Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (2024)

Up on a shelf in the Goncalves family home, Kaylee and Maddie's ashes rest side by side. Forever best friends, the two shared a bond like sisters.

Kara Valentine

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Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (8)

  • November 13, 2022 The day of the murders
  • A Healing Step The support for a foundation to heal
  • Life After Loss One year after the murders
  • Justice in Court 'He won't be the story anymore'
  • Kaylee's Motto 'Something you love, with the people you love'

Published: 9:30 PM PST November 13, 2023

Updated: 10:50 AM PST November 20, 2023

MOSCOW, Idaho

This publication is Part II of a four-part series.

"I feel like it's been forever," Kristi Goncalves said. "And I feel like it was yesterday. So much of it has been a blur, it's been tremendously painful, and I know that it's still coming and it's not over. I don't think that it will ever be over."

Kristi Goncalves is the mother of Kaylee Goncalves, one of four University of Idaho students murdered in an off-campus home in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2022.

One year after the heinous Moscow murders, Kaylee's parents, Steve and Kristi, talked about life after loss, their beloved late daughter's memory and the overwhelming support that's paving a path toward healing.

In an interview at the Goncalves family home in Rathdrum, Idaho, Kaylee's parents were happy to share their stories about Kaylee and all the joy that she brought into the world. They were quick to recount sweet memories of Kaylee as a little girl.

"She had a ton of spirit, she was so fun," Kristi was beaming as she spoke. "She was like a little princess, and she wanted to do all the fancy stuff, a true girl," Steve said.

Kaylee was one of five children; she was the middle child.

"Alivia is our oldest, and then Steven and then Kaylee, then Autumn and Aubrey," Kristi said, naming her children one by one.

Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (10) Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (11)

Credit: Goncalves Family

Steve and Kristi not only lost Kaylee on that awful November day, they also lost Madison Mogen. She lived at the King Road house, and was also one of the four victims. Mogen was Kaylee's best friend and like a daughter to the Goncalves'. She and Kaylee met in the 6th grade and the two were inseparable ever since.

"Kaylee came home talking about this Maddie girl, and the rest was history! They were just inseparable," Kristi recalled. "Kaylee was either there [at Maddie's], or Maddie was at our place, so they had the best of both worlds."

Steve chimed in about the special bond between the two girls. "They did high school together and college, they picked the same school."

Kaylee and Maddie loved the University of Idaho. They felt like it was their home away from home.

"You could see that in photos of them, you could see the happiness in them, the love, the bright light," Kristi shared. "I do think the famous picture that is out there of all of them with Ethan and Xana and the two survivors, I think it kind of sums up their relationship. Laughing, smiling, in the moment," said Kristi.

Kristi said the now-famed photos of the roommates outside the King Road house were taken the day before the murders.

"Kaylee texted those photos to me a little after 2 p.m. on Saturday the 12th of November. Maddie is up on her shoulders. That's the last text message I have from Kaylee," Kristi said through tears.

November 13, 2022 The day of the murders

On November 13, 2022, Steve and Kristi received the news that Kaylee and Maddie were gone.

They have carried that unbearable heartache for the last 365 days.

"It's real and people don't understand that this isn't TV. Yes, there are TV shows about it, but it's real. This is our life, and they are not characters. This is not entertainment," Kristi said.

"This is a disaster for us," Steve continued where Kristi left off. "These kids did everything by the book, the way you are supposed to do it. They went to bed at night, they had a dog...I mean, all the things that would prevent something like this from happening didn't work in this particular case."

A Healing Step The support for a foundation to heal

The Goncalves family created a Facebook page where they share photos of the two girls. It's a way of cherishing the happy memories of Kaylee and Maddie, and it's keeping their joyful spirits very much alive.

"Originally, it started for tips in the case," Kristi elaborated. "Once we got our suspect, I was like 'we're going to change this' and we changed it to the Goncalves Family page. It's all about light and positivity."

"Friends of Kaylee that we haven't even met will send us photos of the time they had together," Steve noted. "Those photos mean so much."

The page is flooded with encouragement for Steve and Kristi from thousands of people, friends in their local community, and even total strangers from across the world. The Goncalves' say the kindness and support they've received has been truly touching.

"I wish that I could reply to everybody, I can't unfortunately. But I do read all of it," Kristi shared. "I wake up in the morning, that's the first thing I do; the messages, the comments. Before I go to bed, that's the last thing I do, and I want the people out there to know how important it is to me, and it has made a difference in our lives."

Their home is filled with cards, letters and gifts from people who want to honor the memory of Kaylee. One of their favorites, the Goncalves' said, is a painted canvas of Kaylee with Jesus.

"It's comforting for me, because that's kind of how you envision it and how you hope it is," Kristi said of the portrait. "It's just so real. We try to thank everyone for the gifts that we get, it just comes in volumes."

Life After Loss One year after the murders

On a special shelf in the Goncalves family home, Kaylee and Maddie's ashes rest side by side.

The shelf is decorated with flowers and angel statues - honoring the girls and the lovely people they were. Steve and Kristi said the girls would have wanted it that way. "That up there is Kaylee and Maddie, we are going to keep them together."

The Goncalves' intend to eventually divide the ashes and distribute them between the Goncalves family and Maddie's family, so that both families have ashes for both girls. It's a compromise that will keep the best friends together. The Goncalves' said they won't separate them, not even in death.

In a year that brought such sorrow, so too, came great joy.

The Goncalves' oldest daughter Alivia gave birth to her third child, a baby girl - whom she named in honor of Maddie and Kaylee, with the middle name 'MaddieKay.'

"Steve and I call her MaddieKay," said Kristi smiling. "Oh, she smiles so much, that baby!"

The Goncalves' elaborated on the joy all of their grandkids have brought them over the last year.

"Yes, they are such good distractions to get out of your head being in a such a dark spot," said Steve. "With them around, you think about what you can do to make the day better for everyone around you."

The Goncalves' say they are still taking this one day at a time.

"I think we are doing the best we can. You know, our coworkers, friends, they are like family now. I think it would be much harder without all the love and support that we have."

Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (14) Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (15)

Credit: Goncalves Family

Justice in Court 'He won't be the story anymore'

"I want an end date, I think all the families want an end date, and we're thinking next year will be the end," Steve said in reference to the pending murder trial of the primary suspect in the quadruple homicide, Bryan Kohberger. "The delays are agonizing."

Kohberger is charged with first-degree murder and felony burglary in the killings of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen. Prosecutors allege that lab results determined Kohberger was a positive match to DNA on a knife sheath, found next to Maddie and Kaylee's bodies.

Kohberger, a former criminology student at Washington State University, was arrested in December 2022 at his family's home in Pennsylvania and extradited to Idaho on Jan. 4, 2023, to face the murder charges.

"Our lives will never be the same, but we need to go back to where this isn't something hanging over our head; so that we can put this chapter to rest and figure out the next move we make as a family," Steve continued. "When this is all said and done, if you remember these kids, that's the end goal that we are all working towards."

"We are going to forget whatever loser did this, the monster that put this together. He won't be the story anymore. He won't be around to be remembered and everyone else will be."

Kaylee's Motto 'Something you love, with the people you love'

Steve said Kaylee still finds ways to inspire him. When days get tough, Kaylee helps him to remember that there are still good people in the world.

"One of the last songs she was listening to was the country song called Most People Are Good. I have to remind myself of that when I want to be angry. Most people are good, and you don't want this to turn you into a monster because something bad has happened to you."

The Goncalves family will continue to celebrate Kaylee's birthday in June. "We do plan on doing Kaylee Jade day every year," said Kristi. "Do something you love, with the people you love. That's the motto."

Maddie Mogen's family also celebrates her birthday with 'Maddie Mae day.'

Kaylee loved to travel and had hoped to go to Europe following her graduation from the University of Idaho. So, her mom began collecting keychains from all over the world and encouraged others to do the same.

"Hashtag key chains for Kaylee Jade was my idea," Kristi touted. "People always want to do something for us, and we know that if a keychain comes from Chicago, that Kaylee was thought of in Chicago. She was in thought; she was in prayer."

The Goncalves family wants to thank all the people who are keeping them and Kaylee and Maddie in their hearts.

"The people that we have surrounding us and lifting us up in prayer, they are sharing our grief, our tears and the love we have for our girls. We would have never thought that this, for one, would ever happen, or that it would become so big and so important to so many...and hurt so many. We are just blessed to have everybody that we have. It's overwhelming, it's very emotional. But when they say they share our grief and that they pray for us? We feel that. We really do."

Watch the full interview with Kristi and Steve Goncalves below:

Watch more coverage of this story

Ongoing coverage of the University of Idaho investigation can be found in ourYouTube playlist:

  • Chapin scholarship awarded at University of Idaho to brother of victim in Moscow murders

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Kaylee Goncalves' parents remember her and best friend Maddie Mogen one year after their deaths (2024)

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