Monday, June 24

Idaho Murders: Student House Demolished as Some Families Object

Demolition crews have torn down a house near the University of Idaho where four college students were murdered last year. The removal comes despite objections from some family members of the victims who believe the site should be preserved in case it is needed for a future trial.

Bryan Kohberger is accused of killing four college students in November 2022 and faces four murder charges. Prosecutors have said they planned to seek the death penalty.

While the case proceeds, the fate of the house where the murders occurred has been a point of contention.

Some family members of the victims have argued that the home should remain standing in case it is needed for the prosecution of Mr. Kohberger, who was a criminology student at nearby Washington State University when he was accused of killing Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin and Madison Mogen. Members of the Goncalves and Kernodle families said in a statement this week that the property could help answer questions that might arise during the prosecution, helping jurors understand the sights and sounds of the house.

“Please stop the demolition,” they said in a statement, calling the decision to proceed “madness.”

Both the prosecution and defense lawyers have told university officials they are OK with the demolition. Prosecutors said a visit by jurors would be inappropriate because the property has been altered and subjected to extensive chemical applications.

The university decided to proceed, planning the demolition for when many students would be away for winter break. University President C. Scott Green said in a statement that the home was a grim reminder of what transpired there.

“While we appreciate the emotional connection some family members of the victims may have to this house, it is time for its removal and to allow the collective healing of our community to continue,” he said.

The sites of heinous crimes have at times been made available for jurors to view in person.

Last year, jurors in Parkland, Fla., visited the high school building where 17 students and staff members were killed in 2018. This year, jurors visited the South Carolina estate of the lawyer Alex Murdaugh during a trial in which he was convicted of murdering his wife and son.

Other sites have been demolished or renovated, including the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that was the site of a mass shooting in 2012. That building was remodeled and reopened within six months, long before the gunman went to trial.

Mr. Kohberger continues to challenge the grounds of his indictment, and no trial date has been set, although prosecutors have suggested that it proceed this summer. The Goncalves and Kernodle families expressed frustration that the case has been delayed so long.

Prosecutors have said that Mr. Kohberger is tied to the stabbing scene by DNA evidence found on a knife sheath next to one of the victims, along with footage showing a white vehicle similar to his in the neighborhood. His cellphone was disconnected from the cell network during the killings, and his lawyers have said he went out for a drive around the time of the early-morning attack.

Mr. Kohberger has said through a lawyer that he looks forward to being exonerated.