Timeline: What we know so far about the murder of four University of Idaho students

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Officials in the small town of Moscow, Idaho, have been a little cryptic about what happened to four University of Idaho students who were murdered last weekend.

Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Kaylee Goncalves were found dead at a house near the university campus on Sunday, mere hours after posting smiling photographs on Instagram.

Although no suspect has been arrested, police have claimed that there is no ongoing danger to local residents, without saying how they know that.

So what exactly happened in the hours before and after the students’ bodies were discovered? Here’s the best timeline we currently have.

Monday 22 August – Term begins

The University of Idaho’s fall semester this year began on 22 August, drawing all four students back to campus.

Mr Chapin, 20, was from Conway in northwestern Washington state, while Ms Kernodle was from the suburbs of Phoenix in Arizona. Ms Mogen and Ms Goncalves were both from Idaho, near the city of Coeur d’Alene about 84 miles north of Moscow.

“Love this place. Love this people,” Ms Goncalves said on Instagram in October, posting a happy picture of herself. A previous post, commemorating Ms Mogen’s 21st birthday in May, showed a timeline of the pair “growing up together”, going all the way back to their childhoods.

Slain University of Idaho students Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves


Saturday 12 November – ‘One lucky girl’

At 8:57 local time, Ms Goncalves posted for the last time on Instagram, including a picture of herself and all three other students standing together arm-in-arm on the porch of a house.

“One lucky girl to be surrounded by these people everyday,” she wrote in her caption.

Two other women are also shown in the photo, which was taken in daylight and therefore at least an hour or two beforehand. Their identity is not yet known.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died

(Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)

Sunday 13 November – Murder

According to Moscow mayor Art Bettge, the students were killed some time between 3am and 4am on Sunday morning.

Police later said that they believe an “edged weapon such as a knife” was used to kill the four students, and that this was “an isolated, targeted attack” posing “no imminent threat to the community at large”.

Quizzed by The Idaho Statesman, police captain Anthony Dahlinger said that all four students were being considered victims, ruling out the possibility of a murder-suicide. But he declined to say whether he would describe the deaths as violent.

“All I can say is the deaths are ruled a homicide at this point, and homicide and murder are synonymous,” Mr Dahlinger said. “We certainly have a crime here, so we are looking for a suspect.”

Noon on Sunday – Mystery 911 call

Police were called to a house on King Road, near the University of Idaho campus, at 11:58am on Sunday.

Officers were responding to a 911 call reporting “an unconscious individual”, but have not said who placed that call, whether that person was on the scene when they arrived, or whether that person is a potential suspect.

2pm on Sunday – Shelter in place

Not long after the bodies were discovered, the University of Idaho put its campus into lockdown.

“VANDAL ALERT,” said the institution’s official Twitter account, addressing students by their school nickname (drawn from its sports team the Idaho Vandals).

“Moscow Police Department is investigating a homicide on King Road near campus. Suspect is not known at this time. Stay away from the area and shelter in place.”

Monday 14 November – Mystery

On Monday, the Moscow Police Department named the four students, but officials gave confusing accounts of their fate.

Mr Bettge told The New York Times that he believed the killing was a “crime of passion”, and later admitted to another outlet: “We don’t really know what it was.”

University president Scott Green said Monday classes would be cancelled “out of respect for these fellow Vandals”.

Tuesday 15 November – Backlash

As the mystery deepened, Moscow residents and students began to post on social media about their dissatisfaction with the explanations coming from local officials.

Following Mayor Bettge’s “crime of passion” remarks, he told the Statesman that he was simply suggesting this as one potential motive, saying: “It could be any of a number of things. The police don’t know yet. I haven’t been told.”

He added: “They have ascertained that there’s no other threat to the community. I would say it was just a crime focused on this one location.”

The same day, Annie Reneau, who said she was the mother of a University of Idaho senior, wrote a lengthy Twitter thread that summed up the community’s fears.

“I’m not sure if people who aren’t directly tied to the University of Idaho in some way understand how little information students, parents and community members have gotten about the murder of 4 students in an off-campus apt two days ago,” Ms Reneau said.

“Police believe it was an isolated, targeted attack. Okay, but somebody who was crazy/angry/drugged up/whatever enough to stab four people to death, even if targeted, is out there somewhere. I’m not generally paranoid, but that doesn’t sit well, does it?”

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