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It could be anyone, in any US college town, on any Saturday night. How common was the behavior of the murdered students hours before they were brutally stabbed to death in Moscow, Idaho.
The University of Idaho campus was busy that day, a sea of gold and silver as the Vandals prepared for a home game against the UC Davis Aggies in the 16,000-seat Kibby Dome. It was 28 degrees at kickoff – the weather was listed as an eerie “ice fog” – but happy, loyal fans turned out; The Vandals’ 44-26 loss was disappointing but didn’t stop the students from preparing to hit the town.
Among them were five girls living in a three-bedroom rental house on King Road, just over a mile from the stadium and just two blocks from the edge of campus. Kaylee Goncalves and Maddie Mogen, both 21 and childhood best friends, were heading to the bar town together. Xana Kernodle, 20, was planning to hang out with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin. The girls’ two other female roommates will also spend the night outside.
The 25,000-person city of Moscow is really university-centric. Set on 1,600 acres in the southwest corner of downtown, UI is the largest employer around, and its 11,500-strong enrollment is nearly half of Moscow’s population. Students are scattered around off-campus housing, sharing apartments, rental houses, sororities and fraternities.
The girls’ home was on a hill closest to campus, and opposite, among other affordable houses and complexes, all with undergrad decor: fairy lights, chipping paint, secondhand furniture and used cars outside. The King Road residence was known for hosting parties; Roommates also make fun of themselves for this in TikTok videos.
The three female victims lived with two other roommates in the house on King Road
The five young roommates were said to be well liked, with most, if not all of them, involved in sororities. Xana’s boyfriend — who was a triplet — was a member of the Cigna Chi fraternity, along with her brother Hunter. Sigma Chi House, on Nez Perce Drive, nearly visible from the girls’ house at 1122 King Road; Walk down the hill, one across the road and lawn and another up the hill roughly the length of a football field and a half.
This path, from the girls’ home, leads to Taylor Road; Frat houses dot the hilly grounds of the campus
The small town of Moscow is also within walking distance of King Road and campus, although most students — especially in bitter Idaho winters — will get a lift. It’s unclear how Kayleigh and Maddie headed to Main Street, but by 10:30 p.m. the young women were at the Corner Club, a low-slung hotspot with its own party bus that is “the head of town,” according to UI senior Dylan Bartel, 22.
It has a broad customer base but is especially popular with fraternity and sorority members, students told The Independent. Like many colleges in the Greek system, there is a large divide between Greek and non-Greek social life, students said, but there is no overt animosity and everyone tends to coexist amicably. Maddie, Jana, and another roommate were members of Pi Beta Phi; Kaylee pledged with Alpha Phi.
Kylie and Maddie, both blonde and bubbly, were dressed college bar casual – Kylie in stonewashed jeans and an Idaho sweatshirt, Maddie in a black jacket, dark denim jeans and black shoes. They spent about three hours at the Corner Club at the north end of Main Street; By the time they left, the streets were lined with other college kids looking for food and rides as the night wore on.
Ethan and Jana were at a frat party at Sigma Chi, pictured, across the street from the girls’ house; He was a member of a fraternity
The pair walked straight off Main Street into the red brick building that housed the now-defunct Garden Lounge; A favorite food truck, the Grub Wandering Kitchen — affectionately called the Grub Truck by local fans — often parks outside on Main Street.
Kaylee and Maddie ordered, laughed and chatted with friends as they got their pasta carbonara; According to police, they got a lift from a “private party” and returned to King Road at around 1.45pm.
Xana and Ethan, meanwhile, went to a party across the street at Sigma Chi. The frat house is built into the hill and slopes upward facing Nez Perce Drive, which runs through campus and past the Arboretum, a little further uphill. The grounds of the UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden are sweeping, beautiful and back up to Taylor Road, just a block from the girls’ house, which you need to get to Sigma Chi. The same road winds west past the Arboretum, a hilly residential neighborhood; To the east, it intersects with Highway 95.
Police specifically sought surveillance footage from the highway and the area around the arboretum.
The entrance to the University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden is located on campus, across the street from the Sigma Chi Frat House.
Xana and Ethan return to King Road at the same time as Kaylee and Maddie. It is not clear where they were between 9pm and 1.45am; The area would have been busy at that time, surrounded by other student housing, as other youths were also heading home. The bar closes at 2 am.
Two other King Road roommates – whose names have not yet been released by authorities – returned home first, around 1 a.m., and fell asleep, police said.
Maddie and Kaylee both made multiple calls to the same number within an hour of getting home; Kylie’s sister said the unanswered calls were attributed to Jack DeCour, who dated her sister for years before amicably splitting, still sharing a dog named Murphy. The Goncalves family said they do not believe Decoure was involved in the crime, and police said he is not considered a suspect.
Except for the calls, the rest of the night remains a mystery. Authorities believe a killer or killers stabbed Ethan, Jana, Kaylee and Maddie sometime between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Their bodies were found on the second and third floors of the house. The surviving roommates, who were in the basement, slept through what happened and woke up hours later, police said.
Kaylee and Maddie shopped for food at the popular Grub truck, which was parked outside this red brick building on Main Street in downtown Moscow.
“Surviving roommates called friends to the residence because they believed one of the second-floor victims had passed out and was not waking up,” the Moscow Police Department said in a Facebook post Sunday. “A 911 call at 11:58 a.m. requested help for an unconscious person. The call came from inside the residence to a surviving roommate’s cellphone. Multiple people spoke to the 911 dispatcher before Moscow police officers arrived on the scene.”
It’s unclear when the “friends” arrived or who they were, and the circumstances surrounding the 911 call were unclear from the start. But the call triggered the official discovery of a brutal scene, with all four stabbed with what police are calling a “fixed-blade knife.”
They still haven’t found the weapon.
According to autopsies completed last week, the victims “were likely asleep, some had self-defense wounds and each had been stabbed multiple times. There were no signs of sexual assault,” police wrote on Facebook.
Latah County Coroner Kathy Mabutt said the wounds were “pretty extensive” and told NBC News that each victim was stabbed at different times and in different places on the body.
He added that the order in which the four victims were attacked could not be determined from the injuries. He told local outlet Idaho News that the autopsies revealed one thing: “It’s personal.”
Since the start of the investigation, police have said the attack was “targeted” – but have not arrested or identified any suspects in the case.
Authorities held another news conference on Wednesday — ten days after the murder — without any critical updates. As Moscow prepares for a terrifying Thanksgiving, the city has only fear — and no answers.