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No clear answers in deaths of four Idaho college students found dead near campus, mayor says

The mayor of Moscow, Idaho, said the University of Idaho students could have been victims of a property crime "gone wrong" or a "crime of passion."

The mayor of a small Idaho town where four college students were found dead said the “senseless” killings could be blamed on "most any scenario."

Moscow Mayor Art Bettge said a property crime “gone wrong” or a “crime of passion” were possible explanations in the deaths of University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.

The students were discovered dead just before noon Sunday at an off-campus residence when officers responded to a report of an unconscious person, the city has said. 

The city described them in a statement as homicide victims but did not provide additional details, and no suspect was in custody.

A police spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Bettge said that without a suspect or knowing whether anything was missing from the home, a motive remains elusive.

"Patience is needed to allow an investigation to proceed in meticulous fashion," he said.

Officers investigate a homicide at an apartment complex south of the University of Idaho campus on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.
Officers investigate a homicide at an apartment complex south of the University of Idaho campus on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.Zach Wilkinson / The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP

In a separate statement Monday, Bettge called the students' killings a "tragedy" that "serves as a sobering reminder that senseless acts of violence can occur anywhere, at any time, and we are not immune from such events here in our own community."

"Today, we grieve for those who were lost and those they leave behind," he said.

Moscow, a rural city of roughly 25,000 people just east of the Washington line, "is, excepting recent events, quiet and crime-free," Bettge said.

In a memo to students Monday, university President Scott Green said he and his wife were "heartbroken."

Chapin, of Mount Vernon, Washington, was a freshman and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management, the memo said.

Kernodle, of Post Falls, Idaho, was a junior and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority majoring in marketing.

Mogen, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a senior majoring in marketing, was also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

And Goncalves, of Rathdrum, Idaho, was a senior and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority majoring in general studies.

The relationships among some of the students were not clear. In an Instagram post Saturday, Goncalves included an image of her and several friends, including Mogen, and said: "One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday."

In an Oct. 29 Instagram post, Kernodle wished Chapin a happy birthday and said life was "so much better with you in it."