To: College Students, From: Idaho

Nonnewaug alumna lived on Idaho campus near where four students were stabbed in November

Memorial+flowers+and+gifts+line+the+University+of+Idaho+entrance+to+mourn+the+four+students+who+were+stabbed+to+death+in+November.+The+killer+has+not+been+identified.

University of Idaho/Instagram

Memorial flowers and gifts line the University of Idaho entrance to mourn the four students who were stabbed to death in November. The killer has not been identified.

Izzy DiNunzio, Community and Multimedia Editor

Update, Dec. 30: Police arrested a 28-year-old man in Pennsylvania on Dec. 30, and he will be charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

Four college students are dead. 

Nonnewaug’s class of 2023 will be graduating soon. They will go on their own paths, whether that includes staying in Woodbury, going into the workforce, or making their way to college. 

College is a big step, and for some it’s scary — especially when you hear of four college students being stabbed to death. 

Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin, and Xana Kernodle were all brutally stabbed to death in NovemberAll four students attended the University of Idaho and lived near campus.

One recent Nonnewaug graduate attended the University of Idaho: Julia Nielsen graduated from Nonnewaug in 2021 and made her way to Idaho for one semester before transferring.

When Nielsen heard about the quadruple homicide, she was fearful. 

“I was really, really scared,” Nielsen said. “When I first heard about it, it was through my old roommate from the University of Idaho, who had also transferred at the same time as me. My roommate has a sister that goes to Washington State University, which is about a 15-minute drive from the University of Idaho. Her sister had gone into lockdown at her school, or something like that, and that is how my roommate found out.

“I was really scared because I still have friends that go to the University of Idaho,” she continued. “Nobody knew what was happening, and when I first found out everybody thought it was only one person. There were a lot of rumors going around that it had something to do with drugs, but it turns out that wasn’t the case at all.”

Helena de Castro and other Nonnewaug seniors heard about the murders through social media. Castro wants to go to college in New York for human development and family science, and she says the news adds to the anxiety of thinking about next fall.

“I heard about the murders through social media. I was very scared and it makes me even more scared about being alone and independent because I feel safer at home. It just makes me worried to leave my house,” says de Castro. “It’s already scary to leave home, but to realize stuff like that can happen just brings it to another level. You are already leaving your safe space and hearing of the murders on top of that sucks.”

Dylan Chung is looking at majoring in business. He heard about the murders through his mom, but he says he’ll try not to think about what happened in Idaho.

“I went on social media and looked it up and learned more. I was surprised because there were two roommates who survived,” says Chung. “I try not to think about those types of things. It’s a terrible thing that could happen, but I’m not going to let it get in the way of my college experience.”

The news of the quadruple homicide did not only affect current University of Idaho students. 

“After hearing about what happened to the students on a campus where I lived for about six months, it honestly really scared me to go back to a normal college because, unfortunately, we live in a pretty crazy world now where students getting killed on their campus isn’t an unlikely thing,” Nielsen adds. 

Nonnewaug alumna Julia Alteri attends Sacred Heart. She believes college murders could happen anywhere. 

“I felt concerned when I heard about the Idaho murders. If I were to get an apartment, I would not want to live with all girls because I would feel a little scared,” Altieri says. “I think this could happen anywhere even where I go to college.”

There have been no suspects named in the murders, which adds to some people’s apprehension.

“It’s really scary because they haven’t caught the person who did this … so it makes me scared that I possibly knew the person who did this, lived in the same building as them, [or] went to class with them,” Nielsen adds. 

Cody Kellogg is a senior at Nonnewaug. He doesn’t know where he will be going for college, but the Idaho murders will not be getting in the way of his planning. 

“It’s definitely eye-opening. It makes you have to be more aware of your surroundings,” says Kellogg, “but it really hasn’t changed my perspective about where I want to go.”

Technology has increased over the years and has become a valuable tool for getting information out. Kathy Green, a counselor at Nonnewaug who is the head of the College and Career and Resource Center, said that social media and the faster spread of information these days may contribute to more students feeling on edge.

“When I went to college, I was never fearful because I never heard of anything like that [college murders],” Green said. “I think a boy died at UConn from drunk driving, but that was my only kind of exposure to anything like that. As a parent, it’s horrifying to think that other parents just endured the tragic deaths of their children, especially when you expect that college kids are in a safe environment.  The pace that news travels didn’t travel as fast as it does now or to the extent that is available today. Kids now have so much more information than kids had back then.” 

Nielsen transferred out of Idaho after the fall 2021 semester because “as a student who doesn’t party, literally at all, it was honestly kind of hard to have a social life.” Now, she attends Naugatuck Valley Community College as a horticulture student and will graduate with an associate’s degree next fall.

Even though she doesn’t live on a college campus anymore, Nielsen urges those who do to stay safe no matter where they go. 

“I do a couple of things to keep myself safe. The biggest one is to be aware of the people you’re connected to.” Nielsen said. “I trust my gut, and if my gut tells me to not be associated with a person or to not go somewhere, you know I’m listening to that. People do some sketchy stuff, and you really gotta try your best to stay out of situations that can get you in trouble. Another big thing is constantly telling people where I am. I share my location on my phone with my mom, sister, and my best friend. It’s always good to just look out for yourself and might save yourself from a situation just by somebody knowing where you are.”