A gray house with a Christmas wreath on the front door and twinkling fairy lights in the backyard could be any other student dorm in the remote town of Moscow, Idaho.
A blanket of snow lay on the ground, and a garbage bag full of beer and soda cans was propped up next to an outdoor grill.
The young women who lived here until recently were popular members of the University of Idaho sorority and threw regular parties.
They documented their lives on social media, including choreographed videos of group dances and pictures of them getting dressed for nights out.
But that apparent student idyll was shattered four weeks ago when three roommates — Kaylee Goncalves, Maddie Mogen and Xana Kernodle, and Xana’s boyfriend, Ethan Chapin — were brutally murdered.
They were stabbed to death with a machete while they were sleeping in bed in the early hours of a Sunday morning, their room was spattered with blood, while two other roommates fell asleep during the attack.
Four weeks passed with no known witnesses, no named suspects, no murder weapon and no apparent motive.
No matter where you get the podcast, subscribe to Sky News Daily with one click
Moscow’s small police force, which hasn’t committed a single murder in more than seven years, is at the center of a race to find the killer, or the murderer.
“It’s hard to say when or if the town will be like it was,” said Robbie Johnson, the force’s public information officer.
“We can’t make mistakes”
There are signs that the community and the distraught parents of the victims are growing frustrated with what they see as a lack of progress by police, even as reinforcements from the FBI and Idaho State Police have arrived.
Ms Johnson told Sky News the decision to withhold certain information or investigative leads from the public was deliberate.
“We don’t just want an arrest, we want to take it to court,” she added.
“We need to make sure we’re checking all the evidence and it’s fixed. There are photos, emails, phone calls coming in. We can’t make mistakes or release information that could jeopardize the investigation.”
Police have always said they believe the house or its occupants were targets, but they have not said why they believe so.
the house where they were slaughtered
Internet sleuths pored over the building’s layout. The ground floor features sliding patio doors and is where Xana and Ethan were butchered, a couple that had been considered perfect since the spring.
In an upstairs bedroom, lifelong best friends Kaylee and Maddie were also sleeping in the same bed when they were murdered.
In the early hours of the morning, they had been repeatedly texting Kylie’s ex-boyfriend, with whom she remains close, and police have named him a suspect.
One of the most puzzling aspects of the case is that two other female roommates, Dylan Mortensen and Bethany Funke, who lived in the basement bedroom, survived.
They said they fell asleep during the attack and when they awoke they called other friends to their home, believing one of their roommates was unconscious.
Just before noon, one of the friends called the police, who discovered the true horror of what had happened. Police have named Dylan, Bethany and friends who arrived that morning as suspects.
“The big question is why,” said Troy Lambert, a crime writer whose stepson lives in an apartment less than 100 yards from the murder house.
“Why would they target young college students who, in my view, have no enemies,” he added.
“My stepson was playing games and stuff with his roommates, so they didn’t hear anything.
“Given the density of students in the area, it’s kind of surprising that no one heard anything. That’s what makes me think it’s organized people and things because they didn’t make a sound. They knew not to make a sound.”
Kelly and Maddie in action
Investigators said they were busy piecing together not only what happened inside the house, but also where the victim was in the hours leading up to the murder.
Kaylee and Maddie spend the night at a bar called the Corner Club, with its neon-yellow sign and affordable drinks, just off Moscow’s main street.
They left at 1 a.m. and walked to a nearby food truck, where Kaylee could be heard stammering as she ordered a spaghetti spaghetti on live stream.
Then there appears to be an altercation with a man wearing a hoodie. At one point, Maddie gestures at him as if to say “fuck you sir,” before they both disappear from the camera.
Police said they had also ruled him out as a suspect.
It has previously been reported that Kylie’s parents believe she may have been the primary target based on what they were told was the extent of her injuries compared to other victims.
But they now believe that is not the case.
“I don’t think the family considers their daughter a personal target,” their lawyer Shanon Gray told Sky News.
“It just doesn’t make sense with the facts that have been presented and other information that we have gathered.
“That person probably targeted the home because it’s full of girls and there’s a lot of people coming and going, it’s a very social scene.”
Five page long list of questions
The Goncalves family hired Mr Gray to seek answers from the police. He went to meetings with investigators this week with a five-page list of questions, but they remained tight-lipped.
“We asked why they didn’t release more information to the public,” he added. “In the future, we might look at it and say, ‘Good job not releasing this information’, or they might regret those decisions.
“I don’t know if anyone has experience handling a murder investigation involving four college students who were stabbed, so I’m sure this is new to them.
“But they still need to make sure they’re doing the right thing, and we’re here to hold them accountable.”
five hours gone
The whereabouts of the other two victims, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin, are unknown the night of the murder.
Between 8 and 9 p.m., they throw a party in the majestic Sigma Chi fraternity building, with a basketball court in the gardens and the Stars and Stripes flying at half-mast.
The house where they were killed was less than five minutes’ walk across an alley, but they didn’t arrive home until 2am as police struggled to find the man who had been missing for five hours.
In a sea of uncertainty, one or more murderers on the loose continue to terrorize this town of 25,000 people, including 11,000 students.
Everything that is happening in Moscow right now is fraught with loss and fear. During the winter graduation ceremony where Kaylee Goncalves was supposed to receive her degree, a large police force patrolled the arena.
“I have pepper spray and other self-help items, but it’s horrible here, it doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t feel safe,” said graduate Emma Bartlett, who went to junior high with Kelly and Maddie , and tutored Ethan in college.
“He was always smiling, happy and funny,” she said. “It was a pleasure getting to know him.”
It’s not just students who live in fear. Treva Adkins traveled to Moscow over the weekend to see her daughter Katie graduate.
“When we checked into an Airbnb, I was scared to death,” she said. “I had my husband check under the bed, I’m a 43 year old woman.
“I noticed the windows weren’t locked and it paralyzed me so I closed all the windows and drew the drapes. It was horrible and kept looking back.”
The lighting of the Moscow town’s Christmas tree, which took place last week, has become a focal point in memory of the four students who died. Colorful ribbons are tied around the guardrails and reflective notes.
“Too early, Ethan, Xana, Kaylee and Madison,” wrote one. “Prayers for your family, friends and justice,” wrote another.
In a community desperate for answers and accountability, the unknowns keep growing.