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Revealed: The tragic reason an Idaho murders victim returned to Moscow after moving out of her student home

Best friends Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen were found in the same bed together in Mogen’s room, with a knife sheath left behind by the killer next to their bodies

Rachel Sharp
Monday 16 January 2023 14:29 GMT
New details emerge of suspect Bryan Kohberger

Idaho murders victim Kaylee Goncalves had already moved out of the home where she and three other students were brutally murdered – but tragically returned to Moscow to visit her best friend that fateful weekend.

Goncalves’ parents told NBC’s “Dateline” that the 21-year-old had recently left the student rental property on King Road, Moscow, ahead of her upcoming graduation that December and a move to Austin, Texas, for a new job at a tech firm.

Then, on the weekend of 12 November, she decided to go back to the college town to visit her best friend Madison Mogen.

The two young women had been inseparable since meeting in the sixth grade and Goncalves wanted to show Mogen her new Range Rover that she had saved up for and bought.

The pair also planned to go to a party together on the night of Saturday 12 November.

“These girls were best friends since sixth grade, like inseparable,” said Goncalves’ mother Kristi Goncalves.

“That was the last time that I saw Kaylee.”

In the early hours of 13 November, Goncalves, Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were all stabbed to death in the three-storey home.

Goncalves and Mogen were found in the same bed together in Mogen’s room, with a knife sheath left behind by the killer next to their bodies.

DNA found on the sheath was matched to suspect Bryan Kohberger, who is now facing a potential death penalty for the quadruple homicide that has rocked the small college town.

Ms Goncalves told “Dateline” that she first learned about her daughter’s murder from a family member with connections in Moscow.

She said that the relative told her “something bad happened to Kaylee” and she tried to get in touch with both Goncalves and Mogen – to no avail.

Kaylee Goncalves was only visiting the student home on the weekend when she was killed (Kaylee Goncalves/Instagram)

She said she urged people “to relax” as she was convinced that if anything had happened to her daughter then Mogen – who was also like part of the family – would have got in touch.

“I said, ‘Everyone needs to relax, because if something happened to Kaylee last night, Maddie would have called me,’” the grieving mother said.

However, a few hours later, she said that officers arrived at the family’s home and broke the horrifying news that both Goncalves and Mogen were among the four victims.

The motive for the murders is unknown and it remains unclear why Mr Kohberger allegedly targeted the victims, with no known connection between the four students and the suspect.

Now, the families of the victims will have to wait at least another six months before they can get more answers about their children’s murders, after his next court date was delayed until June.

Mr Kohberger appeared in Latah County Courthouse for his status hearing on Thursday where he waived his right to a speedy trial. The judge scheduled the preliminary hearing for the week beginning 26 June.

The entire week has been set aside for the hearing – when evidence of the case against Mr Kohberger will be laid out for the first time in court and he is likely to enter a plea on the charges.

His request for a delay before the next court appearance came after the defence asked the prosecution to hand over all discovery in the case in the next 14 days – including witness statements, digital media and police reports.

Bryan Kohbergr enters court in Moscow on 12 January (AP)

Ms Taylor told the judge that waiving the 14-day deadline would give the defence more time to review all the evidence in the case.

Until then, Mr Kohberger will be held behind bars at Latah County Jail after he was ordered to be held on no bail for a second time.

As well as the DNA evidence found at the scene, the suspect was also tracked down through cellphone data and his white Hyundai Elantra, which was spotted at the crime scene at the time of the murders.

Cellphone data uggests that Mr Kohberger stalked the student home at least 12 times in the run-up to the night of the murders, according to the affidavit. The exact dates and times of these instances were not revealed in the affidavit but all bar one were in the late evening or early morning hours.

At the time of the murders, investigators believe Mr Kohberger turned his cellphone off in order to try to avoid detection.

However, cellphone data places him close to the home on King Road at around 9am on 13 November – suggesting that he returned to the scene of the crime just hours after allegedly murdering the four victims at around 4am.

One of the victims’ surviving roommates was also able to partially describe the killer to investigators after she came face to face with him in the aftermath of the murders in the early hours of 13 November.

As a criminal justice PhD student at Washington State University, Mr Kohberger lived just 15 minutes from the victims over the Idaho-Washington border in Pullman.

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, took this photo together hours before they died (Instagram/Kaylee Goncalves)

He had moved there from Pennsylvania to begin his studies in August and has just completed his first semester.

Before this, he studied criminology at DeSales University – first as an undergraduate and then finishing his graduate studies in June 2022.

While there, he studied under renowned forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland who interviewed the BTK serial killer and co-wrote the book Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer with him.

He also carried out a research project “to understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime”.

On 30 December, he was arrested in an early-morning raid on his family home in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, where he had gone to spend the holidays.

He was extradited back to Idaho and his white Hyundai Elantra was seized by investigators.

The murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – is yet to be found.

Now, he is facing life in prison or the death penalty for the murders that have rocked the small college town of Moscow and hit headlines around the globe.

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