Idaho college murders: The rumours and conspiracy theories ruled out by investigators

While officials are remaining tightlipped about key parts of the investigation, they have debunked several online rumours and ruled out potential ties to the killings

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 27 December 2022 21:27 GMT
Idaho college students murders

Over three weeks have passed since four University of Idaho students were brutally stabbed to death in the small college town of Moscow – with no suspects identified, no arrests made and the murder weapon nowhere to be found.

Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found murdered in the off-campus home that the three female students shared in the early hours of 13 November.

The four victims were all stabbed multiple times with a fixed-blade knife and are believed to have died at around 3am or 4am that morning.

Their bodies went undiscovered for around eight hours when police were finally called to the home to a report for an “unconscious individual”.

Despite multiple law enforcement agencies being drafted in to work on the case, police appear to be no closer to catching the killer, leaving students and residents of the notoriously safe town racked by fear and social media awash with speculation.

While officials are remaining tightlipped about key parts of the investigation including why they believe the murders were targeted, they have debunked several online rumours and ruled out potential ties to the killings.

This is what police have ruled out so far:

Victims were not tied and gagged

Moscow Police debunked a false rumour circulating online that the four victims had been bound and gagged during the brutal attack.

“Online reports of the victims being tied and gagged are not accurate,” the department said in a press release.

Autopsies found that the four victims suffered multiple stab wounds and that some of them had defensive wounds.

The Latah County coroner said that they were found in bed and were likely sleeping when the attack unfolded. There was no signs of sexual assault.

Case not linked to a 2021 stabbing in Oregon

In a press conference on 23 October, similarities were drawn between the murders and a knife attack on the young couple 400 miles away in Oregon.

Back on 13 August 2021, Travis Juetten, 26, and his wife Jamilyn Juetten, 24, were woken at around 3am when a masked assailant broke into their home, entered their bedroom and stabbed them both multiple times with a knife.

Travis tried to fight off the attacker but was stabbed to death. Ms Juetten was stabbed 19 times but miraculously survived, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

Despite Travis’ family putting up a $50,000 reward for information leading to the killer, 15 months on, the case remains unsolved.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry was asked about a potential link between the two cases last week and confirmed that the Oregon killing was on their radar and that investigators were probing a possible tie.

Juetten’s grieving mother Myra Juetten told The Independent after the briefing that it gave her “hope” that his case would finally be solved and said that catching the killer of both her son and the slain students in Idaho would be “the best Christmas present ever”.

On Friday, Moscow Police then ruled out a possible connection saying that, “while these cases share similarities ... there does not appear to be any evidence to support the cases are related”.

Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found murdered on 13 November
Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were found murdered on 13 November (AP)

No connection to 1999 stabbing

Police also said that there is no evidence to suggest that the Idaho murders are connected to a double stabbing in Pullman, Washington, back in 1999.

In that incident more than two decades ago, two femaleWashington State University students were attacked by an assailant with a knife while they slept.

Both victims survived and one of the women’s ex-husbands was convicted of carrying out the attack.

Body-camera footage from near crime scene not linked

In the fourth week of the investigation, authorities sought to dispel rumours around body-camera footage from a separate incident on the night of the killings.

Video circulated on social media showed a Moscow Police officer speaking to individuals less than a mile away from the off-campus home where Goncalves, Mogen, Kernodle and Chapin were stabbed.

The interaction, which police said stemmed from an alcohol offence, took place just before 3am, putting it right up against the 3am to 4am window in which the students were thought to have been killed.

The video drew rampant speculation online, especially in prolific Reddit communities, due to both the timestamp and the fact that a white vehicle was seen in the background. On Wednesday, investigators announced they are seeking details about the owner of a white Hyundai Elantra seen near the crime scene “in the early morning hours” on the day of the murders.

But Moscow Police have since shut down speculation around the video, telling The Independent on Thursday that the incident on the body-camera footage is in no way connected to the murders and the white car in the background is not the same one they are seeking information about.

“Investigators are aware of the white vehicle in the bodycam footage and it is not the vehicle investigators are seeking information about,” a spokesperson said.

Convicted killer’s arrest a mile from crime scene not linked

The arrest of a convicted killer just a mile away from the scene where the students were murdered in November has been deemed unrelated to the slayings.

The man, 39-year-old James Leonard, is not considered a suspect in the brutal stabbings last month, Moscow Police have said. Leonard was arrested on 7 December on battery charges for allegedly beating his wife and underage daughter before injuring himself with a knife, a criminal complaint obtained by Fox News Digital revealed.

Leonard, who was convicted of a fatal shooting in 2007, is also being legally represented by Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt, who went on national television to reveal that Mogen, Goncalves, Kernodle and Chapin were likely sleeping when they were killed.

Moscow PD told Fox that the two investigations in the usually safe town of just 25,000 are not linked in any way.

Skinned pet dog incident not linked

In the days after the murders of the four students, it emerged that a couple living nearby had found their pet dog skinned and “filleted” not long before.

Owner Pam Colbert said that her Mini Australian shepherd dog was butchered just three miles from the home where the students died.

The incident was reported to Latah County Sheriff’s Office which passed the information onto Moscow Police.

Investigators trying to track down the students’ killer then dispelled rumours that the cases were connected.

“Detectives are aware of a Latah County Sheriff’s Office incident of the report of a skinned dog and have determined it is unrelated to this incident,” a police spokesperson said.

Police also said that there was no link to reports of dead animals being left on a resident’s property

No connection to February death in Moscow

Investigators have ruled out any connection between the murders and a February 2022 overdose death.

On Monday, Moscow Police Department said in an update that authorities had received several questions about the death on Baker Street nine months prior to the quadruple murder.

The Latah County Coroner’s Office has confirmed the death was due to an overdose and the case is not related to the ongoing murder investigation, police said.

Red Mustang not connected to murders

Investigators have revealed that a red Mustang left near the crime scene is not connected to the murders of the four students.

On Monday, police acknowledged online reports of a red Mustang on S. Deakin St. being processed as part of the murder investigation.

The department debunked the rumours saying “this information is not accurate, and the vehicle is not connected to this incident”.

The Mustang became the focus of much attention on Reddit, with one user saying: “Yesterday [25 November] I took a screenshot from the Idaho murder Facebook group of what appears to be a red Mustang convertible being searched by a forensics team.”

It added: “The original image and thread were removed from the FB group due to disagreements on whether or not the image showed a forensics team or a group of people fixing the car.”

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