The University of Idaho murders

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Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle

In an off campus home in Moscow, Idaho at the University of Idaho, five girlfriends lived together on King Road: 21-year old Madison or Maddie Mogen who was a senior, majoring in marketing, her best friend, 21-year-old senior, Kaylee Goncalves who majored in general studies, 20-year-old Xana Kernodle was a junior & marketing major & two other girls, 20-year-old Dylan Mortensen & Bethany Funke. On the night of Saturday, November 12, 2022, Maddie & Kaylee headed out to the Corner Club, a sports bar, in Moscow, Idaho. The two were considered “the inseparable duo”; Maddie was described as compassionate & happy-go-lucky while Kaylee was said to be strong & driven.  

Xana & her boyfriend, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin headed out to the Sigma Chi house where Ethan was a member. Friends said they were the “perfect pair” & had an “unstoppable, loving relationship.” The two other roommates, Dylan & Bethany also went out that night in Moscow & saw Xana & Ethan at the fraternity house at 9pm.

Video footage from the Corner Club showed Maddie & Kaylee there between 10 pm-1:30 am & were later seen on video at Grub Truck, a local food truck at about 1:40am since the Grub Truck live streams video on Twitch which is available for public viewing on their website. They used a private person to get them home at about 1:56 am in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 13th. Xana & Ethan also arrived home right around this time; Ethan didn’t live at the house, he was just staying over with Xana. Dylan & Bethany had returned home at 1am. At approximately 4am, Xana received a contactless DoorDash delivery to the house which was left on the porch.  

Bethany was asleep in her bedroom on the east side of the first floor of the home. Dylan was asleep in her bedroom on the southeast side of the second floor when she woke up around this time & heard what she thought was Kaylee playing with her dog Murphy in one of the upstairs bedrooms on the third floor. Then, a short time later, she heard who she thought was Kaylee say something to the effect of, “there’s someone here” but it could have been Xana on her phone as records showed that she was on TikTok at 4:12am. At 4:17am, a security camera from a neighbor’s house located less than 50 feet from the west wall of Xana’s room picked up a distorted audio of what sounded like voices or a whimper followed by a loud thud. A dog was also barking during this time. 

Dylan looked out of her bedroom when she heard a comment about someone being there but didn’t see anything.  She opened the door a second time when she thought she heard crying coming from Xana’s room. At that point, she heard a male’s voice say something like, “it’s okay, I’m going to help you.” When she heard this, she opened her door a third time & she saw a man in black clothes & a mask that covered his mouth & nose walking toward her. He was described as 5’10” or taller, male, not very muscular but athletically built & with bushy eyebrows. He walked past her as she stood frozen in shock as he headed toward the back sliding glass door. She didn’t recognize this person & quickly locked herself in her bedroom. This is when investigators believe that the murderer left the scene.

Based on all of the gathered information, investigators believe that the murders occurred between 4 and 4:25am. Later that morning, Dylan & Bethany called friends to the house because they thought that one of their roommates from the second floor had passed out & wasn’t waking up. At 11:58am on November 13th, police received a 911 call from one of the roommate’s phones, requesting help for an unconscious person. Responding officers found four deceased victims at the house. Police were obviously confused as to why it took eight hours for police to be called, unsure if it was an issue of intoxication and or fear. Police don’t feel that an earlier call would have saved the victims lives since they weren’t crying out or moving after Kohberger left the house.

At approximately 4pm on the 13th, Sergeant Blaker from the Moscow PD responded to the home to process the crime scene. There was no sign of forced entry. He entered the home on the bottom floor & walked upstairs to the second floor & down a hallway to Xana Kernodle’s bedroom; her body was laying on the floor with wounds that appeared to be caused by an edged weapon. Ethan was also in the room, deceased from sharp-force injuries.

Sergeant Blaker then made his way to the third floor that contained two bedrooms & one bathroom. In Kaylee’s bedroom, officers found her dog Murphy that she shared with her ex-boyfriend unharmed. As they entered Maddie’s room, they found both her & Kaylee deceased from visible stab wounds. They located a tan leather knife sheath laying on the bed next to Maddie that had “Ka-Bar” “USMC” & the United States Marine Corps eagle, globe & anchor insignia stamped on the outside. The Idaho State Lab later found a single source of male DNA on the button snap of the knife sheath. A latent shoe print was found that had a diamond-shaped pattern similar to what would be on a Van’s shoe sole just outside the door of Dylan’s bedroom on the second floor which is consistent with her statement about the path that the murderer walked. 

From the beginning, police believed that this was an isolated, targeted attack but didn’t clarify why. They later backtracked & said that statement was a miscommunication & that they didn’t know if any of the victims or the home had been specifically targeted. The following day they released another statement saying that they do believe that the attack was targeted since there were no signs of forced entry & two of the girls were left unharmed.

Police obtained video footage from the early morning hours of Sunday, November 13th in the area surrounding the house, collected from numerous residential homes & businesses between the hours of 3am-6am. Where the house is located & the time that was being reviewed, a very limited number of vehicles typically pass through.  Investigators began to notice a white sedan that was observed in the area, passing the house multiple times starting at 3:29am & ending at 4:20am. At 4:20am the car was leaving the area of the house at a high rate of speed. The car didn’t have front plates.  Based on the roads that the car traveled, police believed that the person was heading toward Pullman, Washington which is 10 miles from Moscow & is home to Washington State University. The footage was given to a forensic examiner that determined the car was a 2011-2016 Hyundai Elantra & then began to investigate people that owned this car.

On November 17th, autopsies were done & concluded that all four victims had been stabbed multiple times. It was likely that they were asleep when the attacks happened but some had defensive wounds. There was no sign of sexual assault.

20-year-old Ethan Chapin majored in recreation, sport & tourism management; his memorial service was held on November 21st; he was a triplet, born right before his sister & brother who also attend the University of Idaho. The siblings were very close & considered themselves best friends. His mom, Stacy, described him as “one of the most incredible people you’ll ever know.” “He laughed continuously. He smiled when he woke up & was still smiling when he went to bed. He was kind to all & a friend to all.” He used to work at a tulip farm & after his death, a tulip was created in his honor by mixing yellow & white tulips, planting thousands in Washington & sending thousands more to be planted at the university. The tulip was named “Ethan’s smile”; the yellow was for the University of Idaho & white because it’s an eternal color. 

Xana Kernodle was described as an exceptionally focused student that put school first & dating second. Her family was thrilled when she met Ethan & saw how happy they were together when they started dating in the spring of 2022.

Steve Goncalves & his wife, Kaylee’s mom, decided not to have a funeral because they feared that the monster that murdered their daughter could potentially be there. In an interview with ABC news, he said, “You can’t imagine sending your girl to college and they come back in an urn. You’re numb, you can’t absorb that amount of pain & agony.” Kaylee was the middle child of five siblings & they described her as highly motivated & someone who was going places & always up for a challenge. She had a job lined up in Austin for after graduation but ultimately wanted to live near her best friend, Maddie. They considered Maddie Mogen as their “bonus child” because of the close friendship the two shared as inseparable best friends since the sixth grade. They considered each other more like sisters than best friends. Kaylee’s dad said, “they went to high school together, then they started looking at colleges, they came here together. They eventually got into the same apartment together. And in the end, they died together, in the same room, in the same bed.” Maddie’s dad, Ben said that she was his only child; someone who was a hard worker, nice, funny & beautiful. Maddie’s boyfriend Jake said she had a talent for making people laugh.

Meanwhile, investigators were given access to video footage from WSU & found the white Elantra at 2:44am on November 13 that was consistent with the car seen at the crime scene. At 2:53am the car was seen heading towards Moscow, Idaho.

At approximately 5:25am, the car was seen on five cameras in Pullman, WA on the WSU campus. On November 25, 2022, area law enforcement was asked to be on the lookout for a white Hyundai Elantra & on November 29, 2022 WSU police officer Daniel Tiengo tracked white Elantras that had been registered at WSU & found a 2015 white Elantra with Pennsylvania plates registered to Bryan Kohberger who lived in an apartment in Pullman, Washington approximately ¾ of a mile from the intersection where the last camera caught sight of the car.

This same day, November 29th, WSU Officer Curtis Whitman was on the lookout for the car & located a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra in the parking lot of an apartment complex that houses WSU students. Officer Whitman ran the plates that came back to Bryan Kohberger with a Washington tag. The driver’s license information & photo were reviewed & indicated that he is a 6’0”, 185# white male. His photo showed that  he has bushy eyebrows & his physical description is consistent with the one provided by Dylan.

On further investigation it was noted that Bryan Kohberger was pulled over on a traffic stop that was recorded on body camera on August 21, 2022 in Moscow, ID. He was the sole occupant of the car & it was noted that the Pennsylvania plates were set to expire on November 30, 2022. On October 14, 2022 he was stopped again, this time by a WSU officer, again the sole occupant of the car, again, with Pennsylvania plates. On November 18th he received Washington plates which require that front & back plates be displayed vs. Pennsylvania which only requires back plates.

On December 13, 2022 this same car was captured in Loma, Colorado & later in Hancock County, Indiana on December 15, 2022 & finally in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania  on December 16th. It was later discovered that Bryan & his dad took a pre-planned cross country trip together, traveling about 2500 miles. During the trip, he was pulled over twice on December 15th east of Indianapolis; the first time for following a van too closely & then nine minutes later for speeding. He was the driver of the car & his dad was the passenger. At the time, there was no information that would have led to his arrest in relation to the Idaho murders. They were released with a verbal warning.

Based on information through the WSU website, police discovered that Kohberger is a 28-year-old PhD student in criminology at WSU; he has an undergraduate degree in psychology & cloud-based forensics. He’s also a teaching assistant at WSU & he had been a student there since August. Records also showed that he wrote an essay when he applied for an internship with the Pullman PD in the fall of 2022. In his essay, he wrote that he had an interest in assisting rural law enforcement agencies with how to better collect & analyze technological data in public safety operations. He also posted a Reddit survey asking participants to provide information to “understand how emotions & psychological traits influence decision making when committing a crime.”

 A college classmate of Kohberger described him as someone who was comfortable around others & eagerly participated in class. He said that after the murders, Kohberger looked tired & disheveled & seemed chattier than usual. People from high school said that he was an overweight kid who got bullied a lot but in the beginning of senior year, classmates noted that he had drastically changed, losing at least 100#, basically unrecognizable & rail thin. At this point, people claimed that he had started to become a bully & more aggressive & began using heroin. At some point he went into recovery & became sober & then put his focus into criminology studies.

Only months before the murders, Kohberger was interviewed by the then chief of the Pullman PD, Gary Jenkins about a research assistantship for a public safety position in April of 2022 though it’s not clear if he was ever offered the position. 

Search warrants were obtained to determine cell phones that were utilized on cell towers in close proximity to the house on King Road on November 13, 2022 between 3 and 5am. Kohberger’s phone did not utilize cell towers in close proximity to the house between 3-5am & it’s assumed he left his phone elsewhere or turned it off, knowing he was going to commit a crime that night.  History shows that criminals often survey the area where they plan to commit a crime prior to doing it & usually don’t turn their devices off or leave them elsewhere during those times since they don’t plan on committing the crime at that time. 

On December 23, 2022, a search warrant of Kohberger’s phone records was granted between November 12, 2022 at 12am and November 14th at 12am (24 hours before & after the murders). Records showed that at 2:47am on November 13th, Kohberger left his apartment complex & moved, consistent with what video surveillance showed of the white Elantra on the night of the murders. The phone stopped reporting to the network almost immediately & didn’t return to the network until 4:48am in which time it utilized the network south of Moscow, near Blaine, ID until it traveled back to his apartment complex at 5:27am. The movement is consistent with what was seen on surveillance of the white Elantra. 

Further review showed that he was in the location of the King Road house between 9:12-9:21am, the day that the four victims were found murdered. A search warrant for cell phone use was granted on December 23, 2022 for review of records from June 23, 2022 to present time to determine if Kohberger stalked any of the victims before the murders. This showed that his phone had been in the area of the King Road house at least twelve times before the murders; all but one time was during the late evening & early morning hours.

On December 27, 2022, Pennsylvania agents recovered the trash from the Kohberger home in Albrightsville , Pennsylvania for DNA testing at the Idaho State Lab. The next day, the lab reported that the DNA from the trash & that obtained from the knife sheath identified a male as not being excluded as the biological father of the suspect with 99.9998% certainty. With that, an arrest warrant for Bryan Kohberger was requested on December 29, 2022. A neighbor of Kohberger’s & fellow WSU grad student said that Kohberger had mentioned to him that he had submitted his DNA for consumer genetic testing months before the murders. A neighbor also said that he spoke with Kohberger about the murders days after they happened; Kohberger brought it up in conversation & asked if he had heard about them. He said that it seemed that there were no leads & that it was a crime of passion. 

He was arrested on December 30th in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains in the early morning hours for four counts of first degree murder & burglary. On January 3rd, during his court appearance in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, he agreed to be extradited to Idaho & was moved the next day, January 4th. He made his first court appearance in Moscow on the 5th as Kaylee’s parents sat, staring him down as he wore a bright orange jumpsuit with no shackles. As charges were read for each victim, the judge said that each was “stabbed & murdered with premeditation with malice & forethought.” As their child’s name was read, each family member was overcome with grief. Kohberger chose to have a court appointed attorney.

Classes on the University of Idaho campus resumed on January 11th, Ethan’s two siblings also returning.

It was discovered that Bryan had eaten at the Mad Greek restaurant in Moscow where Maddie & Xana worked at least twice before the murders. They were servers & each time Bryan ordered a vegan pizza though it wasn’t clear if they waited on him. A former employee said there was nothing suspicious about his visits but they stood out after he examined his food, making sure it didn’t come into contact with animal products. His now deleted Instagram account also showed that he once followed Maddie, Kaylee & Xana though they didn’t follow him back. In late October, he sent a message to one of the victims & when they didn’t respond, he sent several more messages. It’s not yet clear if the victim even viewed the messages or were aware of his existence. Review of the messages didn’t indicate he was getting frustrated or angry about the lack of response, though very persistent. 

A search of Bryan’s office in the department of criminal justice & criminology found nothing though from his apartment, police found a single black, disposable glove, eight possible hair strands, a single possible animal hair strand, four other possible hairs & a computer tower. It was expected that blood be found at Kohberger’s apartment because of the significant amount of blood at the crime scene; police found a dark red spot, two cuttings from uncased pillow of reddish-brown stains & mattress covers with multiple stains

At Kohberger’s status hearing on January 12, he waived his right to a speedy trial which would have set his preliminary hearing within 14 days. His attorney is wanting more time to review all of the evidence & the preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 26th; he has not yet entered a plea. In the meantime, he’s being held at the Latah County jail. Public defender Anne Taylor will be representing Kohberger; she previously represented the father & stepmother of Maddie Mogen as well as Xana Kernodle’s mom who she was representing on drug charges; court documents show that she dropped Xana’s mom as a client on January 5th, the same day she took on Kohberger’s case. Because  she has ties to the victim’s families, concerns have been raised.

Students at the University of Idaho launched a fundraiser, selling bracelets on the UI website in honor of the murder victims with the goal of building a permanent memorial on campus.

References: 

  1. 3KRTV Great Falls: Idaho student murders: court documents released
  2. ABC News: Dad of slain Idaho student pleads with public for help: ‘I have to have my justice’
  3. ABC News: Idaho college murders: The complete timeline of events
  4. People: Accused Idaho Killer Bryan Kohberger Repeatedly Messaged One of  the Victims on Instagram
  5. Fox News: Idaho murders: Bryan Kohberger search warrants unsealed
  6. Independent: Idaho murders – news: Bryan Kohberger’s attorney’s ties to family of second student victim revealed
  7. CBS News: We we know so far about the investigation into the Idaho college student murders
  8. New York Post: Cops ‘puzzled’ by 8-hour window before Idaho murder victims’ roommates called 911

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