BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Ethan Chapin’s last day was spent with his brothers, dressing up and dancing.
Chapin — one of four University of Idaho students stabbed to death last weekend while police are still searching for a killer — was a set of triplets. His brother and sister also attend the quaint public school tucked away in the rolling hills of north-central Idaho.
“He was our daughter Maizie’s date and his brother was Maizie’s roommates,” Chapin’s mother, Stacy Chapin, said in an interview Wednesday. The group was attending a dance hosted by Maizie’s sorority. “Everyone spent their last day together, all dressed up and having a great time. We are all grateful that they spent this time together.”
Ethan Chapin captured photos of the event on his phone, but the family has yet to see them. The device is being held by law enforcement as possible evidence in a homicide investigation.
Chances are, the photos will show the waves in his dark hair and the dimple that emerges when he smiles. What they won’t show is Ethan’s ability to make people laugh, or that he never cared which restaurant the family headed to as long as they went there together.
“He could read any situation and make it better,” Stacy Chapin said. “He was so carefree.”
Ethan, a 20-year-old member of Sigma Chi fraternity who loved sports, was dating 20-year-old Xana Kernodle, a junior majoring in marketing and a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. Both were killed in the brutal attack on Sunday, stabbed by a killer or killers inside Kernodle’s rented home, 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 discovered hours later, and police have yet to find a suspect or a murder weapon.
Kernodle was light-hearted — the kind of person who always lifted a room, her older sister Jazzmin Kernodle said.
“You rarely meet someone like Xana,” her sister said via text. “She was so positive, funny and loved by everyone who met her.”
Xana Kernodle went to high school in the picturesque town of Post Falls in northern Idaho. For her 2020 graduation, she decorated her mortarboard with cut flowers and butterflies and the words “For the lives I will change.”
During a vigil in northern Idaho on Wednesday, one of her high school friends, Garrett Sciortino, was overcome with emotion. But she couldn’t help but laugh when she told stories about their time together, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.
Mogen was also a member of 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 started dating, his mother said. This summer, Kernodle spent time with the entire Chapin family.
Mogen and Goncalves grew up together in northern Idaho, friends so close they were practically sisters. Goncalves recounted part of their story in an Instagram post celebrating Mogen’s 21st birthday in May.
Photos of the couple as tweens making silly faces for the camera, wearing matching navy and khaki school-style outfits and carefully laced sneakers and side by side in high school graduation dresses were accompanied by a heartfelt caption.
“I wouldn’t want anyone 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 major, used those skills to execute 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 Alpha Phi sorority and was a general studies senior, also had big plans. She had recently purchased a 2016 Range Rover, planned a trip to Europe next year and expected to move to Texas after graduation, her sister Alivea Goncalves told NBC’s “Today” show.
“She was into everything, absolutely everything,” her sister said. “She had her work cut out for her. He had worked very hard for it.”
Along with photos, Mogen collected quotes on her Instagram page.
“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but a lot of it actually is,” read one brightly colored post. For now, friends and family try to find refuge in the light they left behind.
Talking about Ethan Chapin, remembering him in conversation, has been cathartic, his mother said, at a time when total strangers are spreading conjecture and conjecture about the family’s greatest tragedy. Shortly after learning of the murders, the family escaped to the privacy of a cottage for a time.
“We realized yesterday morning, seeing information about our son being published that didn’t come from us personally, that the greatest gift we could give our son right now is to be his voice,” Stacy Chapin said. .
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 holding their own, unfathomable loss within a community that is also grieving.
“We cannot go back and change the result. We really need to focus on memorializing our own son,” Stacy Chapin said. “We’re grieving as a family, but I can see so many hurt kids, like the brotherhood that has all these kids flying for the funeral.
“I keep trying to remind Maizie and Hunter that we’re grieving, but we need to know everyone else who has to grieve as well,” she explained.