Idaho murders victim’s parents call for death penalty for accused killer Bryan Kohberger

The grieving parents of one of the slain University of Idaho students have called for the death penalty for the man accused of stabbing her and her three friends to death in a brutal knife attack.

Kaylee Goncalves’ parents Steve and Kristi Goncalves spoke to NewsNation on Thursday night just hours after they came face to face with their daughter’s accused killer Bryan Kohberger for the first time in court in Idaho.

Mr Goncalves said that justice for his daughter would mean the death penalty for the 28-year-old criminology PhD student, saying that “he has to pay” for what he allegedly did to Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin.

“If you want to play god’s role, you’re gonna have to go answer to him,” he said.

The devastated father said that he will eventually “forgive” his daughter’s killer but said that life in prison is not enough for his alleged crimes.

“We will forgive this individual and we will, but he has to pay for what he’s done,” said Mr Goncalves.

“And it’s not just our daughter, it’s all the victims he needs to pay justice to.”

He added: “For me, it’s gonna look a lot like an end... Justice is when you leave the planet, and the whole world is able to rejoice and be glad that you’re not there.”

When asked if they had already considered what their response would be if prosecutors were to ask if they support the death penalty for Mr Kohberger, Goncalves’ mother and father both said that they were in favour of it.

“If our daughters could switch places with him – and I’m saying Maddie as my daughter – we’d do it in a heartbeat,” said Mr Goncalves.

“If they could sit there and have three squares [a reference to prison meals], a place to live, we could call them, we could write them letters, they could watch TV, they could go get educated.”

He continued: “That’s not a punishment equivalent to being killed. That’s god’s role, and if you want to play god’s role, then you’re going to have to go answer to him.”

Ms Goncalves said that she “would love if Maddie and Kaylee were doing life in prison right now”.

Bryan Kohberger appears in Latah County Court on Thursday on murder charges (AP)
Bryan Kohberger appears in Latah County Court on Thursday on murder charges (AP)

“At least we could talk to them,” she said, adding that she is “glad we live in Idaho” which has the death penalty.

Mr Kohberger faces life in prison or the death penalty on each count of murder.

The Washington State University PHD student and teaching assistant is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.

He appeared in court in Latah County, Moscow, for the first time on Thursday where he was ordered to be held without bail.

While Goncalves’ parents sobbed in the gallery, Mr Kohberger looked straight ahead and showed no emotion.

The suspect – who plans to fight the quadruple homicide allegations – was not asked to enter a plea at the hearing.

While he appeared in court, chilling details about the murders were revealed for the first time in the newly-released affidavit.

The documents reveal that the 28-year-old criminology PhD student was tied to the murders of after his DNA was found on a knife sheath the killer left behind at the crime scene.

The tan leather Kabar knife sheath, which featured the United States Marine Corps symbol, was discovered on Mogen’s bed next to her butchered body.

Mr Kohberger’s DNA was found on the sheath with investigators able to trace it to him by matching it to DNA found on trash recovered from his family home in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, the affidavit states.

Mr Kohberger was also linked to the murders through his white Hyundai Elantra and through cellphone data.

The Washington State University (WSU) student’s vehicle had been captured on surveillance footage driving from the direction of his home in Pullman, Washington state, to the King Road home around the time of the murders – and then back again, the documents state.

Investigators believe that Mr Kohberger turned his cellphone off on the night of the murders in order to try to avoid detection.

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However, cellphone data shows that Mr Kohberger appears to have stalked the home at least 12 times in the run-up to the 13 November attack.

The data also indicates that he returned to the scene of the crime at around 9am on 13 November – around five hours after the stabbing frenzy.

For the first time, the police report also revealed that one of the two surviving roommates came face to face with the masked killer inside the home and overheard his chilling final words to the victims.

Two other female roommates were home at the time of the early morning attack but were left unharmed.

In one of the roommates’ terrifying accounts to investigators, she revealed that she had a lucky escape from the killer as he walked right past her on the second floor of the home after he had just murdered four of her friends.

The survivor, identified only as D.M. in the documents, told investigators that the four victims had all come back to the King Road home from their respective nights out at around 2am and were in their rooms by around 4am – except for Kernodle who got up to collect a DoorDash order around that time.

D.M. told investigators that she had gone to sleep in her bedroom on the second floor of the three-floor home and was woken by what sounded like Goncalves playing with her dog in one of the third-floor bedrooms.

A short time later, D.M. said that she heard someone believed to be either Goncalves or Kernodle saying something to the effect of “there’s someone here”.

Minutes later, D.M. said that she looked out of her bedroom for the first time but did not see anything.

She then opened her door for a second time when she heard what she thought was crying coming from Kernodle’s room, the documents state.

At that point, she said she heard a man’s voice saying something to the effect of “it’s ok, I’m going to help you”.

When she opened her door for a third time minutes later, she said she saw “a figure clad in black clothing and a mask that covered the person’s mouth and nose walking towards her”.

Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves pictured together before their murders (Instagram)
Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves pictured together before their murders (Instagram)

As she stood in a “frozen shock phase,” she said the man – who she did not recognise – walked past her and headed toward the back sliding glass door of the home. The witness said that she then locked herself in her room.

Hours later, Mogen and Goncalves were both found stabbed to death together in Mogen’s single bed in her room on the third floor.

The bodies of young couple Kernodle and Chapin were both found in Kernodle’s bedroom on the second floor of the property, with the 20-year-old woman found lying on the floor.

In an eerie revelation it has emerged that Goncalves’ pet dog Murphy was found unharmed in Goncalves’ bedroom, which is also on the third floor, the officer wrote.

Around the time that the roommate witnessed the suspect, a security camera near the home picked up the sound of a whimper followed by a loud thud. A dog was also heard barking numerous times starting at 4.17am, the documents state.

Six weeks on from the murders, on 30 December, Mr Kohberger 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 on Wednesday to face charges.

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

Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle pictured together (Jazzmin Kernodle)
Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle pictured together (Jazzmin Kernodle)

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

He had moved there from Pennsylvania 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”.