Fighting back tears, parents of slain University of Idaho students shared moments of laughter and sadness Wednesday as students and faculty gathered for a vigil for the four lives lost.
The four students, Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Kaylee Goncalves, were found stabbed to death in their off-campus home on November 13, and no suspects have been identified.
“We’re going to get our justice, we’re going to settle this,” Steven Goncalves, Kaylee’s father, said at the ceremony at the university in Moscow, Idaho. “This community deserves it.”
“It’s hard for us to be without these four beautiful children with us tonight,” said Stacy Chapin, Ethan’s mother.
Near the end of the vigil, the lights were dimmed and the crowd held up their candle-displaying phones, or turned on their flashlights, as they observed a moment of silence.
The unsolved murders have unnerved some students at the university, located in a city of about 25,000, and the community. Police say the coroner determined that all four victims were likely asleep when they were killed, but some had defensive wounds.
Madison Mogen’s father, Ben Mogen, said he talked about his daughter, an only child, with anyone he knew. “The first thing he would say is, ‘I have this daughter, and here’s a picture of her. She’s on the college dean’s list,’” Mogen said.
Mogen recalled when his daughter, who like him loved live music, was upset that musician Mac Miller was coming to the area, but the tickets were sold out. He entered every radio station contest he could.
“And like the night before it happened, I won four tickets and was able to bring her and her friends, and they were meet and greet tickets. We have to go meet him after the show,” Mogen said. “That was the happiest memory I could think of, that we shared together, that was it.”
More detailed coverage of the deaths of four Idaho students
Ethan Chapin, a triplet, loved country music and was close with his brothers; they even all had their wisdom teeth pulled together, his mother said.
“We are forever grateful to have spent so much time with him,” said Stacy Chapin. She urged the audience to spend time with his loved ones, saying “time is precious and it’s something you can’t get back.”
Goncalves said her daughter Kaylee and Mogen’s daughter had been best friends since sixth grade.
“Then they went to high school together, then they started looking for colleges, they came here together. Eventually they go to the same apartment together,” said Goncalves. “And in the end, they died together.”
Goncalves said they were in the same bed, which is some consolation that “they were with their best friends all over the world.”
The family of Kernodle, who was a junior marketing student from Post Falls, was unable to attend the vigil, said dean of students Blaine Eckles. Her family is planning a service for her on Friday, he said.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are assisting the police, including the FBI. Aaron Snell, a spokesman for the Idaho State Police, said there are 50 officers and detectives on the ground and it is a “24/7” investigation.
“There are guys who have been working day after day,” he said. “And we will continue to work on this case until it is resolved.”
Mogen said he was grateful that Madison had her first big relationship with a “great guy” named Jake, and “got to taste at least a little bit of what it’s like to be in love with someone.”
“Maybe one day, maybe they would have gotten married,” he said. At least it seemed so.
Goncalves urged people at the vigil to take the time to be kinder to each other and tell someone they are loved.
“The only cure for pain is love,” he said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to cure us, that’s the only thing that’s going to cure you.”