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Crime News University of Idaho Murders

University Of Idaho Victim’s Father Wants Death Penalty For Daughter’s Alleged Killer: ‘He Has To Pay For What He’s Done’

“Justice is when you leave the planet and the whole world is able to rejoice and be glad that you are not there,” Steven Goncalves said Thursday when asked whether he would support the death penalty for suspect Bryan Kohberger.

By Jill Sederstrom
Suspect In University Of Idaho Students' Killings Arrested

The father of one of the University of Idaho victims is hoping his daughter’s alleged killer will get the death penalty.

Steven Goncalves said Thursday during an appearance on NewsNation that he believes a death sentence for alleged killer Bryan Kohberger would be the only way to achieve justice for his 21-year-old daughter Kaylee Goncalves and the three other victims, Madison Mogen, 21; Ethan Chapin, 20; and Xana Kernodle, 20.

All four college students were found slain inside an off-campus Moscow, Idaho home on Nov. 13.

“Justice is when you leave the planet and the whole world is able to rejoice and be glad that you are not there,” Steven said. “That’s justice and we will forgive him. We will. We’re not going to have that heavy weight on us. We will forgive this individual ... but he has to pay for what he’s done and it’s not just our daughter. It’s all the victims he needs to pay justice to.”

Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen

Steven said he doesn’t believe a prison sentence, where inmates are allowed access to books, education, meals and communication with their families, is “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,” he said, adding that for him justice was “going to look a lot like an end.”

The death penalty is an option in the state of Idaho, but prosecutors have yet to announce whether they plan to seek the punishment.

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Steven Goncalves and his wife Kristi spoke with Ashleigh Banfield Thursday on NewsNation's “Banfield” after seeing their daughter’s alleged killer for the first time in court.

Kohberger, a 28-year-old criminal justice PhD student at Washington State University, appeared in a Moscow courtroom Thursday after waiving extradition from his home state of Pennsylvania, where he was arrested for the quadruple homicide last week.

Steven said he was struck by how much Kohberger looked like a “normal, everyday ... kid” and described seeing his daughter’s alleged killer as a “a little bit unreal.”

“I just was overtaken by the fact that I was in, you know, in a courtroom going over a case that had to do with two people that I cared [about] and loved,” he said, also referencing Mogen, who had been his daughter’s best friend for years.

Kristy described feeling “numb" in the courtroom.

“I expected to feel just this immense amount of hate and I’m sure that will come. I think that I’m a little bit in shock still, but looking at him I just felt nothing,” she said.

When asked what she would say to Kohberger if she had the chance, Kristy said she would want him to know how he “destroyed our lives.” 

“Does he realize what he has taken from us, from these four families? I mean, Ethan was a triplet, Maddie was an only child, Xana had siblings, Kaylee was one of five,” she said. “Just the immense loss, I mean did he really think — he did really think about it, which makes it really hard.”

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According to an affidavit released earlier this week and obtained by Oxygen.com, investigators believe Kohberger had been in the area of the home at 1122 King Road “on at least twelve” prior occasions in the months leading up to the murders, suggesting he may have been stalking his victims.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, investigators believe that Kohberger staked out the house before allegedly breaking in and fatally stabbing four of the home’s occupants sometime between 4 a.m. and 4:25 a.m.

Two of the women who lived in the home — including one who chillingly recounted how the suspect had walked by her the night of the murders — were not targeted in the attack and survived.

Steven wondered Thursday why Kohberger allegedly targeted the victims.

“If you were looking for cruel girls who were bullies to you through your life and you were struggling, you picked the wrong girls. My girls have been through a lot and they weren’t the ones to pick on somebody because they were overweight or they were struggling,” he said. “They were actually the ones to stick up for you.”

For weeks after the murders, police remained tight-lipped about their investigation, often causing Steven to be publicly critical of police efforts.

However, after Kohberger’s arrest, he admitted on “Banfield” that he “was wrong” and commended police for their “amazing job.”

“I was hard on them and I’ll come out and say that I owe them all the gratitude in the world,” he said.

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He went on to describe the investigation by Moscow Police, the Idaho State Police and FBI as a “home run.”

“I mean that affidavit is impressive, and I’m glad to be wrong,” he said. “I wanted to be wrong and I told them to their face, looked them in the eyes and said ‘prove me wrong and all is forgiven’ and here we are and all is forgiven,” he said. “You know, I was concerned, but I was wrong. They were right and I’m OK with that.”

Shortly after the court hearing on Thursday, the family’s attorney Shanon Gray spoke to reporters outside the courthouse, describing it as an “emotional time” for the family, according to KXLY.

“This is the beginning of the criminal justice system and the family will be here for the long haul,” he said.

Steven said on “Banfield” that while he and Kristy don’t plan to be in court to hear the “gory details” of his daughter’s death, they will otherwise plan to be regular fixtures in the courtroom as the case against Kohberger proceeds.

The 28-year-old is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. He has yet to enter a plea to the charges against him.