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Where Does the University of Idaho Murders Case Stand One Year Later?
A year after four students were brutally murdered in an off-campus house, their families are still struggling with the losses as their alleged killer's trial remains postponed indefinitely.
A year after four University of Idaho students were brutally murdered in an off-campus house, their families are still struggling with the losses as their alleged killer's trial remains postponed indefinitely.
The November 13, 2022 slayings claimed the lives of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle — who all lived together in the Moscow, Idaho, home — and Ethan Chapin, who was Kernodle's boyfriend. Two others lived in the home and were not attacked.
Who were the victims in the University of Idaho murders?
Goncalves and Mogen, both 21, were longtime close friends. "These girls were best friends since sixth grade, like inseparable,” Kristi Goncalves told Dateline in January of her daughter's relationship with Mogen, adding they "were true, ultimate best friends." Kristi also said that her daughter had been offered a gig with an IT firm in Texas and was set to graduate early.
Mogen, who was due to graduate this year, was given a posthumous marketing degree in the spring by the University of Idaho. Her dad, Ben Mogen, said his daughter had a love for music. "We definitely enjoyed our music together," Ben told Spokane, Washington station, KREM.
Kernodle, 20, was a junior majoring in marketing at the school's College of Business and Economics, according to NBC affiliate KING-TV. She belonged to the Pi Beta Phi sorority. “She was so positive, funny and was loved by everyone who met her," her sister, Jazzmin Kernodle, has said, according to KING-TV. "She was so lighthearted, and always lifted up a room."
Chapin, also 20, majored in recreation, sport and tourism management and belonged to the Sigma Chi fraternity, according to KING-TV. He was a triplet whose brother and sister also chose to attend the University of Idaho. Chapin played basketball and tennis in high school and loved country music and watching NFL games.
What happened on the night of the University of Idaho murders?
On the night of November 12, 2022, Goncalves and Mogen went to a bar together in downtown Moscow, made a food truck stop after the bar, and then returned home at around 1:45 a.m. on November 13, according to the Moscow Police Department.
Ethan Chapin and Kernodle, meanwhile, were at the Sigma Chi house on campus that night and were believed to have returned home at around 1:45 a.m., according to investigators. Detectives believe that on November 12th, the two surviving roommates were also out separately in Moscow, and arrived home by 1 a.m. the next morning, not waking up until later in the day, police stated.
After the two surviving roommates woke up on November 13, a call came in to police at 11:58 a.m. from one of the survivors’ cell phones. Moscow Police responded and discovered four victims on the second and third floors.
After autopsies were conducted on November 17, the Latah County Coroner concluded the cause and manner of death for the victims was homicide by stabbing. The coroner added that the victims were likely asleep when the attacks began and that some had defensive wounds. They were all stabbed multiple times.
Detectives said early on in their investigation that the two surviving roommates were not believed to be involved in the crimes.
Steve Goncalves, the father of Goncalves, told 48 Hours in September that Mogen was the first victim, citing the coroner. He added that his daughter and Mogen were sleeping in the same bed in a room on the third floor of the house when Mogen was attacked, with Goncalves being struck next. "There's evidence to show that she awakened and tried to get out of that situation," Steve said of his daughter.
Goncalves' mom, Kristi Goncalves, added to 48 Hours: "The headboard was touching the wall and the left side of the bed was touching the wall. And we believe that Maddie was on the outside and Kaylee was on the inside. The way the bed was set up ... she was trapped."
Who is Bryan Kohberger, the University of Idaho murders suspect?
On December 30, 2022, Bryan Kohberger, 28, was arrested by Pennsylvania State Police in the fatal shootings of the four University of Idaho students. After officials tracked him to Monroe County, he was arrested by a SWAT team at his family's home, where he was spending the holidays.
Police said that Kohberger was a Ph.D. student in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University at the time of the killings, which is just seven miles from the University of Idaho.
After combing through multiple surveillance videos that allegedly showed an older white Hyundai Elantra leaving the Pullman, Washington area around 2:45 a.m. the morning of the murders, driving to the students' rental home around 4:04 a.m., leaving the area at around 4:20 a.m. and then returning to the Washington State University campus where Kohberger lived at 5:30 a.m., authorities figured out that Kohberger had a 2015 white Hyundai Elantra.
An affidavit detailed that Kohberger's cell phone records allegedly showed that Kohberger's phone pinged towers near the Moscow rental home about a dozen times before the murder, including on August 21, when he was given a traffic ticket in the area after 11:30 p.m.
The affidavit added that DNA was recovered from Kohberger family's garbage on December 27, and that a lab in Idaho found that male DNA from a knife sheath found near Mogen's body had a familial match to DNA recovered from Kohberger's father.
In June, a court filing stated that Kohberger was directly linked to the murders by DNA from the Ka-Bar knife sheath found at the crime scene using genetic genealogy.
What have Bryan Kohberger's lawyers said about alleged evidence against him?
Defense lawyers for Kohberger, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and a count of burglary, have brought into question the credibility of the DNA evidence presented.
“What the State’s argument asks this Court and Mr. Kohberger to assume is that the DNA on the sheath was placed there by Mr. Kohberger, and not someone else during an investigation that spans hundreds of members of law enforcement and apparently at least one lab the State refuses to name,” Kohberger’s legal team said in court documents filed in June.
Kohberger’s lawyers also indicated in court documents that they may present evidence showing that he has an alibi at the time of the slayings.
A not guilty plea has been entered on his behalf and prosecutors said in June that they'll seek the death penalty in the case against Kohberger.
When will Bryan Kohberger's murder trial begin?
Kohberger’s trial was set to begin on October 2 in Moscow, Idaho, but in August, the suspect in the University of Idaho murders waived his right to a speedy trial in Latah County Court, delaying the case indefinitely. Kohberger’s lead defense attorney said in August that there was inadequate time for proper legal counsel and the prosecutor reportedly agreed with the postponement request, calling it a “smart move.”
One year after the University of Idaho murders, the victims' families are still coping
Chapin's triplet siblings turned 21 without him last month, a milestone birthday that his parents said their murdered son had been planning "forever," according to ABC News. The family said they'd planned on marking the one-year anniversary of their son's death with a fundraiser for their charity named for him, Ethan's Smile Foundation, which gives scholarships to kids graduating high school.
Steve Goncalves told ABC News of his daughter that this November 13 is "more like a memorial — some type of an event that you have to look at and think about, but it's not something that you ever look forward to." He added, "My daughter has allowed me to meet people across the world through her life and memory and her beauty," and that one day he hoped to "tell her how much she impacted the world and how proud of her I am."
The University of Idaho was planning a vigil for 6 p.m. on Monday on the Administration Lawn on the Moscow campus in memory of the four students killed last year. The school encouraged those across the state and globe to turn on their porch lights from 6 to 7 p.m. PT in solidarity.
“It is important that the students lead this effort toward healing,” Tanner McClain, president of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho, said in a statement. “We want to ensure we continue to tell their stories, to honor their legacy and to provide a place where each student can heal. Together we are moving forward.”