With a killer still on the loose, residents of a small college community in Idaho are warned to stay on high alert as authorities try to figure out how four students wound up brutally stabbed to death in a home while two roommates were unharmed and a door left wide open.
“We do not have a suspect at this time, and that individual is still out there,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Wednesday.
A homicide weapon and motive also have eluded local police working with the FBI and state police to hunt down a suspect in the city of 25,000, which hasn’t recorded a murder since 2015, according to state police data.
“We cannot say there’s no threat to the community,” Fry said Wednesday during a news conference. “And as we have stated, please stay vigilant, report any suspicious activity and be aware of your surroundings at all times.”
Police previously had said there was no threat to the community.
The new details on the investigation were released days after four University of Idaho students – Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves – were found dead Sunday afternoon in a bloody crime scene, shattering a sense of security in the community near the Washington border.
“We’re reviewing video that has been collected, but we’re asking citizens to contact us with any information you may have that will help in this investigation,” Fry said, acknowledging the crime has “affected all of us, the families, the University of Idaho, our community, our country and our officers.”
Classes at the University of Idaho have resumed since they were canceled Monday, university President Scott Green said.
“A number of our students still want to go to class,” he said Wednesday. “They gain comfort being around other students. They gain comfort from interacting and staying busy with their faculty, and attending classes, labs, some are working on their semester projects, so we’ve heard from them.”
The school is “encouraging students and employees to take care of themselves” as they head into Thanksgiving break, Green said.
The school has “continually pushed for as much information as possible, knowing we cannot interfere with the important work of a good investigation,” Green said Wednesday in a statement.
“We just want justice for these victims,” he said.
Police: 2 roommates were home during the killings
As the investigation continues, police have begun laying out a timeline of what happened in the hours leading up to the killings.
Chapin and Kernodle were at a party on campus Saturday night, while Mogen and Goncalves were at a downtown bar before they all returned to the home early Sunday – sometime after 1:45 a.m., Fry said.
Mogen and Goncalves were seen ordering from a late-night food truck in Moscow that night, a live Twitch stream from Grub Truckers shows. The pair approached the truck around 1:41 a.m., placed an order for food and are seen chatting with each other and other people as they wait for their order.
The two students didn’t seem to be in distress or danger, said Joseph Woodall, 26, who manages the truck.
All four victims were killed at some point in the early morning hours Sunday, Fry said, but there was no 911 call until noon. All four victims were stabbed with a knife, he said.
The chief didn’t reveal who called 911.
Two additional roommates were home at the time of the deaths, neither of whom were injured nor held hostage, Green said.
“We’re not just focusing just on them, we’re focusing on everybody that may be coming and going from that residence,” he said.
The two roommates have been fully cooperative with law enforcement, Idaho State Police spokesman Aaron Snell told CNN on Wednesday.
After the 911 call about an unconscious person came in, officers found the door to the home open and a gruesome crime scene.
There was no evidence of forced entry, Fry said. “We’re not 100% sure the door was unlocked, there was no damage to anything and the door was still open when we got there,” Fry said.
There was “quite a bit of blood in the apartment,” Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt told CNN affiliate KXLY Tuesday.
“It was a pretty traumatic scene to find four dead college students in a residence,” she said.
The autopsies could provide further information about what happened, Mabbutt said.
“There could be some, you know, some evidence of the suspect that we get during the autopsies which would be helpful,” Mabbutt said.
Families honor the group of friends
Just hours before their deaths, Goncalves had posted a photo of the foursome with the caption, “one lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” adding a heart emoji.
The 21-year-old from Rathdrum, Idaho, was a senior majoring in general studies and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority.
Her older sister, Alivea Goncalves, sent a statement to the Idaho Statesman on behalf of her family and Mogen’s.
“They were smart, they were vigilant, they were careful and this all still happened,” she said. “No one is in custody and that means no one is safe. Yes, we are all heartbroken. Yes, we are all grasping. But more strong than any of these feelings is anger. We are angry. You should be angry.”
Mogen, 21, was from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and a senior majoring in marketing. She was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
Chapin, 20, was one of three triplets, all of whom are enrolled at the University of Idaho, his family said in a statement. He was a freshman from Conway, Washington, majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management. He was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
“Ethan lit up every room he walked into and was a kind, loyal, loving son, brother, cousin, and friend,” his mother, Stacy Chapin, said. “Words cannot express the heartache and devastation our family is experiencing. It breaks my heart to know we will never be able to hug or laugh with Ethan again, but it’s also excruciating to think about the horrific way he was taken from us.”
Kernodle, 20, was from Avondale, Arizona. She was majoring in marketing and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
She was “positive, funny and loved by everyone who met her,” said her older sister, Jazzmin Kernodle.
“She was so lighthearted, and always lifted up a room,” Jazzmin Kernodle said. “She made me such a proud big sister, and I wish I could have had more time with her. She had so much life left to live. My family and I are at a loss of words, confused, and anxiously waiting for updates on the investigation.”
She also offered condolences to the other victims and their families. “My sister was so lucky to have them in her life.”
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Sharif Paget, Caroll Alvarado, Veronica Miracle and Andi Babineau contributed to this report.