A group of University of Idaho students was allegedly threatened with a knife by a man dressed in all black, just weeks before four fellow students were stabbed to death in a grisly murder that has rocked the small college town of Moscow.
The university’s security issued a “Vandal Alert” to students and staff back on 12 September warning them about an assailant armed with a knife.
The warning, described as a “Threat with Knife”, reported that a group of students had been walking through the campus when the man threatened them with a knife.
“The Moscow Police Department received a report that a group of students was walking between the Steam Plant parking lot (Lot #14) and the Student Recreation Center on Paradise Path and were threatened by a person with a knife,” it read.
The assailant was described as a white male aged 18 to 22 years old, who was dressed in all black.
No one was harmed in the incident but officials felt the need to alert students and staff to the threat – taking place in what is a notoriously safe small town where no murders have been reported since 2015.
Almost exactly two months later, four students were stabbed to death in a violent knife attack inside a rental home close to the campus, in what officials are describing as a “targeted” attack.
The bodies of Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, were found inside a home on King Road in Moscow, Idaho, at around midday on Sunday. The three women lived together at the home with two other students. Chapin was dating Kernodle and was staying the night with her.
Police had responded to the property after receiving a mysterious 911 call reporting an “unconscious individual”.
When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered the four friends – all sorority or fraternity members at the college – dead inside the home. There was no sign of forced entry, the front door was open and nothing appears to have been taken, police said.
The two other roommates were present inside the home at the time, but were unharmed.
Autopsy results are still pending but officials believe that all four victims were killed with “an edged weapon such as a knife” at around 3am or 4am on Sunday. The murder weapon has not been recovered.
Officials are refusing to say who called 911, why the caller reported an “unconscious individual” when officials have described a crime scene covered in “a lot of blood” and why it took around eight hours for the victims to be discovered when two other students were home at the time.
During a press conference on Wednesday evening, officials said that they do not have any evidence to suggest that the September incident is connected to the quadruple homicide – although they are yet to narrow down a suspect or a motive four days on from the slayings.
Blaine Eccles told reporters that the September incident unfolded when a group of incidents enountered a man “not affiliated with the university” as they were walking back to Greek Row – the row where the university’s fraternity and sorority houses lie.
“He flashed a knife. That individual then turned himself in to law enforcement,” he said.
Moscow Police Department Chief James Fry said that there was no known link between the incident and Sunday’s brutal murders.
“Not that we know of,” he said, before adding: “But we’re following every lead. We are looking into everything.”
Police released new details about the events leading up to the murders, revealing that Chapin and Kernodle had been at a campus party on Saturday night while Mogen and Goncalves spent the night at a bar in town.
They are all believed to have returned to the property sometime after 1.45am.
Twitch footage, seen by The Independent, captured Mogen and Goncalves stopping by a local food truck for a late-night bit to eat – not long before the murders unfolded.
The footage shows the two best friends arriving at the food truck at around 1.41am.
An unidentified man appears to be walking with them, before he steps back as they approach the truck.
Mogen and Goncalves go up to the truck and order food, while the man stands a few feet behind them – before pulling his hood over his head.
Mogen appears to spot someone she recognises and walks over to a man, hugging him briefly before returning to Goncalves’ side.
After ordering, the two best friends move over to the collection side of the truck.
The mystery man who arrived with them follows and stands close by.
Over the next 10 minutes, the group of young people and students are seen laughing and chatting away as they wait for their orders.
The man is seen chatting and laughing to another man in the line, while Mogen and Goncalves appear to laugh and joke with each other and take photos.
When their food is ready, Mogen and Goncalves leave together, walking away from the truck and turning left.
The man, who was chatting to another student at the time appears to notice them walk off and gestures at them, before he turns and walks away from the truck, turning right – the opposite direction.
In a press conference on Wednesday, police confirmed that they are looking to speak to the other people in the footage – as four days on the killer or killers remains at large and investigators are yet to identify any suspects.
The man in the footage has not been identified as a suspect or person of interest.
On Wednesday, officials said they have not identified any suspects in the murders and no arrests have been made – as they appeared to admit that their insistence that the public is not in danger may have been premature.
When asked how he could be so sure there was no ongoing threat, Chief Fry said: “That’s kind of unknown... we still believe it’s a targeted attack, but the reality is, there’s still a person out there who committed horrible, horrible crimes.
“So there is a threat out there still, possibly. We don’t know it’s going to be to anybody else. But we all have to be aware of our surroundings and make sure that we’re watching out for each other.”
For the past three days, officials said that there was “no ongoing threat” and that the victims were targeted in a “one-off” incident.
Family members of the victims have balked at the assertion – given the killer or killers remain at large – with Goncalves’ sister warning on social media that “no one is safe” and urging students to leave town.
Many students have left Moscow for the Thanksgiving holiday early in light of the horror attack.
In the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s grim discovery, a homicide investigation was launched and the college campus was plunged into lockdown. Just one hour later, the shelter in place was lifted.
On Saturday – just hours before their murders – 21-year-old Goncalves had shared photos of the four victims and some of their other friends on her Instagram account.
In one carefree image, the group had their arms around each other, lifted each other on their shoulders and smiled into the camera.
“One lucky girl to be surrounded by these ppl everyday,” Goncalves captioned the post.
Hours later, four of the friends were dead.
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Moscow Police Department, the Idaho State Police and other state and federal agencies are now working together to solve the case which has rocked the small, college town and left students on edge.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact the Moscow Police at 208-883-7054