Parents of Kaylee Goncalves, murdered Idaho student, say she was preparing to move before slayings

Parents of Kaylee Goncalves, murdered Idaho student, say she was preparing to move before slayings

The parents of a University of Idaho student who was killed along with three others said she had recently moved out of the home where the murders took place in November but had returned to show her best friend the car her new and to attend a party nearby.

Kristi and Steve Goncalves told Dateline that their daughter, 21-year-old Kaylee Goncalves, was graduating college early and had landed a job with an IT firm in Austin, Texas.

Kaylee Goncalves had just moved out of the home she shared with her longtime best friend, 21-year-old Madison “Maddie” Mogen.

“These girls have been best friends since sixth grade, like inseparable,” Kristi Goncalves said.

The two had lived together and “were real, best friends,” she said. “Maddie had been a big part of our lives.”

Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle. (TODAY)

Kaylee Goncalves, who had just bought a new Range Rover, told her parents she wanted to go back to Moscow, Idaho, to show it to Maddie and attend a nearby party together.

“That was the last time I saw Kaylee,” her mother said.

On Nov. 13, Kaylee, Mogen and two others were stabbed to death inside a home in the largely rural college community of Moscow.

Also killed in the attack were Ethan Chapin, 20, of Conway, Washington, and Xana Kernodle, 20, of Avondale, Arizona.

Police arrested a suspect, Bryan Christopher Kohberger, 28, about seven weeks after the murders. He has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and aggravated burglary.

Authorities linked Kohberger to the case through the man’s DNA left on a knife sheath at the scene, as well as by tracking Kohberger’s car and his cellphone data.

Kohberger, who is from Pennsylvania, was a doctoral student at nearby Washington State University, studying in the department of criminal justice and criminology.

Police have not released a motive for the killings or said whether or how Kohberger may have known the victims.

A former criminal justice classmate of Kohberger’s at DeSales University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master of arts in criminal justice, said he was shocked to hear the news of Kohberger’s arrest.

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“It definitely shook me up,” classmate Madison told Dateline.

Madison, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of harassment, said she remembered the detailed answers Kohberger gave in the criminology course they took together in 2018.

“Every time he raised his hand, he would definitely take it upon himself to answer the question, but still then provide any detail that might help further his point,” she said. “It was always, like, ‘Oh, Bryan was answering this question. This will take the whole class.’

She also thought Kohberger would “stare” at her and her friends.

“He would watch us. He definitely had very prominent eyes,” she said. “I would always catch him staring at us. He would never try to ‘talk’ to us.”

Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in the fatal stabbings of four University of Idaho students, leaves after an extradition hearing in Monroe County District Court in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on January 3, 2023. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Hayden Stinchfield, a junior in WSU’s criminal justice program, had Kohberger as a teaching assistant.

“He wasn’t a super approachable guy,” Stinchfield told Dateline, adding that Kohberger was initially a tough student.

But that suddenly changed.

“At a certain point, he started giving everyone 100s and they liked super high marks,” he said. “By the end of the semester, nobody was thinking about the little deductions from before.”

Stinchfield said that in retrospect, he believes the change in Kohberger’s classification habits “matches pretty well” the timing of the murders.

Steve and Kristi Goncalves said they take comfort in thinking and hoping their daughter may have helped solve her death by grabbing the knife sheath that was eventually used to link Kohberger to the murders.

“I hope that maybe in a fight, she pulled it off him,” Kristi Goncalves said.

“It’s a matte moment,” added Steve Goncalves.

Both said they hope for a conviction and the death penalty.

“He chose over and over to end people’s lives and that should be counted,” said Steve Goncalves.

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