Asbestos and lead – plus protests from some of the victims’ families – delayed the demolition of the Idaho home where four college students were stabbed to death last fall.
The University of Idaho announced an abrupt halt to demolition of the famous home on Wednesday, saying it would halt plans to build the house until October, which will also coincide with the trial of Bryan Kohberger, the man he was accused of murdering 20-year-old Ethan Chapin; Madison Mogen, 21 years old; Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, start.
“While we wish to remove this grim reminder of this tragedy, we feel it is right to postpone until October,” University President Scott Green said in a statement. University President Scott Green said in a statement, acknowledging “every action and decision surrounding this horrific incident is painful and invokes emotions.” He also noted “every decision” decisions we make” are “always with the families of the victims and our students in mind.”
Disaster response teams have been on site for weeks, preparing to demolish the final home on King Street in Moscow, Idaho, clean and clear the property, and transport personal belongings to collection families.
Jodi Walker, a spokeswoman for the University of Idaho, which has control of the site, said the investigation came after the bodies were found exposed to “dangerous” materials, including asbestos. , must be removed before the building is razed. in an interview.
Walker said “reducing lead and asbestos” inside the home required meticulous “expertise” to “safely demolish the home.”
In the early morning of November 13, 2022, prosecutors allege that Kohberger, a 28-year-old doctor of criminology. Students at nearby Washington State University broke into and stabbed Chapin, Mogen, Kernodle, and Goncalves inside the girls’ off-campus home.
A large-scale investigation ensued, and during the search for clues and evidence at the crime scene and the subsequent cleanup, authorities scoured every inch of the property. , cut walls and even pull floors.
After a six-week manhunt, police identified Kohberger as a suspect, arresting him on December 30, 2022, at his family’s home in Pennsylvania. He was indicted in May and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. Before his accusation, he refused to make a plea, so the judge offered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
The interior of the King Road home now bears little resemblance to what it looked like before the murders, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson, who led the case against Kohberger, told the university in a statement. email in April to the school, obtained by ABC News.
After the murders, the property owner donated the house to the school, which announced in February that the site would be demolished as a “curative step” and “removed attempts to cause shock.” more closely at the crime scene”.
According to emails obtained by ABC, neither the prosecution nor Kohberger’s defense has pushed back on the demolition plan.
In early April, Kohberger’s attorney, Anne Taylor, told the university that the defense had “no objection” to the school’s “action as it sees fit” with the residence.
In another email obtained by ABC, prosecutor Thompson told the school’s general counsel he had “no objection,” adding that the scene “has been significantly altered from its state at the time.” murder” with the “removal of some structural items such as wall panels. and flooring.”
Although the site has changed a lot from its original appearance, the structure still stands and has become “a daily reminder of the horrific crime that happened there,” Walker said – explaining why. why the university decided to demolish the house.
“We have family members of the victims watch over that house every day while they are on campus,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s also the last visible part of where those students live.”
Moscow Mayor Art Bettge said the community was also struggling.
“Your eyes are drawn that way; you can’t help it. And it just sat there and derelict. But it really should go; it needs to go away,” Bettge told ABC News.
The university wanted it demolished before students returned from summer break. But now, more than seven months after the murder and just weeks before the fall semester begins, there is still no date to demolish the house, Walker said.
The decision about timing is “extremely difficult,” Walker said, and although the time-consuming process is underway, the university is taking into consideration both the concerns of both families and the health of those people nearby.
“It’s in a residential area, so we wanted to make sure that process was done as safely as possible for people in other structures around,” she said. “There’s an entire expertise in that, which we certainly don’t have.”
Not everyone agrees with the plan to demolish the building. Some victims’ families said they feared demolishing the home now, ahead of Kohberger’s trial, could cause unforeseen problems for prosecutors as they work to make sure a guilty verdict.
Shanon Gray, an attorney representing the Goncalves family, said that postponing demolition “until after the trial would honor [families’] desire and assist with the trial if the prosecution, defense or jurors need to visit the house in the future.”
“The Goncalves, members of the Mogen Family and members of the Kernodle family have all expressed to the University that they do not want the house to be demolished,” Gray said in a statement before the university. said it would pause its plan while adding those families. “believes there is a large amount of evidence value to the house.”
Kohberger’s trial in the quadruple murder has been set for October 2, although that could be delayed.
The prosecution ruled out the idea of a grand jury visit to the home. Although the walls are still standing, because the interior has begun to be dismantled and “many chemicals have been applied that pose a potential health hazard”, they concluded that “the jury’s view team” about the house “would not be appropriate,” Thompson said in his email to the school.
Gray maintained that jury review may become relevant later, noting that “families [cannot] understand why” neither side pushed back against the plan to demolish the house.
“There is simply no reason not to respect the wishes of the families of the Victims,” he said. “The reality is that it is good for the community to have a fair trial and conviction.”
While the school wants to “keep things moving forward,” Walker said there are “many voices” to consider and they have been “in constant contact with all families throughout this process,” who have “different perspectives and different ways of healing, just like the rest of the campus and the community.”
“And sometimes that just takes a little more time, and we want to make sure we’re doing the right things for the right reasons,” she said. “The last thing we want to do is cause any harm to those families.”
The university plans to build a memorial garden on campus in honor of the students who lost their lives – something Mayor Bettge was looking forward to.
“To have a place where people come just to live in the horror that happened there is of no use to the community, the university or anyone else,” Bettge said, adding that there is a lasting memorial to them in a positive way. that reflects the good that they have, and doesn’t focus on the bad.”
Nick Cirone and Timmy Truong of ABC News contributed to this report.