Investigators believe a sharp weapon was used in the deaths of four people, police said Tuesday. Officials said all four students who were found dead Sunday in a home near campus are believed to be victims in the case.
No weapons have been found yet, police said, but based on initial information, “investigators believe a sharp weapon, such as a knife, was used,” Moscow police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger said in a statement. There are no suspects in custody.
Autopsies, scheduled to be completed later this week, could provide more information on the exact cause of death.
Police discovered the students’ remains just before noon Sunday when they responded to a report of an unconscious person at a home just steps from the University of Idaho campus in Moscow. The victims were identified as Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington; Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho.
The Moscow Police Department has labeled the deaths “homicides” but says there is no active risk to the public.
Chapin was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, while Kernodle was a junior marketing major and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, the university said. Mogen was also a senior majoring in marketing and a member of Pi Beta Phi, and Goncalves was a senior in general studies and a member of Alpha Phi sorority, the university said. The university also had other hometowns for Chapin and Kernodle than the one listed in the Moscow Police Department release: The school said Chapin was from Mount Vernon, Wash., and Kernodle was from Post Falls, Idaho.
Mogen and Kernodle worked at the family-owned Mad Greek restaurant, located a little more than a mile from the home where the students were found, the institution said on Facebook. The hosts wrote a heartfelt tribute to the two students.
“Xana and Maddie have been here for several years and have brought so much joy to our restaurant and everyone they come in contact with,” the restaurant wrote, noting that Mogen has 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, CBS affiliate KREM-TV reports.
“Kaylee was, is and always will be our advocate and protector,” the family wrote in part. “… She did absolutely everything she set her mind to. She didn’t hold back either in love, or in fights, or in life.”
In a statement, the family also asked people to “refrain from spreading harmful rumours” about the deaths of the four students.
University of Idaho President Scott Green said all students were “killed” under tragic circumstances, and Moscow Mayor Art Betz said all four students were considered victims in the investigation. Moscow Police Capt. Anthony Dahlinger told the Idaho Statesman Monday night that none of the dead students are believed to be responsible for the deaths.
The students likely died between 3 and 4 a.m., but were not discovered for hours, Betge said.
“The police came at noon, nothing happened in between and nothing happened afterwards, so it seemed like a unique event that wasn’t fit to be repeated,” Betge said. That timeline helped authorities determine there was no active risk, he said.
Dahlinger declined to confirm or deny Betges’ description of the timeline.
The university canceled classes Monday and said additional security personnel were available for the remainder of the week to escort students around campus if needed.
However, with the lack of information on the cause of death and the fact that police have said no arrests have been made, many parents were concerned about campus safety and some students left early for Thanksgiving break.
In a memo released Monday afternoon, University of Idaho President Scott Green urged university officials to be empathetic and flexible in working with students who decided to drop classes to spend time with family.
“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 wrote of the slain students.
Police said anyone with information should contact the department at 208-883-7054 and asked people to respect the privacy of the victims’ family and friends.
Brian Nickerson, fire chief of the Moscow Volunteer Fire and EMS Department, said police were the first to arrive at the home. The first fire and EMS personnel did not go inside or take anyone from the scene, Nickerson said.
Moscow City is a close-knit college town located in the mountains of north-central Idaho, approximately 80 miles southeast of Spokane, Washington.
This week’s vigil for the slain students has been postponed until next week’s fall break, University of Idaho spokesman Kyle Pfannenstiel told CBS News on Tuesday.
Shortly after Moscow police announced a homicide investigation, students at the University of Virginia were also asked to shelter in place after police said a suspect shot students on a bus as they returned from a school field trip. Three members of the school’s football team were killed in the shooting, while two other students were injured. The shooting on Sunday sparked an intense manhunt, and authorities said Monday that the suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., has been taken into custody.