SPOKANE, Wash. –
Four University of Idaho students who were found dead in a rental house near campus were stabbed to death in their beds and likely were asleep when they were attacked, a county coroner told a cable news channel.
Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt also told NewsNation on Thursday that each victim suffered multiple stab wounds from a “pretty large knife.”
“It has to be somebody pretty angry in order to stab four people to death,” Mabbutt told NewsNation. The victims were stabbed in the chest and upper body, the coroner said.
Efforts by The Associated Press to reach Mabbutt by telephone Friday were diverted to an Idaho State Police spokesperson, who did not immediately return messages. In an evening statement, Moscow police confirmed that the coroner reported the victims were likely asleep and also that some of the victims had defensive wounds. Police additionally said there were no signs of sexual assault.
Comments from Mabbutt and the police expanded on autopsy reports released Thursday, which concluded the four students were murdered by being stabbed to death.
The killings have shaken Moscow, an Idaho Panhandle town of 25,000 residents that last saw a homicide about five years ago. The leafy college town is about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Spokane, Washington.
Officers have not identified a suspect or found a weapon.
All four victims were members of fraternities and sororities: seniors Madison Mogen, 21, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, of Rathdrum, Idaho; junior Xana Kernodle, 20, of Post Falls, Idaho; and freshman Ethan Chapin, 20, of Mount Vernon, Washington. The women were roommates. The bodies were found around noon Sunday.
The Moscow Police Department released a map Friday and later its statement with a rough timeline of events leading up to the deaths. It asked the public to provide any tips or leads.
The map showed that Ethan and Xana were seen at the Sigma Chi fraternity house between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday. Police said it’s believed the two returned to the home by 1:45 a.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, Kaylee and Maddie went to the Corner Club, a popular bar in downtown Moscow, from 10 p.m. Saturday to 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Then they visited a food truck on Main Street before using a ride-hailing service to return to the house by 1:45 a.m.
Surveillance video from the food truck shows Mogen and Goncalves ordering at the window, taking photos on their phones and chatting with friends in about a 10-minute segment.
Police said Friday that detectives do not believe a male seen in the video was involved in the crime.
Police have said evidence at the scene leads them to believe the students were targeted, though they haven’t given details. Investigators say nothing appears to have been stolen from the victims or the home. Police also said online reports of the victims being tied and gagged are not accurate.
Detectives seized the contents of three dumpsters on the same road as the residence for possible evidence, police said. They have also been contacted local businesses to determine if a fixed-blade knife was recently purchased.
After initially saying there was no ongoing danger, police reversed themselves Wednesday. “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said. “We still believe it’s a targeted attack. But the reality is there still is a person out there who committed four very horrible, horrible crimes.”
The two other people found unharmed in the sprawling house, described by police Friday as roommates, are not believed to be involved in the case, the statement said.
Fry has declined to say whether the roommates were able to provide an account of the killings or to specify who called 911. There was no sign of forced entry, according to the chief, and a door was found open by the first police officers to arrive.
Detectives are investigating nearly 500 tips and have done 38 interviews with people who may have information about the murders, police said. The Idaho State Police, the FBI and the Latah County Sheriff’s Office are assisting with the investigation.
AP reporter Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.