For the second time, the University of Idaho is delaying the destruction of the Moscow home where four students were slain in November, now deciding to do so indefinitely after the trial of murder suspect Bryan Kohberger was recently postponed to an unspecified date.
University leaders met Thursday and chose again to wait on tearing down the off-campus property on King Road in October under their prior plan. The school, which took ownership of the six-bedroom home earlier this year, initially planned to demolish the most visible reminder of the students’ deaths before the start of the fall semester last month.
The U of I has not set a new demolition date but committed to hold off until at least mid-December, after the semester ends, university spokesperson Jodi Walker told the Idaho Statesman on Thursday. No plans have been made for what will come of the property once the home is gone, she said.
“The King Road house will not come down this semester,” Walker said in a phone interview. “We will be moving forward, continuing to prepare for that eventual end.”
The university is “trying to balance what’s right for students, continues to focus on their education, and do right by the memories of the students that were lost,” she added.
The four victims were U of I seniors Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, both 21; and junior Xana Kernolde and freshman Ethan Chapin, both 20. The three women rented the King Road home with two housemates who went unharmed in the attack. Chapin was Kernodle’s boyfriend and stayed over for the night.
Kohberger, 28, is accused of killing the four students with a large, fixed-blade knife on Nov. 13. He faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary. Prosecutors announced they plan to seek the death penalty if Kohberger is convicted.
Plans to demolish Moscow house gets pushback
The university ran into pushback from some of the victims’ families after it announced its plan to raze the home in August. Three of the families questioned destroying it — and any possible remaining evidence with it — ahead of Kohberger’s then-October trial date, Shanon Gray, attorney for the Goncalves family, told the Statesman at the time.
The university changed course and agreed to wait to pull down the property until October. But Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial late last month, delaying his capital murder trial indefinitely, and raising questions about the home’s demolition timeline yet again.
“I think all of the families assumed that the King Road address would not be demolished until the trial’s over,” Gray told the Statesman by email after Kohberger’s trial was delayed.
The university, however, was noncommittal Thursday about waiting until after Kohberger’s future trial date, which has yet to be set. The court previously cleared the home for destruction, and both the prosecution and Kohberger’s defense have raised no issues with that plan, Walker said.
“I think anything’s possible,” she said. “We certainly want to do what is best for our students, the university and keeping in mind the families as well. It’s a huge decision and a huge moment in their lives.”
The university will provide advance notice of two weeks before the home is destroyed once it is scheduled, Walker said. The property is now cleared of all of the victims’ belongings, and is expected to take “a matter of hours” to demolish and dispose of the materials, she said.
Gray did not respond to a Statesman request for additional comment Thursday.
U of I incurs security costs
Continuing to oversee the King Road home has come with not only a heavy emotional cost for the university, but a financial one too.
After Moscow police completed their investigation at the home, law enforcement no longer provided around-the-clock surveillance. In February, when the homeowner donated it to the university, the U of I hired a third-party security company to watch over the property. This week, it transitioned to university security officers. The daily cost to secure the home is about $600 a day, Walker said — or approximately $131,000 since the university took ownership.
Meanwhile, the university continues work on developing a memorial garden at a yet-to-be-determined on-campus location. Designs for the garden honoring the four King Road victims — as well as other U of I students who have died over the years — will be produced this semester as part of class projects in courses at the university’s College of Art and Architecture.
The university is in the midst of fundraising efforts toward the student-driven project, Walker said. A completion timeline and estimated cost of the memorial garden won’t be known until after the university decides on a design, she said.