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Coroner offers new details about fatal slaying of 4 U of Idaho students after preliminary autopsies

The four students were found stabbed to death inside a home in Moscow, Idaho, on Nov. 13.
/ Source: TODAY

The local coroner is offering more details about the brutal slaying of four college students in Moscow, Idaho, early Nov. 13.

The autopsies for Madison Mogen, 21, Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20, were completed Nov. 16, Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt said.

In an interview with NBC News Nov. 17, Mabbutt said the autopsy gave a clearer picture of what time the four were killed, their “extensive” wounds, and what the murder weapon was.

"It would have been early in the morning, sometime after 2 a.m., but still during the night," Mabbutt said, adding that there wasn't a medical way to determine who was attacked first, but investigators are "trying to put timelines together with other text messages and other technology."

She said that the murder weapon "would have been a bigger knife" to be consistent with their "pretty extensive" wounds.

(Left) Ethan Chapin, 20, and Xana Kernodle, 20. (Right) Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21.
(Left) Ethan Chapin, 20, and Xana Kernodle, 20. (Right) Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21.TODAY/NewsConnect

Mabbutt said that the victims showed "little bit of bruising" but "nothing significant." She added that some bruising "wouldn't be uncommon during a stabbing."

Mabbutt couldn't say how many times each victim was stabbed but said it was safe to say each of them had multiple wounds. She declined to say where on the body they were stabbed and later clarified that the victims were stabbed in different places and a different amount of times.

Mabbutt said it was likely the four had bled out in the home.

She said DNA samples have been taken from the scene and are being processed. When pressed, she said it was "possible" that some of the DNA being tested may not be of the four victims.

"There were nail clippings that were taken, and other ones that are being sent off, and so that will be processed," she said.

They are awaiting final autopsy results, which will not be available for another four to six weeks, pending toxicology. Mabbutt said in this case, the toxicology reports likely wouldn't be important to the investigation.

She added that the autopsies were completed by Spokane Medical Examiners Office — located in Spokane, Washington, about 90 minutes northwest of Moscow — but she responded to the scene a few hours after police were called.

"It’s pretty traumatic when there’s four dead college students ... who’ve been stabbed to death in one location," she said, adding that there was “quite a bit” of blood at the scene.

"I’ve been coroner for 16 years... we have had multiple (victim) murders in the past, but nothing, nothing like this," she said.

Police said that they did not have any suspects and were still looking for whoever was responsible for the deaths of the four friends.

“We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Moscow Police Chief James Fry said at a press conference on Nov. 16. “There is a threat out there, possibly.”

“We do not have a suspect at this time, and that individual is still out there,” he added. “We cannot say there is no threat to the community.”

Fry said that two additional roommates had been home at the time of the killings but they were not considered witnesses and are actively cooperating with the investigation. He said the 911 call came in at noon on Sunday morning — hours after authorities believe the four were killed.

The morning of Nov. 17, Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson told TODAY that it "certainly is possible" there could be more than one suspect in the case.

“The fact of the matter is whoever’s responsible for these murders is still at large,” he said. “The investigators do not know who that person is.”