People say time heals all wounds. They tell you you’ll get over it.

But they never buried their child.

That stays with you. It works on you. It sinks in deep and never lets go.

Solace? Not a chance.

But still you try. You discover anger. You vow vengeance. New theories are irresistible; they hold the promise of elixirs. You go all out, hot pursuit.

But here’s the rub: It doesn’t help, and you know it. It’s not enough.

It’s the armor you’ve erected to keep from constantly screaming Why? Because why is beyond your reach, an equation that can’t be solved.

There will never be an answer that makes sense. Yet the question will always command your thoughts. In the end, it’s all that matters.

And without this knowledge, without the exculpation of reason or faith or purpose that understanding can offer, things will not hold together. Gravity has failed, and you’re forever falling.

Kaylee Goncalves had solved the mystery. All evening it had been gnawing at her, the disconcerting image fixed in her mind. Actually, it had first grabbed her earlier that afternoon, October 5, 2021, a surprisingly cool Tuesday in the pleasant university town of Moscow, Idaho, a day when the sudden drop in temperature was the first unwanted reminder that a glorious Indian summer was over and the Northwest winter would soon be closing in.

After classes, Kaylee, who loved to shop, and her boyfriend at the time, Jack DuCoeur, had headed to the Walmart Supercenter on Pullman Road, just a quick drive from the University of Idaho campus. The warehouse store was vast and ugly, situated atop acres of black asphalt parking lanes like a stolid concrete fortress. But it sure had a lot of stuff; you could pretty much find anything.

The two students had been wandering through the maze of harshly lit aisles when Kaylee first noticed the grandmotherly woman. She had pale, stringy hair and the bewildered look of someone trapped in a situation she couldn’t quite understand. But more unnerving was the animal straightness of the woman’s stare. She fixed Kaylee with a gaze and held it, way past anything that could be considered polite, or for that matter, normal. True, it wasn’t threatening, but it was decidedly odd. Only in retrospect would Kaylee decide it had been beseeching.

Then, when Kaylee and DuCoeur were at the checkout counter, she happened to look up absently only to discover that the woman, now standing at rigid attention with her back to a wall of shelves, had once again homed in on her with the same unremitting stare. It was creepy. What is up with her?, Kaylee wondered.

And now, hours later, she knew. She had just seen the face again, this time on a Missing Person flyer. The woman, Kaylee was convinced, was Sharon Archer, a frail 62-year-old encumbered by diabetes and brain damage who had abruptly vanished a week earlier from the house she shared with her husband up north in Coeur d’Alene. The couple’s car, a 2013 white Toyota Highlander, was missing, too. No one knew what had happened, and in the absence of real information, increasingly feverish Internet speculation flourished. The scenarios ran the gamut from a mental breakdown to more fanciful schemes involving abduction or murder.

But now Kaylee knew. And at 10:25 that night, just moments after all the pieces had clicked into place in her mind, Kaylee promptly telephoned the Moscow Police Department. She spoke to Sergeant Dustin Blaker, telling him she was convinced she’d spotted the woman, and then, for good measure, she sent an e-mail with the Missing Person notice attached.

In 2021, Kaylee had phoned in a tip concerning a missing person—an act that inspired Steve to pursue his own investigation into her murder.

Despite the late hour, the sergeant, a barrel-chested weight lifter with just over a year on the force, conscientiously went to work. Officers were dispatched to the Walmart parking lot, and they combed its dark recesses for the telltale Toyota. At the same time, calls were made to local hotels asking if a woman matching Sharon Archer’s description had checked in. Both searches were futile. And accessing the Walmart surveillance-camera videos proved to be nettlesome; it had to be postponed until the next day, and then it, too, turned out to be another dead end.

As it happened, it wasn’t Kaylee’s call that solved the mystery. More than two anxious weeks passed before an angler perched on a dock noticed a bulky shape entombed in the lead-gray depths of Fernan Lake, a popular fishing spot about a 10-minute drive from downtown Coeur d’Alene. When police lifted a white Toyota Highlander from the water, a body lay inside. The autopsy identified the corpse as Sharon Archer, and while the specific circumstances of her grim death remain conjectural, no foul play has been charged. The investigation into the case petered out, soon to be overtaken by fresh tragedies.

No one knew what had happened, and in the absence of real information, increasingly feverish Internet speculation flourished.

Only now, in December 2022, a little more than a previously unimaginable year later, the Sharon Archer case, and the minor role his daughter had played in the hunt, suddenly reared up in Steve Goncalves’s newly agitated mind as if summoned—signposts as he searched for the means to make his way through the battering pain of his own bereavement. For Steve and his wife and their remaining four children have been brought low. (Air Mail reached out to Steve for comment, but Steve’s attorney said neither he nor his client can comment due to a gag order.)

Less than a month earlier, in the dreary pre-dawn darkness of November 13, 2022, Kaylee, her best friend, Maddie Mogen (who might as well have been another daughter to him and his wife), and two other University of Idaho students, Xana Kernodle and her boyfriend Ethan Chapin, were gruesomely stabbed to death in a house a stone’s throw from the heart of the campus. The unknown killer—or was it killers? he wondered—was still at large. It was an inconsolable loss, and an unfathomable crime.

Steve struggled to make sense of his emotions. In the aftermath of his daughter’s murder, his inchoate anger roiled, raw and unfettered. One day he railed with an uncomprehending anguish at the cosmic injustice of it all. “You can’t imagine sending your girl to college and they come back … in an urn,” he grieved openly to a group of reporters. “You’re numb … you can’t absorb that amount of pain and agony.” Next he chose to target the capricious—if not lackadaisical—manner with which, he had decided, law enforcement was attempting to solve the murders. “I do not feel confident,” he responded with a vehement candor, when asked on a news show about the police investigation. “And that’s why I push the envelope and say a little bit more.”

Yet even as he made himself available to nearly every journalist who reached out to him, Steve couldn’t help feeling, he’d confide to a friend, that all his heartfelt proclamations, everything he had been calling necessary truths, added up to little more than a sort of self-indulgence. His public sharing of his anguish and misgivings gave him little comfort. “I hate to be that guy,” he would say.

Even more disheartening, after all his years as a father, of devoting himself full-time to doing what he thought best for his children, he was confronted with the devastating reality that there was nothing more he could do for Kaylee. Nor could he identify a clearheaded strategy to lead his grieving family forward. Never had he been so unprepared, and yet never had his family needed so much. His grieving family needed him like never before, but he couldn’t figure out how to lead them forward. He was at a loss.

And that’s when it hit him with a jolt. For no apparent reason at all, he suddenly found himself recalling the frenetic speculation surrounding Sharon Archer’s disappearance and how his daughter had unhesitatingly thrown herself into the investigation. And with her actual participation—now a detective!—a barrier had, in effect, been crossed. What had previously been a diversion had become real. It dawned on him that he, too, had been transformed into a character in an even more poignant and notorious true-crime story, a perplexing mystery that had captured the nation’s attention.

For weeks he had been struggling on. No dogma, only emotion. It was as if he’d been letting himself be tossed around by the surging waves of breaking news. But now he knew what he would do.

He would do it because for a father no sacrifice is too great. And a father’s duty to his child never ends, not even with her death.

He would do it because while he was a man alone, with his family’s support and assistance they became a force whose commitment and focus was greater than anything the so-called authorities could muster.

He would do it because to walk any other path would be weakness, or even cowardice.

And he would do it because it was what his beloved Kay-Kay would do—and had tried to do.

He would solve the case.

Going Public

And as Steve’s investigation rumbled forward, it was just a brief matter of time, a week or two at most, before his quest became inextricably intertwined with another amateur’s own deep dive into the events of that fateful November night in Moscow. And perhaps this alliance had been preordained, too. For just as fathers are often drawn to follow in their daughters’ footsteps, so do daughters on occasion take to emulating their dads.

Yet as Olivia Vitale tells it, she had never paid much attention to how her father earned his living. The fact that he’d been a hard-charging crime reporter in his native Chicago, Olivia explained to me, and then had gone on to a career as both a reporter and editor in Los Angeles had not made much of an impression on her when she was growing up in Washington State. Her parents had divorced, and his occupation in a distant city was an irrelevancy amid the bustle of her own life.

Or so she had thought. But now she was beginning to suspect that perhaps biology was indeed destiny. For back then, as a precocious 22-year-old working in real estate in Florida, Vitale had been inexplicably drawn to the flurry of media accounts recounting the brutal murder of Gabby Petito by her fiancé as the freewheeling young couple had vanned across the country.

Not constrained by any formal journalistic training or experience, she posted personal, empathetic, yet carefully researched videos about the case on TikTok and YouTube. And she didn’t stop posting when this mystery was put to rest and had vanished from the front pages. Crime, unfortunately, is a growth industry, and Olivia shrewdly hitched a ride on the comet tail of this zooming business. Inventive and persistent, Vitale chased one confounding case after another. And within a year or so “The Chronicles of Olivia” were pulling in tens of millions of viewers. By the time she was 25, Vitale was one of the go-to sources for a generation who got their crime stories—down, dirty, and dishy—from the Internet. And one of her avid followers had been Kaylee.

Steve had discovered this connection when he and his oldest daughter, Alivea, were assiduously checking out Kaylee’s phone for clues. Ever since he had decided to sweep all the extraneous emotional debris cluttering his mind aside and, instead, to live by his wits, he’d been on the hunt. The two of them had gone through the list of contacts, reached out to Kaylee’s friends, and helped to reconstruct the last hours of Kaylee and her best friend, Maddie, information they shared with authorities.

They had also discovered a persistent series of calls in the wee hours of that morning from Kaylee to her ex-boyfriend, Jack DuCoeur—calls that had gone unanswered. Star-crossed young romance? Or could it be something more ominous? Steve quickly passed that intelligence, too, on to the cops.

When Kaylee’s ex-boyfriend Jack DuCoeur came to the Goncalveses’ home to pay his respects, Steve made him submit to a physical examination.

Yet when the Moscow P.D. summarily hooked Jack up to a lie detector and administered a DNA swab to compare with evidence found at the crime scene, he passed both examinations with flying colors, according to one of Steve’s friends. Steve, however, was still not completely assuaged. Nothing about the murders made any sense, and so everything seemed possible.

And so when a grieving Jack came to the Goncalveses’ home not long after the events to pay his respects, Steve gravely demanded that the young man submit to the indignity of a physical inspection. Jack promptly rolled up his sleeves, lifted his shirt, exposed his neck, and displayed his hands, both palms up and down, while Steve meticulously searched in vain for a telltale scratch or bruise.

But Steve was not done. Caught up in his newfound forensic professionalism, he took a series of photographs documenting Jack’s unblemished state; it was exculpatory evidence that would come in handy, he’d felt, as the authorities proceeded to compile their list of suspects. And with that bit of awkward business out of the way, the two grieving men finally embraced.

Vitale was one of the go-to sources for a generation who got their crime stories—down, dirty, and dishy—from the Internet. And one of her avid followers had been Kaylee.

In the days that followed, Steve tracked down Hunter Johnson, Chapin’s frat brother and best friend. Just before noon on November 13, Johnson had been summoned by the two distraught survivors to the King Road house, where he had discovered Ethan’s body. Days later he gave his eyewitness account to Steve as a soldier might, straightforward, factual, and without either embellishment or emotion. It was only when he finished that the two men, both overwhelmed, at last convulsed into tears.

Steve also made a point of knocking on the doors of the houses adjacent to the murder scene and interrogating the neighbors. He was going where he felt he had to go, but his mission had not produced the desired result. Over a month had passed, and there had been no arrests, only vague statements about a missing Hyundai Elantra that had been spotted near the King Road house the night of the murders. The authorities had yet to name a suspect. It was infuriating. The prospect of his daughter’s murder becoming one more cold case was torture.

But as much as he needed to see a perp being led off in handcuffs, he was also chasing after something else. He needed to know: Why? Why these kids; why this house? Why had this nightmare enveloped his family’s life? For his own peace of mind, he required a motive. And without this knowledge, nothing in his life from November 13 onward would ever make sense.

It was, he’d explain, those currents of frustration and perplexity that pushed him nearly six weeks after the murders to double down on his detective’s mission. He decided he was done with working quietly on the sidelines. He made up his mind to go public, to proclaim his new, ambitious vocation. And to ask for help. He would make a public appeal. Because Steve was certain that even if the police had failed to locate them, there had to be people out there who knew more than they were sharing. People, particularly students with some dodgy antics to hide, might be more willing to whisper secrets to a mourning father than to the judgmental police.

And with his plan set in his mind and an affirming nod to Kaylee’s memory, Steve reached out to Olivia Vitale.

Knowledgeable Allies

Olivia thought it was a hoax, one more Internet fabrication. She did not believe that Kaylee’s father had actually contacted her. And so she didn’t respond.

But it kept nagging at her. Was it possible that the e-mail had been sent by Steve Goncalves? And if so, could she be on the verge of a scoop? And so, with a diligence that belied her 25 years, she tracked down Alivea, who confirmed that was in fact her father’s e-mail address. Excitedly, Olivia wrote back.

It was a pragmatically brief courtship; both would profit from the Goncalveses’ appearance on Chronicles of Olivia. And—more serendipity—Olivia was already in Moscow. It’d be just 90 minutes straight up I-95 North to the Goncalveses’ home. The meeting was quickly arranged.

Vitale was filled with trepidation as she and her producer, “Bullhorn Betty” (that was her “nom de Internet”), set up inside the family’s yellowish living room for the interview with Steve, Alivea, and Kristi, Kaylee’s mother. Without any network imprimatur, Vitale had landed the sort of scoop that, a generation earlier, would have gone to Barbara Walters. But the Idaho murders was a news story owned by a new breed of journalists, an event sustained by the nonstop fulsome attention it received on the Internet.

The Goncalves family during an interview with Olivia Vitale, host of the popular true-crime YouTube show Chronicles of Olivia.

The Goncalveses sit shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch in their living room. Vitale, who sits off-camera, is a polite, disembodied voice asking the questions. But there’s a hesitancy to her probing; it is as if she’s acknowledging that she’s intruding, that she doesn’t belong in this house of grief. And her reaction is understandable. Steve’s face is grave, solemn, and expressionless—as blank and flat as an empty piece of paper. Watching the tape of the interview, one can feel the harsh tension in the room. Will the Goncalveses reconsider and order Vitale and her producer to turn off the camera? It seems very possible, even likely.

And then something remarkable happens. The Goncalveses seem to surrender, perhaps accepting the absurdity of the situation, of their sitting in their living room talking to a stranger young enough to be one of their children about their innermost feelings with a video camera aimed at them like a weapon. A restraining wall comes tumbling down. And like all mourners, they begin to talk about the past. The heartfelt memories of Kaylee pour out.

Yet Steve has not forgotten his agenda, and he is soon back in the present. He wants to let the complacent authorities know what they can expect from him. He wants them to understand that if they can’t get the job done, then he will. Staring into the camera, he proclaims with an earnest passion, “We are not going to bed and wait for other people to solve a family problem. This is a family problem.” And he continues to drive home the point that he’s on the case: “We are not going to sit here and let someone else do a job that we can add value to.” He’s determined, as he puts it, to “make an impact,” to “listen to what people are saying,” to be “a part of solving it.” He needs to feel, he volunteers with an affecting candor, that “I gave it my all. I did everything that I could.”

Yet he also acknowledges his limitations. He openly appeals for help in his hunt to find the killers. “This takes a whole community. It takes all of us to solve.”

“This is on us,” Steve says, staring into the camera that has now become his ally, focusing directly on his audience. “Are we going to let these people exist?” And then, it’s as if the entire hour-long interview has built to his uttering a single terse yet unflinching pronouncement. And with his face as somber as a graveside mourner’s, he states: “I’m telling you right now, we’re coming for you.” It’s as much a warning to the killer as it is an ineluctable vow to himself.

However, two days after the interview was posted online, a 28-year-old graduate student in criminal justice at Washington State University was arrested as a S.W.A.T. team of state troopers stormed into his parents’ home across the country in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania. Bryan Kohberger was swiftly extradited back to Idaho and charged with the murders of the four students. Steve’s hunt was over before it had truly begun. He could at last hope to find a measure of peace.

Or could he?

The doleful one-year anniversary of the murders is looming, and the parents of the victims, if their public utterances accurately reflect the spiritual accommodations they’ve forged, have managed to find ways of existing with the memories. For Jeffrey Kernodle, Xana’s father, the process had involved a sort of benign surrender. “This happened, you know—what do you do?” he said on a CBS show, before answering his own question: “You can’t do a damn thing.” Stacy and Jim Chapin, Ethan’s mother and father, have meanwhile sought solace by setting up a foundation, Ethan’s Smile, that will award scholarships to honor their son’s memory. The charity is funded largely by the sale of a bright designer mix of tulip bulbs, sweatshirts decorated with flowers, and fresh-cut tulip bouquets. (The Chapins live in Washington State’s Skagit Valley, the flowering heart of the nation’s tulip industry).

“I’m telling you right now, we’re coming for you.” It’s as much a warning to the killer as it is a vow to himself.

But Steve Goncalves has found neither resignation nor acceptance. The arrest of a suspect, in fact, has brought not a sense of finality, but only brooding resentments and further nagging questions.

For one thing, he remains determined to make sure the authorities have arrested the right man. And while he has grown increasingly convinced that Kohberger was involved in the crime, Steve remains open to the possibility that others might also have been involved, according to texts provided to Air Mail. It seems to him quite possible that there were more perpetrators in the house on King Road on the night his daughter and her friends were killed—and if there were, they must still be at large.

The judge in Kohberger’s trial has placed a gag order on anyone involved in the case.

He is furious that Kohberger’s trial, which had been scheduled to start on October 2, has been postponed indefinitely. He fears, he’s complained, that the trial won’t occur for many months or even years. And he’s particularly incensed by the no-nonsense gag order that severely limits what the law enforcement authorities, the lawyers, and the families of the victims can publicly say about the case. It is not just that he deems this a violation of his fundamental constitutional rights. Rather, the paucity of specific intelligence has created a vacuum that’s being filled by rumors, half-truths, and crackpot lies. And once these malignant seeds are planted, they grow tall and wild on the Internet.

Steve needs answers, not rumors. And so despite the arrest of a suspect, he has not abandoned his quest. And it’s not simply vanity, the belief that one middle-aged guy with only a background in I.T. can get to the bottom of things. It’s fear that propels him—the fear that if he waits passively for the cops finally to share what little they have managed to uncover, it might be too late. The remaining unidentified perpetrators will have gone to ground. And justice will not be secured. Nor will he ever get the terrible satisfaction of knowing the whole story. He will never achieve the state of grace that comes, he wants to believe, with understanding a motive. He will never know the answer to the question at the beating heart of the case: Why?

And so for the past year, he has plowed on. It has not been easy going, or always fruitful. For one cruel example, early on, an enticing tip came his way, according to the texts, from a source he described as “a jailhouse snitch.” It was a tale that offered to tie up all the loose ends of the case, and spurred on by that promise, both Steve and the private detective he had hired fanned out with their inquiries into several states, energized by the intoxicating possibility that he was on the verge of accomplishing what the professionals had failed to do. But in the bitter end, it was nothing more than an elaborate con, a malicious scheme to squeeze some money out of a grieving family’s misery. The experience was demoralizing.

Yet Steve persevered, only to be conned again. A grainy light-bulb-cam video of the King Road neighborhood came his way that proved Kohberger wasn’t the lone killer. It was only after he went to some expense and hired a professional videographer to examine the recording that he conceded it was a fake.

Then there was his decision to leak a time-stamped video of another vehicle tearing away from a street adjacent to the murder house just before dawn on the morning of the murders to one of the true-crime Internet sites. His logic was that it was very possibly game-changing evidence; it needed official scrutiny. But this video, too, was also deemed a fake, and in the end his tangential role in its dissemination became a bit of an embarrassment.

Singed, Steve came to two unwavering conclusions.

One, the Internet theories suggesting that a drug ring had been involved in the killings were ludicrous. “No pro is going to rough up someone not knowing who all is in the house,” he texted a friend. There were, he pointed out, usually only three girls in the King Road house; his daughter, who had completed all her coursework and would graduate in January, had just come down to Moscow for the weekend on a whim to show Maddie her new Range Rover. “Explain to me how a hit man missed Ethan and Kaylee’s new car.” A professional would have been daunted by the presence of two additional people in the house that night.

And as for the rumors of a drug deal gone bad being the underlying motive, Steve had been told by the authorities that the toxicity reports on all four of the victims established that they had no drugs in their system. Besides, if they’d wanted to score some pot, there was no need to get involved with a street dealer. “The kids,” he pointed out, “could go down a street and in eight miles there was a store” where they could easily make a buy (despite the fact that marijuana remained illegal in Idaho). “Kristi [his wife] went with them once to check it out,” he texted the friend.

Two, “there are some crazy-ass people who are really crazy” who were trying to elbow their way into the case with deliberate misinformation.

The house where four students were killed, near the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, December 1, 2022. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty against the man accused of the murders.

But not all of Steve’s investigative efforts have been in vain. He had assembled a retinue of blue-chip sources that, he revealed to several friends, included an F.B.I. agent in the St. Louis office who had shared his personal e-mail so that his bosses in the bureau wouldn’t learn that he was communicating with Steve; a handful of additional sympathetic law-enforcement officers; and, most helpful of all, a conduit to two of the grand jurors who had been on the panel that had voted to indict Bryan Kohberger. And in the process, he had compiled some startling revelations, hard-won information that he triumphantly disclosed to his newfound Internet associates:

Kohberger had purchased a dark blue Dickies long-sleeved work uniform at the Walmart in Pullman, Washington, not long before the murders, Steve had learned. The authorities had a copy of the $49.99 receipt, and they also now had a theory to explain how Kohberger had managed to escape from the crime scene without a scratch and without leaving an incriminating drop of blood in his getaway car or his apartment: He had worn the work uniform during the murders, and then had disrobed before he got behind the wheel of his Hyundai Elantra for his circuitous drive back to his apartment. Perhaps, the authorities hypothesized, he had stuffed the work suit into a plastic garbage bag and then shoved it into his trunk.

Only there was no sign of the Dickies outfit. The police had looked high and low, but they couldn’t find it, just as they couldn’t locate the murder weapon. They had a receipt for a K-Bar knife he had purchased online, months before the killings, but this, too, had seemingly vanished. And as long as these two crucial pieces of evidence remained unavailable, Steve feared the building case against Kohberger would remain more open than shut.

He had compiled some startling revelations, hard-won information that he triumphantly disclosed to his newfound Internet associates.

Even more troubling, if true, was what Steve had learned from people who had spoken to members of the grand jury who had been presented with the prosecution’s case. It centered on the alleged behavior of the two roommates who had miraculously survived the night unscathed. How, he wondered, could they have slept, blissfully unaware, through the savage pre-dawn stabbing murders of four people in a narrow house with paper-thin walls?

Later, a police affidavit revealed that one of the survivors, Dylan Mortensen, had in fact heard noises and had left her room only to spot a masked, darkly clad intruder making his way through the residence before she retreated to her room and did not summon help for another eight hours for reasons that have never been revealed.

Yet Steve had been told that the two survivors allegedly had not only been awake while the killings had taken place but that they had heard everything. More astonishingly, his grand-jury sources alleged that the two girls had been texting one another as the murderer methodically went from one room to the next.

The possibility that two people had a sense of the horror while it occurred and had not acted, calling neither friends nor 911, left Steve floored. And no less confounding, they had, if his sources were as knowledgeable as he believed, then let hour after hour after hour tick away before they finally decided to summon friends. It added an entirely new band of mystery to a crime that was already bound by unanswered questions.

And so Steve intensified his efforts to get answers. And in that dogged process he came to believe that the government must have a protected source, an informant who could provide testimony that would tighten the screws that held together the case against Kohberger. Steve was determined to talk to them. He did not want to wait for the trial to get the knowledge he needed. For his peace of mind, he needed relief now.

And after some digging, he grew convinced he had the informant in his sights. He was preparing to reach out to this individual, to get right in his face and confront him. He would explain that he was empowered by a father’s natural right to understand fully the last moments of his daughter’s life. In fact, it was his duty. It was an argument, he felt, that no one could reject. And at last he would know the whole story of what had really happened to Kaylee. And why.

But before he could make his move, before he could get in a room and have a heart-to-heart talk with the witness, he was unexpectedly stopped in his tracks—by the F.B.I.

The bureau had sent an official letter to Steve’s attorney in Moscow, Shanon Gray, warning that if there were any attempt to contact the individual Steve had been pursuing, there would be legal consequences. The witness had originally reached out to the authorities through a tip line that promised to protect the identities of anyone volunteering information, and the bureau was duty-bound to honor that commitment. And, the letter went on to make clear with an intimidating force, the fact that Steve was the father of one of the victims gave him no dispensation from the legal consequences that accompany tampering with a government witness.

The Goncalves family, in matching hoodies reading, # Justice For Kaylee, idaho House Bill 186, Shots Fired, a reference to a state bill allowing the use of a firing squad if the chemicals required for a lethal injection are unavailable.

Stymied, Steve skulked away. The promise of real understanding was out there, yet still tantalizingly beyond his grasp. And with this setback, he fell into a period of stasis. Wracked by frustration and despair, all he could do was send a disheartened text to one of his fellow Internet detectives: “There is so much more to this story than is in the media.”

Memories live in the past. Dreams, however, are part of an idealized vision of what the world might become. In dreams, as the poet noted, begin responsibilities. They hold the future.

And so, thwarted in his sleuthing, still staring with bitterness at hard mysteries he cannot crack, Steve has expanded his focus. If he cannot conduct the investigation provoked by his memories of his daughter, he will at least ensure that at some distant appointed time there will be a measure of justice.

Therefore, on the Goncalves Family Facebook Page, he, his wife, and his daughter Alivea, along with other relatives, appear in hoodies displaying a steely message: “# Justice For Kaylee, House Bill 186 Shots Fired.” The Idaho State Legislature Bill 186, passed last spring, affirmed that if the chemicals required for an intravenous execution were unavailable, a death sentence could be fulfilled by a firing squad.

It is an unforgiving promise Steve is making. Yet can I, a father, too, cavalierly criticize the wild dimensions his bereavement encompasses? Who am I to challenge the intensity of his grief? How can I dare to point out the terrible irony in avenging murder with murder?

In the end, all I can do is acknowledge what a strange, frightening tale was set in motion on that night in Moscow last November. And that Steve too has become another victim. And that his future is now hate.

Howard Blum is the author of several books, including the Edgar Award–winning American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century. His book about the Idaho student murders, “There’s Someone Here!”, will be published by HarperCollins