“The police came at 12 noon, nothing happened in the meantime and nothing happened after that, so it seemed like a one-off incident that couldn’t be repeated,” Bettge said. That timeline helped authorities determine there was no active risk, he said.
Dahlinger declined to confirm or deny Bettge’s description of the timeline.
The university canceled classes Monday and said extra security personnel are on hand to guide students around campus if necessary during the remainder of the week.
However, the lack of information on the cause of death — and the fact that police said no one is in custody — caused many parents to worry about campus safety and some students to take an early Thanksgiving break.
In a memo released Monday afternoon, University of Idaho President Scott Green urged university staff to be empathetic and flexible and to work with students who have decided to leave classes to spend time with their families.
“Words cannot adequately describe the light these students brought to this world or alleviate the level of suffering we feel at their deaths in these tragic circumstances,” Green wrote of the slain students.
Police said anyone with information should contact the department at 208-883-7054 and asked that the privacy of the victims’ family and friends be respected.
Brian Nickerson, the fire chief of the Moscow Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service, said police were the first to get to the house. Fire and EMS first responders did not go inside or transport anyone from the scene, Nickerson said.
The city of Moscow is a tight-knit college town nestled in the rolling hills of north-central Idaho about 80 miles southeast of Spokane, Washington.
A vigil scheduled for this week for the murdered students has been postponed until the school’s fall break next week, University of Idaho spokesman Kyle Pfannenstiel told CBS News Tuesday.
Shortly after Moscow police announced the murder investigation, University of Virginia students were also told to shelter themselves on the spot after police said a suspect gunned down fellow students on a bus as they were returning from a school field trip. Three members of the school’s football team were killed and two other students injured in the shooting. The shooting sparked an intense manhunt on Sunday, and authorities announced Monday that a suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., had been arrested.