A day before she died, Kaylee Goncalves had an impromptu photography session with her roommate and best friend Maddie Mogen on the porch of their rental home in the town of Moscow, just a short walk from the University of Idaho. With all her credits earned and graduation looming close, Kaylee was planning to go on a backpacking trip to Europe ahead of beginning her new job in Austin.
On that last trip to Moscow, Kaylee intended to squeeze in any extra time she could with Maddie, say goodbye to her other housemates and pack the belongings she had left behind. She made plans to go out with Maddie on the evening of 12 November and sent a playful picture of herself carrying her best friend on her shoulders to her parents — the promise of all the exciting things the future had in store clear in their beaming smiles.
A cheerful emoji and “hey” in reply the following day would never be answered. By the time that last message got to her phone on the afternoon of 13 November, Kaylee, Maddie, their roommate and friend Xana Kernodle and Xana’s boyfriend Ethan Chaplin were lying dead in different rooms of the home.
The revelation about that final text was made by Kaylee’s family on their Facebook family page a year after their daughter and her three friends were brutally murdered. Suspect Bryan Kohberger was arrested seven weeks after the stabbings, but with no foreseeable trial date ahead, the families are navigating the grim anniversary by choosing to focus on their children’s legacy.
Steve Goncalves, Kaylee’s father, has refused to use the term “anniversary” altogether. To him, 13 November is an opportunity to highlight the impact his daughter made in her short life, to remind others about the beauty of her heart and to share how proud he is to have been her father.
“This is more like a memorial, some type of an event that you have to look at and think about, but it’s not something that you ever look forward to,” Mr Goncalves told ABC News. “My daughter has allowed me to meet people across the world through her life and memory and her beauty. And I’ll thank her one day when I see her.”
Kaylee’s sister Alivea Goncalves also reflected on the past year in a heartfelt Facebook post. The grieving sister, who gave birth three months after the killings and named her daughter in honour of Kaylee and Maddie, opened up about the heartbreak and pain that she continues to face every day after 13 November.
“I lost two sisters,” Alivea, who has publicly embraced Maddie as another “little sister,” wrote. “I lost a large part of my future. I lost future memories. I lost a limb that day. An invisible extension of what made me possible. I’m walking around, still breathing. I look fine. But my mind is begging to be understood. Screaming ‘I’m hurt! Please see this is serious! This isn’t survivable.’”
Ethan’s family will mark the painful date with a private fundraiser, according to ABC. The Chapins have established the Ethan’s Smile Foundation, which provides scholarships for high school graduates, as a way to commemorate their son’s “unwavering dedication to adventure, uplifting others, and finding humour and joy in every moment.”
In a post featured on the foundation’s Instagram page on Tuesday, Xana’s sister Jazzmin Kernodle shared memories of her time spent with her sister and Ethan, and the love gestures and “special” bond she witnessed.
“Ethan made my little sister so happy. He was the sweetest gentleman. I am so grateful God brought them together, because they both deserve the most love,” Jazzmin wrote. “I miss their silly late-night FaceTimes ... their ‘I love you’s’ as they hung up the phone. They always had some funny story to tell and contagious laughs that showed how much they enjoyed each other’s company,”
The victims’ loved ones are still grappling with somewhat similar chaos to what unravelled in those first hours as authorities tried to make sense of the disturbing details surrounding the crime. Although DNA and surveillance video have led to an arrest and criminal procedures are ongoing, a trial date has yet to be set as the defence continues to fight the validity of the evidence introduced by prosecutors.
The house where the horrific murders unfolded is still standing, despite plans to demolish announced earlier this year by the University of Idaho. Last month, FBI investigators returned to the crime scene to reconstruct visual and audio exhibits for the trial, according to NewsNation.
Details about a potential memorial at the site of the crime have not been shared, but the university said earlier this year that it was looking for a way to involve students in the development plans once the structure was demolished.
Today, exactly a year after unfathomable grief shocked the local community and small tributes began to spread across town with Ethan, Xana, Kaylee and Maddie’s names, the university will hold a vigil in remembrance of the four lives cut short on 13 November 2022. It will start at 6pm PT and is open to the public.
“It is important that the students lead this effort toward healing,” president of the university’s body government Tanner McClain said in an email obtained by The Idaho Statesman. “We want to ensure we continue to tell their stories, to honor their legacy and to provide a place where each student can heal. Together we are moving forward.”