Slain Idaho students leave behind bright memories, big goals

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Ethan Chapin’s last day was spent with his siblings, dressing up and dancing.

Chapin – one of four University of Idaho students stabbed to death last weekend while police were still searching for a killer – was a triplet. His brother and sister also attend the quaint state school tucked away in the rolling hills of north-central Idaho.

“He dated our daughter Maizie and his brother dated Maizie’s roommate,” Chapin’s mother, Stacy Chapin, said in an interview on Wednesday. The group attended a dance hosted by Maizie’s sorority. “They all spent their last day together, all dressed up, and had a great time. We are all grateful that they spent this time together.”

Ethan Chapin snapped photos of the event on his phone but the family is yet to see them. The device is being held by law enforcement as potential evidence in the murder investigation.

The photos probably show the waves in his dark hair and the dimple that appears when he smiles. What they don’t show is Ethan’s talent for making people laugh or that he didn’t care which restaurant the family went to as long as they went there together.

“He could read any situation and make it better,” said Stacy Chapin. “He was just so carefree.”

Ethan, a 20-year-old Sigma Chi fraternity member who loved sports, was dating 20-year-old Xana Kernodle, a junior marketing major and member of the Pi Beta Phi fraternity. Both were killed in Sunday’s violent attack, stabbed to death by a killer or killers at Kernodle’s tenement, which was just steps from the university campus.

Two of Kernodle’s roommates and friends, 21-year-old Madison Mogen and 21-year-old Kaylee Goncalves, were also killed in the attack. The bodies of the four students were discovered hours later, and police have yet to find a suspect or murder weapon.

Kernodle was light-hearted — the kind of person who always upgrades a room, said her older sister, Jazzmin Kernodle.

“You rarely meet someone like Xana,” her sister said via text message. “She was so positive, funny and loved by everyone she met.”

Xana Kernodle attended high school in the quaint northern Idaho town of Post Falls. For her graduation in 2020, she decorated her mortarboard with floral and butterfly cutouts and the words “For The Lives That I Will Change.”

During a candlelight vigil in north Idaho on Wednesday, one of her high school friends, Garrett Sciortino, was overcome with emotion. But he couldn’t help but laugh as he shared stories about their time together, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.

Mogen was also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She and Kernodle both had jobs at the Mad Greek restaurant in downtown Moscow.

Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were friends before they met, his mother said. That summer, Kernodle spent time with the entire Chapin family.

Mogen and Goncalves grew up together in northern Idaho, such close friends they were practically sisters. Goncalves chronicled part of her story in an Instagram post celebrating Mogen’s 21st birthday in May.

Pictures of the couple as tweens making goofy faces for the camera, wearing matching navy and khaki school uniforms and carefully laced sneakers, and standing side-by-side in high school graduation gowns were accompanied by a heartfelt caption.

“I wouldn’t have wanted someone else to be the main character in all my childhood stories,” Goncalves wrote.

“I love you more than life! My best friend forever and more,” Mogen replied, adding a heart emoji.

Mogen, a marketing student, used those skills to run a social media campaign for the Greek restaurant where she worked. She loved the color pink and planned to move to Boise after graduating this spring, family friend Jessie Frost told The Idaho Statesman.

Goncalves, who had joined the Alpha Phi sorority and was a senior majoring in General Studies, also had big plans. She had recently bought a 2016 Range Rover, was planning a trip to Europe next year and expected to move to Texas after graduation, her sister Alivea Goncalves told NBC’s Today show.

“She had everything to herself, absolutely everything,” her sister said. “It was her turn to do her job. She had worked really hard for it.”

In addition to photos, Mogen collected quotes on her Instagram page.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but a lot of it actually is,” reads one colorful post. Right now, friends and family are trying to find sanctuary in the light they left behind.

Talking about Ethan Chapin, commemorating him, has been cathartic, his mother said, at a time when complete strangers have fueled speculation and conjecture about the family’s greatest tragedy. Shortly after learning about the murders, the family took refuge in the privacy of a vacation home for some time.

“When we yesterday morning saw information being posted about our son that was not personal to us, we realized that the greatest gift we can give our son right now is his voice,” said Stacy Chapin .

As the Chapins drove home, they braced themselves for what lay ahead: the funeral planning, the endless wait for answers. The uniquely difficult burden of bearing her own unfathomable loss in a community that is also grieving.

“We cannot go back and change the outcome. We really need to focus on just commemorating our own son,” said Stacy Chapin. “We mourn as a family, but I see so many hurt children, like the sorority flying all these children in for the funeral.

“I’ve kept trying to remind Maizie and Hunter that we are grieving, but we need to realize that everyone else is also grieving,” she explained.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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