By Rebekah Froggatt
On the 13th of November 2022, in the pre-dawn hours, four University of Idaho students were murdered in their off-campus home while they slept. The small city of Moscow, Idaho will forever be haunted by the vicious slayings of Kaylee Goncalves (21), Madison Mogen (21), Xana Kernodle (20), and Ethan Chapin (20), leaving their loved ones and the surrounding community in shock.
No-one was prepared for how gruesome and tragic these homicides were, and even 1 year later, it still has the world shaken. For context on what happened that night, I will give a brief overview of the timeline that has been shared online of what many believe to have happened.
The news of the horrific slayings broke on the 13th of November, 8 hours after the killings had happened, as the surviving housemates called the police. The killings approximately happened between 4am and 4:20 am, and the police received the call at 11:58 am. Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke slept under the same roof that night of the killings, unaware of what was happening to their friends.
Dylan came face to face with the killer during that night as she had heard multiple noises that woke her up. Being awakened the first time and not thinking much of it, Dylan assumed it was Kaylee playing with her dog, Murphy, upstairs on the third floor. Therefore, Dylan closed her bedroom door, located on the second floor, and went back to sleep.
The second time she was awakened, she heard a voice that sounded like Kaylee’s saying, “there’s someone here.” Kaylee slept with her childhood best friend Madison that night in Madison’s bed, her room also located on the third floor, which was directly above Dylan’s bedroom. However, this could have been the voice of Xana Kernodle whose bedroom was on the same floor as Dylans, and Dylan could not see anything from outside her door, therefore she didn’t investigate further.
Records of Xana on her TikTok account show that she was awake moments before she was murdered, and she had also ordered a DoorDash delivery at 4am, supporting the theory that she was the one that Dylan may have heard.
Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were in a relationship and had been to a sorority party that night before heading back to the house at approximately 1:45am. Ethan didn’t live with Xana but stayed with her that night anyway.
The third time Dylan opened her door, she believed to have heard crying coming from Kernodles bedroom and then heard a male voice saying something to the effect: “It’s ok, I am going to help you.” With it being a student house, Dylan was under the impression that it was just her housemates messing around, and retreated into her room.
The fourth and final time Dylan would open her bedroom door would be the time she would come face to face with the killer. She had heard crying, and opened her door to investigate only to be met with a figure in all black clothing and wearing a mask that covered the suspects mouth and nose, walking past her as they left the house. In complete and utter shock, Dylan locked herself away in her room until the morning where she and her housemate called 911 after discovering their deceased friends.
There have been many questions as to why it took the surviving housemates so long to call the police, but Dr Katherine Kuhlman, a police and public safety psychologist, sheds light on why the girls would have struggled to contact the authorities sooner. Kuhlman explains that the shock of an intruder would have caused Dylan to freeze and hide, saying that ‘most people in their entire lives won’t have to deal with this type of trauma and won’t mentally prepare for it.’
The case has taken the internet by storm, with thousands of people creating Tiktok’s, videos and podcasts about the homicides, crime fanatics have been taking the investigation into their own hands: especially after the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, was arrested. It had been over one month since the killings when Kohberger, a 29-year-old Ph.D. criminology student from Washington State University, was pinned as the only suspect for the case after a knife sheath with DNA connecting to him was found under the body of Madison Mogen, who authorities believe was killed first.
Timelines were created by internet sleuths of Kohberger ‘s whereabouts that night after it was released that he had visited and was circling King Road, where the students lived, 13 times. This was picked up from his phone signal history and his car was also seen on a surveillance camera leaving the scene of the crimes. He then, possibly, committed the crimes before driving all the way back to his accommodation in Washington. The knife that was used to stab the students has never been found.
Mrs Goncalves, Kaylee’s mother, and her husband found an Instagram account that apparently belonged to Kohberger, and it showed him following Kaylee, Madison and Xana. The two also saw that Kohberger had interacted with Madison’s account as he had liked some of her pictures. This evidence is the driving vehicle that has made many people believe that Madison was the original victim, and that the others were just collateral damage.
The case is a difficult one, and many are using social media platforms to create tribute posts for the victims and their families. Social media has also been a way of updating people all around the world in regard to the case. One of the updates that came out on the 28th of December 2023, was a video of the student house being demolished after the university gave the okay, saying it was ‘the key to healing and moving forward’. The sombre video is a reminder of not only the gruesome killings that took place under that roof, but of also the happy and bright memories of four innocent and happy young lives that were stolen.
Many were against the house being demolished, including the victims’ families, and pleaded that it would happen after a trial, but one has not yet been set. The case is still ongoing, in fact on the 27th of January 2024, the family went to court in hopes that a trial date would be set, but unfortunately one won’t be set until the summer of 2024. Kaylee’s parents run a page on Facebook called ‘The Goncalves Family Page’ and posted ‘We have no words’, and many were also furious with the outcome saying ‘#jusitcesomeday’. Due to the nature of the crimes, the state of Idaho will be seeking the death penalty if Kohberger is found guilty.
The Goncalves family say that the case has lacked communication between the authorities and the families, saying that they are living in a “limbo” waiting for answers. Even a year later, they still have not got Kaylee’s phone in their possession. The Facebook page is labelled as a private investigator page, and many online have been conducting their own investigations to help the family out. It is a continuous battle for the families; even they are in the dark regarding this case. However, despite the fact that Kohberger has been arrested, Mr and Mrs Golcalves are still open to the possibility that someone else may have committed the crimes.
On the 5th of February, Kohberger requested to have his indictment thrown out and it has been rejected for a second time. Kohberger’s attorneys want the indictment thrown out due to “the prosecution improperly withheld evidence from grand jurors; the jurors were biased; there was insufficient evidence to justify the indictment; and there was prosecutorial misconduct” says NewsWeek. Kohberger also wants the trial to happen in a different venue to the one in Idaho, as he believes that having the trial in the community where the murders happened will be unfair on his behalf. This comes down to the amount of media coverage that this case is receiving, not just from mainstream media but also from online sources. If the venue were to change to a different location, it is said that a trial won’t happen until the summer of 2025. As of yet, there is no update on whether or not a trial will happen in Idaho.
As stated before, this is an ongoing investigation and there are more details to this case that I haven’t stated in this article due to the large scale and constant updates. But Idaho will forever remember the innocent fallen four and it seems that the world will not rest until justice is served.
Madison Mogen was 21 years old. Her favourite colour was pink, and she was majoring in marketing. She and Kaylee had been best friends since childhood, and she was known as “the most beautiful person, inside and out.” Madison’s birthday is on the 25th of May, which is now called #maddiemayday, and it encourages people to do acts of kindness. Madison’s boyfriend, Jack, said “I was lucky enough to explore life with Maddie for about two years” and still to this day has ‘RIP Maddie May’ in his Instagram bio.
Ethan Chapin was 20 years old. He loved country music and was majoring in recreation, sport, and tourism management. He also worked on a tulip farm and was a triplet to a brother and sister. His mother called him “a carefree young man” and that he was “just the best person you could ever meet”. His family have created a foundation called the ‘Ethan’s Smile Foundation’, it provides scholarships that will enable others to follow their dreams.
Xana Kernodle was 20 years old. She was majoring in marketing and had met her first boyfriend, Ethan, at the University of Idaho. Her sister and father describe her as “fun and always uplifting”, and that “she took any bad situation and turned it into a good one”. Xana and her sister, Jazzmin, had a dream of starting their own marketing firm together. Her sister made a speech saying “Xana, you will not be forgotten…I hope to make you proud…”.
Kaylee Goncalves was 21 years old. She was majoring in general studies in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. She had a dog called Murphy and was planning on moving to Texas with her sister after getting a job offer there. She had recently bought her first car and was planning on going backpacking in January of 2023. Her parents described her as a “bright and ambitious young woman.”