Former University of Idaho student raises $20,000 for personal alarms in wake of stabbing murders

EXCLUSIVE: Delta Gamma alumna tells The Independent she wants to help students feel safe after four sorority and fraternity members were brutally killed

Io Dodds ,Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 29 November 2022 16:21 GMT
Idaho college students murders

A University of Idaho alumna has raised almost $20,000 in donations to buy 1,900 personal alarms for terrified students living in Moscow with a murderer at large.

Kerry Ulhorn, a 37-year-old former member of the Delta Gamma sorority, told The Independent that she wanted to help students feel safe in the college town after four sorority and fraternity members were stabbed to death in a brutal knife attack back on 13 November.

“The hope is that these will give the students on campus a small sense of security and also just let them know that their alumni and others deeply care about keeping them and the university that we love a safe space for them to be,” she said.

Two weeks have now passed since Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were brutally murdered in the off-campus home that the three female students shared.

No suspects have been identified, no arrests have been made and the murder weapon is still nowhere to be found, leaving residents in the notoriously safe area on edge.

The Independent previously reported how the small college town – which had not seen a murder since 2015 – had emptied out after the killings and how those who remained were changing their regular habits and increasing security measures around their homes.

Local police revealed that 911 calls have surged over the past two weeks with terrified residents reporting multiple sightings of “suspicious people” as the killer or killers remain on the loose.

Ms Ulhorn, who graduated from the University of Idaho in 2007 and is now a radiology technologist living in Boise, Idaho, told The Independent that the murders had left her feeling “helpless” and wanting to do something to try to help.

“I think after this event everyone just felt helpless. People didn’t know what to do and this effort has given them a tangible way to help,” she said.

The idea for the personal alarms came a couple of days on from the 13 November slayings when she said she spotted the devices on social media and suggested to her boyfriend that they buy some for his daughters.

Later that night, she said she mulled buying some extra alarms for her sorority and suggested the idea in the alumni Facebook group.

Kelly Ulhorn has raised $20,000 for personal alarms for terrified students
Kelly Ulhorn has raised $20,000 for personal alarms for terrified students (Kelly Ulhorn)

“They loved the idea! My goal was to raise enough money for five to 10 alarms that the house could share,” she said.

“As more and more members heard wind, they wanted each member of our house to have one.”

The idea then grew beyond Delta Gamma to other sororities and then out to all students at the university.

“It just kept spreading,” said Ms Ulhorn.

Now, almost $20,000 has been raised through a dedicated Facebook group, which has so far paid for 1,900 alarms for students around the campus.

“The first 737 alarms purchased will be distributed to UI Greek women [on Tuesday]. An additional 1,200 will be arriving to campus soon and given to any student who wants one,” she said.

Ms Ulhorn said that the alarms are “very easy to use” and can help raise the alarm if someone is in trouble.

“For me personally, I’ve always worried that in a state of panic I would never get the safety mechanisms of pepper spray done correctly or spray myself. You also have to be quite close to someone to use that,” she said.

“These alarms emit a very loud sound, and a bright flashing light. Hopefully enough to scare a potential attacker away or at least bring attention to the victim.”

Many University of Idaho students returned to campus on Monday following the Thanksgiving break, with a vigil to honour the victims planned for Wednesday.

A makeshift memorial left on the college campus
A makeshift memorial left on the college campus (AP)

College officials are also keeping a flexible approach to learning, as some choose to stay away from the town given the case is still unsolved.

In the early days of the investigation, police insisted that there was no threat to the wider public – before dramatically walking back that assertion and admitting that, with a quadruple murderer still at large “there is a threat” and the community should stay “vigilant”.

Investigators continue to say that the killings were targeted but are refusing to say what evidence has led them to that conclusion.

The four victims are believed to have been stabbed to death in their beds at around 3am or 4am with a fixed-blade knife, police said. There was no signs of sexual assault on any of the victims and the murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – has not been recovered.

Two of the victims were found on the second floor and two on the third floor of the home.

All four had been out on the Saturday night (12 November).

Kernodle and Chapin were at a sorority party at Sigma Chi house together and arrived back at the home at around 1.45am.

Goncalves and Mogen had spent the night at The Corner Club bar in downtown Moscow, before stopping by a food truck and then getting a ride home from an unnamed “private party”.

Investigators previously said that the two best friends also arrived home at around 1.45am but updated the timeline on Sunday to reveal that they arrived at the property at around 1.56am, citing “digital evidence”.

“Arrival time has been updated based on digital evidence collected by investigators,” authorities said in a statement.

The two surviving roommatres were also out that night and arrived home at around 1am, police said.

The two women, who lived in rooms on the first floor of the home, are believed to have slept through the brutal killings and were unharmed.

The horrific crime scene went unnoticed for several more hours, with police receiving a 911 call at 11.58am on Sunday, reporting an “unconscious individual” at the home.

The two other roommates had first called friends to the home because they believed one of the second floor victims was unconscious and would not wake up. When the friends arrived, a 911 call was made from one of the roommates’ phones.

Police arrived on the scene to find the four victims dead from multiple stab wounds.

While investigators are yet to identify any suspects, they have ruled out several people: the two surviving housemates, the man who was caught on camera with Mogen and Goncalves at a food truck in the downtown area before they headed home on the night of the slayings, the person who gave Mogen and Goncalves a ride home from the food truck, Goncalves’ former long-term boyfriend and the friends who were in the home when the 911 call was made have all been ruled out as suspects.

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