The murders of four University of Idaho students in mid-November at an off-campus dormitory shocked the small community of Moscow, Idaho, where investigators grappled with what the city’s police chief would later describe as a case “very complex”.
No suspects were immediately named in the deaths of housemates Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20; as well as Kernodle’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin, 20. A murder weapon, believed to be a large fixed-blade knife, was also not found.
But the intense scrutiny of the unsolved murders generated thousands of leads for the FBI.
Now, nearly seven weeks later, with the community on edge and speculation about who might commit such violence, police announced the arrest in Pennsylvania on Friday of a criminal justice doctoral student.
“This is not the end of this investigation,” Latah County Attorney Bill Thompson said at a news conference announcing the arrest. “Indeed, this is a new beginning.”
Here’s a timeline of the key moments in the case.
12th of November
At around 9 p.m., Kernodle and Chapin are seen at a party at Chapin’s fraternity, Sigma Chi, a short walk from the King Road home, according to investigators.
That night, Goncalves uploads photos to her Instagram account with photos of the friends with the caption: “A lucky girl to be surrounded by these people every day.”
At approximately 10 pm, Goncalves and Mogen go to a sports bar in Moscow, the Corner Club.
At approximately 1:30 a.m., Goncalves and Mogen are seen placing orders from a nearby food truck, according to the truck’s live feed.
Investigators say Kernodle and Chapin return to the three-story apartment building on King Road around 1:45 a.m., while Goncalves and Mogen take a car home, arriving around 1:56 a.m.
Meanwhile, two other housemates who had been out that night had arrived home before the others, around 1 a.m., Moscow police say.
At 11:58 a.m., a 911 call is made on the cell phone of one of the other housemates requesting assistance for an “unconscious person.” (Both housemates were uninjured.)
Police alert public to deaths in a Press release and while they say no one is in custody, they “do not believe there is an ongoing risk to the community based on information gathered during the preliminary investigation.”
With no suspects in custody, Moscow police are retracting earlier comments that there was no threat to the largely rural city of nearly 26,000.
“We don’t have a suspect at the moment, and that individual is still out there,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry told a news conference. He adds that more than 25 investigators from the Idaho State Police and the FBI are assisting on the case.
Preliminary autopsy results show that all four victims were likely attacked with a large knife and died sometime after 2 a.m. from multiple stab wounds, says Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt.
She describes her injuries as “quite extensive.”
Police say the victims were most likely asleep when they were killed, and some of them had defensive wounds. There were also no signs of sexual assault.
Meanwhile, detectives seize the contents of three dumpsters near the house to look for possible evidence and contact local businesses to determine if a knife has been recently purchased.
A vigil is held at the University of Idaho in honor of the victims, with some family members in attendance.
“We’re going to get our justice,” says Steven Goncalves, Kaylee’s father, adding that his daughter and Mogen had been best friends since sixth grade and found out they were in the same bed when they were killed.
“They went to high school together, then they started looking at colleges, they came here together. They eventually moved into the same apartment together,” Goncalves said. “And in the end, they died together.”
Moscow police reaffirmed that the quadruple slaying was part of a “targeted attack” after authorities apparently suggested otherwise.
“We remain consistent in our belief that this was in fact a targeted attack, but we have not concluded whether the target was the residence or its occupants,” a police spokesman says.
The department also continues to dispel rumors and speculation online, saying it has cleared certain people seen interacting with Goncalves and Mogen the night they were killed. Police also say that the two housemates who were home during the attack had been sleeping that night.
The two housemates, Bethany Funke and Dylan Mortensen, post letters saying they struggle to come to terms with why the lives of “four beautiful people” were so brutally taken.
Detectives focus on the activities of Chapin and Kernodle the night they were murdered, asking the public for information about the nearly five hours since the pair arrived at the King Road apartment house for Sigma Chi’s party.
6th of December
Police say they recognize how frustrating a lack of news can be for families and the public, but insist they don’t want to jeopardize the case.
“We’re at that point in the investigation where we’re still gathering information, we’re still gathering leads, we’re still gathering evidence, we’re still doing everything we need to do,” Fry said in a statement. video posted online.
The police begin to remove the personal items of the victims from the apartment building and return them to the families.
They also announce what appears to be an integral part of the investigation: They say they want to talk with some occupant of a white 2011-13 Hyundai Elantra with unknown license plates. They won’t say whether they believe the driver is related to the killer, but say that person may have “critical information” to share.
Kristi Goncalves, Kaylee’s mother, expresses frustration during an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” show that she only found out about police interest in the Hyundai Elentra when the rest of the public found out, underscoring the frustrations that the families of some victims feel “left in the dark”. .”
Fry tells NBC News that his department is in daily contact with the families and “we ask that you be patient” as the investigation progresses. The police chief insists again that the investigation is not an cold case and that “our ultimate goal is to bring someone to justice for those families and those victims.”
Police announce the arrest of a suspect: Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, a resident of Pullman, Washington, and a doctoral student at Washington State University. he is apprehended in northeastern Pennsylvaniaabout 2,500 miles from the Idaho campus.
According to two law enforcement sources, DNA evidence played a key role in linking the killings to Kohberger. He is expected to appear in court on January 3 for an extradition hearing.
At a press conference, Fry says he thinks Kohberger is the only suspect.
“What I can tell you is that we have an individual in custody who committed these horrible crimes,” he says, “and I believe our community is safe.”