MOSCOW, Idaho — In the early morning hours when four students died in a brutal stabbing near the University of Idaho, several unanswered phone calls were made from one of the victim’s phones to her longtime boyfriend, deepening the mystery of their deaths nearly a week after the killings.
The coroner who conducted autopsies on the four friends said some of the victims appeared to have fought back and that they may have been attacked while sleeping in their beds.
The vicious stabbings in the college town of Moscow, Idaho, have unnerved students and residents as local officials have issued sometimes contradictory statements and have yet to identify any suspects or motives.
The few details that they have disclosed have raised more questions as detectives, internet sleuths and the victims’ own relatives try to piece together who might have had a motive to kill the four young people following a Saturday night of college revelry.
Three of the victims — Madison Mogen, 21; Kaylee Goncalves, 21; and Xana Kernodle, 20 — lived at the house not far from campus where the attack occurred, while the fourth victim, 20-year-old Ethan Chapin, was there visiting his girlfriend, Ms. Kernodle. Here are other key facts.
Two roommates survived the attack.
The police said that while the four friends were being killed, two other roommates were in the house but were not attacked. Both were women.
Investigators said they did not believe either of them was involved in the crime. But no one called 911 until just before noon on Sunday — many hours after the attack, which the authorities have said took place in the early morning hours. The possibility that hours passed between the crime and when someone called 911 suggests that the roommates might have slept through the attack, though the police have not explained the delay.
Cathy Mabbutt, the Latah County coroner, said the victims all appeared to have been stabbed multiple times with a large knife. Based on the time of night, she said, they were likely sleeping when they were attacked. Ms. Mabbutt said she believed at least one victim, and possibly more, had tried to fight off the attacker.
“It’s such a horrific crime,” she said. “It’s hard to think that somebody, whether they live here or they were here, commits something like that and is at large.”
None of the victims showed signs of sexual assault, Ms. Mabbutt said, and toxicology reports have not been completed.
The phone records of one victim showed calls to a boyfriend before she was killed.
There were seven unanswered phone calls made from the phone of one of the victims, Ms. Goncalves, to her longtime boyfriend in the early morning hours on Sunday, according to her older sister, Alivea Goncalves, based on phone logs she was able to download from the phone provider.
The first call to the man, Jack DuCoeur, was at 2:26 a.m., and there were six more over the next 26 minutes, with the final one at 2:52, Ms. Goncalves said. She said Mr. DuCoeur, also a student at the university, missed them because he was sleeping, and that her sister’s phone account did not show any other calls.
Ms. Goncalves said Mr. DuCoeur had been a childhood friend of her sister’s and that they had been dating for years until recently, when they decided to take an amicable break. Ms. Goncalves said she and her family “stand behind Jack 100 percent and know he absolutely had nothing to do with this at all.”
She also said that the number of calls was not unusual: Kaylee Goncalves would frequently call people until they picked up, even to ask a mundane question like what she should have for breakfast, her sister said.
Bill Thompson, the top prosecutor in Latah County, said investigators were looking at cellphone tower data and social media information to try to determine who was in the immediate area at the time of the killings.
The victims had spent the night socializing.
It had been a typical Saturday night in Moscow, with many students from campus going out to socialize after watching a University of Idaho football game.
Mr. Chapin and Ms. Kernodle, who had been dating since the spring semester, attended a party at the Sigma Chi fraternity from about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. near the home where the attack later occurred, the authorities said.
Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves had gone together to the Corner Club bar at about 11 p.m., staying there until 1:30 a.m.
A livestream video from a popular late-night food truck showed Ms. Mogen and Ms. Goncalves at the truck at about 1:40 a.m. The two mingled in the area, chatting and smiling before getting their food and departing. A “private party” gave them a ride home, the police said.
The authorities said all four friends were back at the rental home south of campus by around 1:45 a.m.
No one has been arrested.
There have been no arrests, though the police appear to have ruled several people out.
This includes a man seen in the video footage at the food truck, investigators said, as well as the two roommates who were home during the attack.
The authorities have left open the possibility that there could be more than one perpetrator.
Investigators have been contacting local businesses to see if someone had recently purchased a fixed-blade knife from them.
The authorities have walked back earlier statements.
In the first days after the killings, the Moscow Police Department downplayed residents’ fears about a killer being on the loose, saying on the day of the attack that the department “does not believe there is an ongoing community risk” and, two days later, that there was “no imminent threat to the community at large.”
Then, on Wednesday — three days after the killings — Chief James Fry stepped back from the earlier assurances. “We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” he said at a news conference.
The about-face was one of several contradictory comments from city and county officials.
Art Bettge, the mayor of Moscow, had told The New York Times a day after the killings that the case was considered a “crime of passion,” but he later said he could not say for sure.
One consistent message from the police is that the attack appeared to have been targeted.
Moscow had not recorded a murder in seven years.
Moscow is a community of about 25,000 people on the Washington State border, and the university has 11,000 students.
The city had not recorded a murder in more than seven years. Students said in interviews that they normally felt safe walking around town late at night or leaving bikes unlocked around campus. But after the killing, many students left campus early for Thanksgiving break, worried about an apparent killer on the loose.
Some students who remained have started taking more precautions and walking around in groups. A coffee shop told patrons it was closing early so that employees could get home before dark.
Here’s what we know about the victims.
Madison Mogen, who went by Maddie, was a senior from Coeur d’Alene who was majoring in marketing. Her grandmother, Kim Cheeley, said Ms. Mogen had always been a gentle and caring person who kept many long-term friendships and close ties with an extended family.
Ms. Mogen’s boyfriend, Jake Schriger, said she had been excited for graduation next year and talked about wanting to explore other parts of the world. Ms. Mogen always spread positivity and brought acts of kindness to others, Mr. Schriger said, adding that he hoped people remembered her for the love she had given to others.
“There’s no words that I can really describe her — how amazing she was and how wonderful of a person she was,” Mr. Schriger said.
Kaylee Goncalves, who was from Rathdrum, Idaho, had been set to graduate early in December and planned to move to Austin, Texas, with one of her close friends in June. The friend, Jordyn Quesnell, said Ms. Goncalves had secured a position with a marketing firm and was excited to explore more of the country.
“We wanted that adventure,” Ms. Quesnell said. “I would be like, ‘Let’s go do this,’ and she’d be like, ‘Down!’”
Alivea Goncalves said her younger sister and Ms. Mogen had served as bridesmaids for her wedding. Her sister, she said, still shared a dog with her former boyfriend, and the two had seemed likely to get back together.
Ethan Chapin,fromConway, Wash.,was one of three triplets and had spent much of Nov. 12, the day before the killings, with both of his siblings, who are also University of Idaho students, said their mother, Stacy Chapin. In the evening, they had all attended a dance together held by his sister’s sorority, she said.
“My kids are very thankful that it was time well spent with him,” Ms. Chapin said. “He was literally the life of the party. He made everybody laugh. He was just the kindest person.”
Mr. Chapin played basketball in high school and was known by friends and family members for always having a big smile, ever since he was a baby. Ms. Chapin described her son as “just the brightest light.”
Xana Kernodle grew upin Idaho but had spent time in Arizona in recent years, according to an interview that her father, Jeffrey Kernodle, gave to an Arizona TV station.
Mr. Kernodle told the station that his daughter was strong-willed and had enjoyed having an independent life in college.
He said his daughter had appeared to try to fight her attacker, an account backed up by Ms. Mabbutt, the coroner. Mr. Kernodle expressed shock that she could be killed while being with friends at home, and said he, too, had no idea who could have committed the attacks.
“She was with her friends all the time,” Mr. Kernodle said.
Serge F. Kovaleski contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.