Boise State holds vigil to honor University of Idaho student victims

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Hundreds of community members gathered around the B Plaza at Boise State University for a candlelight vigil on the cold Thursday evening of Nov. 17 to honor the lives of the four University of Idaho students murdered less than a week prior, organized by the Associate Students of Boise State, with support of the dean of students and Vandals families. 

On Sunday, Nov. 13, police identified the deceased students as 20 year-old freshman Ethan Chapin, from Conway, Washington, 20-year-old junior Xana Kernodle from Post Falls, 21-year-old senior Kaylee Goncalves, from Rathdrum, and 21-year-old senior Madison Mogen, from Coeur d’Alene.

Lit candles rested in the interior of the B. In front sat bouquets of flowers and picture collages of the victims, along with a shirt sporting Chapin’s Sigma Chi fraternity symbol and an American flag. 

One speaker, Trevor, met Kernodle during their junior year of high school, and said he’d never forget the time he, Xana and their friend Max stayed up eating iHop at 4:30 a.m. talking about life.

“Xana, I always will miss your energy and lovingness more than anything. You really were the life of the party,” Trevor said. “I ask that my thoughts go out to Ethan, Madi, Kaylee, Xana’s friends and family. And I pray that justice gets served.” 

Another student speaker named Kaden read letters from friends of the victims. One letter was from a friend named Kali, who said through their friendship they never cared about drama, only wanting to have fun and live life to the fullest. 

“Her smile was contagious, and I am so grateful to have known the sweet girl she is,” Kali wrote. “She helped me through a lot of tough times and truly showed me to live life no matter what people say. I’ll see you again one day, and I know you’re in heaven right now surrounded by all the people you love. They will all be missed. I love you Xana.”

Another read from a friend named Carly, who knew Xana, Madison and Kaylee. She wrote about times they shared, from jumping on the trampoline and watching MTV cribs at Kaylee’s house, to trying on makeup at Madison’s.

“Later in the summer I ran into both Kaylee and Madi in Downtown Boise and was still greeted with a smile and a hug even though I hadn’t seen them in years,” Carly wrote. “They are people who shaped who I am today and crucial years of my life, and I will always think fondly of the friendships I had with them. My whole hometown is hurting this week. May they rest in peace. Until I see you again.”

[The Boise State community gathers around the B Plaza for a candlelight vigil honoring University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen.]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

The last speaker, Elizabeth Scarlett, grew up in Coeur d’Alene and attended the University of Idaho her freshman year. It was there that she rushed the Alpha Phi sorority and grew close with her sorority sister, Kaylee. Scarlet said she was not close with Ethan, but that through Xana, he seemed to be an all around amazing guy and supportive partner who complimented her personality perfectly.

Scarlett said her friendship with Xana could never be replaced, saying that she feels a void in her heart that can never be filled. She said Xana was always dancing and smiling — describing her as smart, driven and an EDM queen who gave her the love she holds for the genre. Scarlett said she will always remember Xana whenever she hears a Louis the Child song.

“I know she is watching over us and keeping the party and all the vibes going above. Xana, I miss you and I will see you again soon,” Scarlett said. “My heart is broken for all four of the victims and for their families and close friends. I am so sad. I pray we get closure in the coming days, and I know the memories and lives of Ethan, Xana, Madi and Kaylee will always be celebrated and remembered.”

The formal vigil closed with Boise State Associate Dean of Students Lauren Oe offering students counseling services and final words from Boise State student body president Adam Jones, though the crowd didn’t disperse. People continued to pay their respects in front of the B, sharing emotional hugs and tears.

A Boise State Instagram post of the vigil read, “We are all Vandals,” showcasing solidarity with the university’s sister school during this difficult time.

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