Idaho students killed leave bright memories, big goals

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Ethan Chapin spent his last day with his brothers, dressing up and dancing.

Chapin was a triplet — one of four University of Idaho students who were executed last weekend, with police still searching for a killer. His brother and sister also attend the scenic state school nestled in the rolling hills of north-central Idaho.

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

Ethan Chapin took photos of the event on his phone, but the family is still visible. The device is being held by law enforcement as possible evidence in the homicide investigation.

The photos may show the waves in his dark hair and the dimple that appears when he smiles. What they won’t show is how much Ethan hated making people laugh, or how he didn’t care about the restaurant the family ran, as long as they were going there together .

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

Ethan, a 20-year-old member of the Sigma Chi fraternity who loves sports, was dating 20-year-old Xana Kernodle, a junior who was majoring in marketing and a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Both were killed in the violent attack on Sunday, stabbed by a killer or killers inside Kernodle’s rented house, which was steps away 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 found an hour later, and the police still do not suspect a murder weapon.

Kernodle was light hearted – the kind of person who always took up 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 who met her.”

Xana Kernodle went to high school in the scenic northern Idaho city of Post Falls. When she graduated in 2020, she decorated her mortar board with flower and butterfly cutouts and the words, “For The Lives That I Will Change”.

During a candlelight vigil in northern Idaho on Wednesday, one of her high school friends, Garrett Sciortino, was overcome with emotion. But he couldn’t help but laugh as he told 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 had jobs at the Mad Greek restaurant in central Moscow.

Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle were friends before they started dating, his mother said. By this summer, Kernodle was spending time with the entire Chapin family.

Mogen and Goncalves grew up together in northern Idaho, friends so close they were practically sisters. Goncalves recounted some of his history in an Instagram post celebrating Mogen’s 21st birthday in May.

There were pictures of the pair as tweens making silly faces for the camera, wearing navy-and-khaki school uniforms with carefully laced sneakers, and side-by-side in high school graduation dresses with a heartfelt caption.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else to be the main character in 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 major, was using 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 she graduated this spring, family friend Jessie Frost told the Idaho Statesman.

Goncalves, who joined the Alpha Phi sorority and was a senior majoring in general studies, had big plans. She recently bought a 2016 Range Rover, planned a trip to Europe next year, and was hoping to move to Texas after graduation, her sister Alivea Goncalves told NBC’s “Today” show.

“She had everything going for her, absolutely everything,” her sister said. “She had her job fixed. She worked hard for it.”

Along with photos, Mogen collected quotes on his Instagram page.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but there really is a lot of it,” read one brightly colored post. For now, friends and family are trying to find refuge in the light they left behind.

Talking about Ethan Chapin, remembering him in conversation, was cathartic, his mother said, during a time when complete strangers are spreading speculation and speculation about the family’s greatest tragedy. Shortly after discovering the murders, the family escaped to the privacy of a vacation home for a while.

“We realized yesterday morning, seeing information about our son being posted that did not come from us personally, that the greatest gift we could give our son at this moment was his voice,” said Stacy Chapin.

As the Champions drove home, they glanced at what they faced: The funeral planning, the endless wait for answers. The uniquely difficult burden of bearing their own inexplicable loss within a community that is also grieving.

“We cannot go back and change the result. We really have to focus on remembering our own son,” said Stacy Chapin. “We’re sorry as a family, but I can see so many kids hurt, like the fraternity that all these kids are flying in for the funeral.

“I’ve always tried to remind Maizie and Hunter that we are sorry, but we have to be aware of everyone else who needs to grieve this too,” she explained.

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