‘Edged weapon’ used in ‘targeted attack’ of four slain Idaho college students, police say

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Police in Idaho said Tuesday they believe an “edged weapon” such as a knife was used in a “targeted attack” on four college students, shedding light on a case that has left a local community shocked and grappling with unanswered questions.

Police in the city of Moscow said they have not recovered a weapon but came to the conclusion based on preliminary information. The victims — three women and one man, all students at the University of Idaho — were found dead before noon Sunday at a private home about a half-block from campus, police said.

“Autopsies are scheduled to be completed later this week and will hopefully provide more definitive information on the exact cause of the deaths,” police said.

All four deaths have been ruled homicides; police said they don’t have a suspect in custody.

Cathy Mabbutt, Latah County Coroner, called the initial findings “gruesome.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this in the 16 years I’ve been in this position,” she said, adding that she’s hopeful the autopsies will be finished tomorrow.

Officers investigate the deaths of four University of Idaho students at an apartment complex south of campus Monday.Zach Wilkinson / The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP

“Investigators believe this was an isolated, targeted attack and there is no imminent threat to the community at large,” the police said, adding that they are recreating a timeline of events in an effort to identify persons of interest.

The mayor of Moscow, Art Bettge, has speculated the deaths may be linked to a property crime “gone wrong” or a “crime of passion,” but without a suspect or knowing whether anything was missing from the home, a motive remains elusive.

“Patience is needed to allow an investigation to proceed in meticulous fashion,” he said.

The slain students were identified Monday as Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.

In a memo to students, university President Scott Green said he and his wife were “heartbroken.”

The school canceled classes Monday and was providing counseling and additional security for students and employees who said they didn’t feel safe.

“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 said.

Moscow, a rural city of roughly 25,000 people just east of the Washington state line, “is, excepting recent events, quiet and crime-free,” Bettge said. There hasn’t been a homicide reported in the city in at least the past several years, according to police.

Chapin, of Mount Vernon, Washington, was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management, the memo said.

Kernodle, of Post Falls, Idaho, was a junior and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority majoring in marketing.

Mogen, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a senior majoring in marketing, was also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

And Goncalves, of Rathdrum, Idaho, was a senior and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority majoring in general studies.

The relationships among some of the students were not clear. In an Instagram post Saturday, Goncalves included an image of herself and several friends, including Mogen, and wrote: “One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday.”

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