Boise, Idaho: In a typical year, University of Idaho students would be busy between classes and the library, preparing for the pre-final cram period known as “dead week.”
But on Wednesday, just under half of the students appeared to have left, choosing to stay home and take online classes rather than return to the city where the murders of four classmates remain unsolved, said Blaine Eckles, student counselor from the university. Some of the students who attended relied on security guards hired by the university to take them to class because they didn’t want to walk the campus alone.
Moscow police have not yet named a person interested in the stabbing of Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; and Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington. The three women lived together in a rented house across campus, and Chapin stayed there that night.
A coroner said they were probably asleep when they were attacked. Two weeks later, investigators have yet to find a weapon used in the murders — believed to be a military-style knife — or explain why they believe the killings were “targeted.”
The murders have left the university and the small farming community that contains it shaken. Surrounded by rolling wheat and bean fields, the town, with a population of 26,000, had not seen a murder since 2015.
“When we lose students, especially under these circumstances, my heart is absolutely broken,” Eckles said. “It kind of shakes you up knowing that in this community, which is generally incredibly safe, something so horrific can happen.”
Police said last week they had been following tips that Goncalves had a stalker but had been unable to identify one. They have also quashed rumors of other incidents – including a car break-in and the killing of a dog – possibly related to the case, as well as a rumor that the victims were bound or gagged.
As students and faculty members try to navigate a quagmire of grief and fear, government agencies and community members are looking for answers and trying to help mitigate the damage.