It could have been anyone, in any college town in the US, on any Saturday night. Such was the typical behavior of the murdered students in Moscow, Idaho, just hours before they were brutally stabbed.
The University of Idaho campus had been bustling that day, a sea of gold and silver, as the Vandals prepared for a home game against the UC Davis Aggies at the 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome. It was 28 degrees at kick-off – the weather was described as a frightening ‘freezing fog’ – but happy, loyal fans turned out; The Vandals’ 44-26 loss was disappointing but didn’t stop the students preparing to hit the city.
Among them were five girls who lived in a three-bedroom apartment building on King Road, just over a mile from the stadium and only two blocks from the edge of campus. Kaylee Goncalves and Maddie Mogen, both 21 and childhood best friends, hit downtown bars together. Xana Kernodle, 20, was planning to hang out with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin. The girls’ other two roommates would also be spending the night away.
The city of Moscow of 25,000 is really university focused. Covering over 1,600 hectares on the southwest corner of downtown, UI is the largest employer in the area, and its 11,500-strong enrollment accounts for nearly half of Moscow’s population. Students are dispersed in off-campus housing, shared apartments, rental apartments, sororities, and fraternities.
The girls’ home was among the closest houses to campus, standing on and against a hill amid other affordable houses and complexes, all with the look of college dormitories: string lights, peeling paint, used furniture, and used cars outside. The King Road residence was known for hosting parties; the roommates even make fun of it in TikTok videos.
The five young housemates were reportedly very popular as most if not all of them were involved in sororities. Xana’s friend – who was a triplet – was a member of the Signa Chi Brotherhood along with his brother Hunter. The Sigma Chi house on Nez Perce Drive can almost be seen from the girls’ home at 1122 King Road; The walk down the hill, across a road and a lawn and up another hill is about the length of a football field and a half.
Moscow’s small downtown is also within walking distance of King Road and campus, though most students — especially in Idaho’s bitter winters — take the elevator. It’s unclear how Kaylee and Maddie made their way to Main Street, but by 10:30 p.m. the young women were at the Corner Club, a low-rise hotspot with its own party bus that’s a “town staple,” according to UI senior Dylan Bartels. 22
It has a wide customer base but is particularly popular with members of fraternities and sororities, students say The Independent. As with many higher education institutions in the Greek system, there is a wide gulf between Greek and non-Greek social life, the students said, but there is no palpable animosity and everyone tends to live amicably together. Maddie, Xana, and another roommate were members of Pi Beta Phi; Kaylee promised with Alpha Phi.
Kaylee and Maddie, both blonde and bubbly, wore college bar casual attire — Kaylee wore ripped stonewashed jeans and an Idaho sweatshirt, Maddie a black jacket, darker jeans and black shoes. They spent about three hours at the Corner Club on the north edge of Main Street; As they left, the streets were teeming with other college kids looking for food and rides as they finished the night.
The couple walked straight down Main Street to a red brick building that used to house the now-defunct Garden Lounge. a popular food truck, Grub Wandering Kitchen — affectionately dubbed the Grub Truck by its many local fans — often parks outside on Main Street.
Kaylee and Maddie ordered, laughed and chatted with friends as they received their pasta carbonara; According to police, they were driven home from a “private party” and returned to King Road around 1.45am.
Xana and Ethan, meanwhile, had gone to a party across the street at Sigma Chi. The Fraternity House is built into the hillside and slopes uphill, overlooking Nez Perce Drive, which meanders through campus and passes the Arboretum just a short walk further uphill. The grounds of the UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden are expansive, beautiful, and located just off Taylor Road, just a block from the Girls’ House, which you must cross to get to Sigma Chi. The same road winds west, past the arboretum, up into a hilly residential area; to the east it intersects with Highway 95.
Police have specifically requested surveillance footage of areas surrounding the freeway and the arboretum.
Xana and Ethan returned to King Road around the same time as Kaylee and Maddie. It is unclear where they were between 9pm and 1.45am; The area would have been busy at the time, surrounded by other student accommodation as other young people were also going home. Bars close at 2am.
The other two housemates on King Road – who have still not been named by authorities – had gotten home first around 1am and fell asleep, according to police.
Maddie and Kaylee both called the same number multiple times about an hour after their return; Kaylee’s sister said the unanswered calls went to Jack DeCoeur, who dated her sister for years before their amicable split and still shared a dog named Murphy. The Goncalves family said they did not believe DeCoeur was involved in the crime, and police said he was not considered a suspect.
Aside from the calls, the rest of the night remains a mystery. Authorities believe one or more killers fatally stabbed Ethan, Xana, Kaylee and Maddie between 3 and 4 am; Their bodies were found on the second and third floors of the house. The surviving roommates, who were in the basement, slept through everything that happened and didn’t wake up until hours later, police said.
“The surviving housemates called friends to the residence, believing that one of the victims on the second floor had passed out and was not waking up,” the Moscow Police Department said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “At 11:58 a.m., a 911 call requested assistance to an unconscious person. The call came from one of the surviving roommates from inside the apartment. Several people spoke to the 911 dispatcher before a Moscow police officer arrived at the scene.”
It’s not clear when the “friends” arrived or who they are, and the circumstances of the 911 call were unclear from the start. But the call sparked the official discovery of a brutal scene, with all four victims stabbed to death with what police call a “fixed-blade knife.”
They still haven’t found the gun.
According to autopsies completed last week, “the victims were likely asleep, some had defensive wounds and each received multiple stab wounds. There was no sign of sexual assault,” police wrote on Facebook.
Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said the wounds were “quite extensive” and told NBC News that each victim was stabbed a different number of times and in different places on the body.
She added that it was not possible to tell from the injuries in which order the four victims were attacked. She told the local outlet Idaho News that the autopsies have revealed one thing: “It’s personal.”
From the beginning of the investigation, police have said the attack was “targeted” – but have not made any arrests or identified suspects in the case.
Authorities held another press conference on Wednesday – ten days after the killings – with no critical news. As Moscow braced itself for a somber Thanksgiving, the city had only fear — and no answers.