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Kaylee Goncalves’ siblings will receive posthumous degree as family prepares to face Bryan Kohberger in court

The siblings of slain University of Idaho student Kaylee Goncalves will receive her posthumous degree on the sixth-month anniversary of her murder.

Kaylee, her best friend Madison Mogen, and fellow students Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were stabbed to death in a vicious attack on the night of 13 November inside the young women’s off-campus home. Bryan Kohberger, then a PhD student at the neighbouring Washington State University, has been charged with their murders.

On Saturday, the grieving families plan to attend the University of Idaho’s 2023 graduation ceremony, where their late loved ones will be celebrated for their achievements. Goncalves and Mogen were set to graduate this semester, while the families of juniors Kernodle and Chapin will receive certificates for the semesters they completed.

During an interview with Good Morning Americaaired on Friday, Goncalves’ parents talked about the many emotions they’ve experienced on the days leading up to their daughter’s posthumous graduation. Their other children, they said, will walk across the stage to honour the milestone their sister had envisioned before her life was cut short.

“It’s still an out-of-body [experience],” Kristi Goncalves said about grieving her daughter. “I never would have thought a year ago, or even six months ago, that there was going to be a reason that Kaylee wouldn’t be able to accept her own degree. That she wouldn’t be here.”

“I think it shows respect for Kaylee and her hard work ... It’s important for somebody to walk for her.”

Meanwhile, Goncalves’ father Steve Goncalves told ABC News that he is looking forward to Mr Kohberger’s next appearance in court on 26 June, for a preliminary hearing in the quadruple murder case.

“I can’t wait to see the evidence. ... And then I’m gonna bring it,” Mr Goncalves said. “And he’s gonna realise that this ... is the family that’s gonna make sure he doesn’t get away with it.”

The Goncalves family said they don’t believe Mr Kohberger ever met Kaylee in person, let alone attended one of her parties, as online speculation suggested.

“You’re not having just some random stranger at your party,” Kaylee’s brother told ABC. “There’s plenty of things that would have quickly [been] noticed and [he’d be] removed from the party.”

Ms Goncalves also recounted the moment she first saw Mr Kohberger in court, noting she was overwhelmed by the situation. She said while she can’t wait to get justice for her daughter, she will not be present in the courtroom when graphic evidence on the case is presented.

“I was completely overwhelmed. I actually almost thought I was gonna pass out,” she said. “My daughter saw him face-to-face and in a very different light than we saw him, sitting there [in court], looking very meek.”

She added: “I think a big thing is for us to go in strong, united as a family ... I’ve never been to a preliminary trial before. ... I have no idea what to expect, I have no idea what we’re going to hear. ... But I know that I’ve got my son, and my daughter will be there, and my sister, and my husband.”

Mr Kohberger has not entered a plea but said earlier this year through a public defender that he “was eager to be exonerated.”

Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21 (Instagram)
Ethan Chapin, 20, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21 (Instagram)

The former criminology PhD student was linked to the crime thanks to DNA found at the scene, cellphone data and surveillance video of what prosecutors believe to be his white Hyundai Elantra leaving the scene after the slayings, according to the affidavit for his arrest.

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. The murder weapon – a fixed-blade knife – was not recovered during the searches and it is still unclear where it may be.

Two warrants made public in April and obtained by The Independent show that investigators collected a Glock .40 calibre gun, empty gun magazines, a knife, a pocket knife, black face masks, black gloves, electronic devices, and more clothing items from the home of Mr Kohberger’s parents in Pennsylvania, where he was arrested.

Mr Kohberger’s family home was raided on the same day as another search was carried out at his apartment in Pullman, Washington, which was a 15-minute drive from the crime scene in Moscow.

The warrant from the Washington search was made public in January, revealing investigators seized a “collection of dark red” spotting and a pillow with a “reddish/brown stain” at Mr Kohberger’s Pullman apartment. At least two items seized from the Pullman search tested positive for blood.