The University of Idaho recently commenced the demolition of the off-campus rental home where four students were tragically killed last year. The house, located at 1122 King Road, had become a somber symbol of the slayings and was under 24-hour surveillance. The demolition process began early in the morning, with workers tearing down parts of the house and removing debris.
This decision to demolish the house has sparked debate, especially among some family members of the victims who wished for the house to remain intact until the trial of the suspected killer, Bryan Kohberger. However, experts suggest that keeping the house standing could have been a logistical challenge without significantly impacting the jury’s perspective.
In high-profile murder cases, jury visits to crime scenes have yielded mixed results. For instance, O.J. Simpson was acquitted in his trial despite a jury visit to the crime scene, while Alex Murdaugh was convicted after jurors visited the scene of the crime.
David Gelman, a Philadelphia-area defense attorney, noted that such visits can be logistically complex, involving the transportation and security of jurors, alternates, judges, lawyers, law enforcement, and other staff. He also mentioned that it’s rare for jurors to visit crime scenes and that it might not always be useful for their understanding of the case.
The demolition of the King Road home comes amid concerns about the recent increase in similar crimes. The house’s razing is seen as a move by the university to “move on” from the tragedy, despite the potential impact an in-person visit to the crime scene could have had on jurors in Kohberger’s case.
Boise-based defense attorney Edwina Elcox emphasized the importance of crime scene visits in certain cases, noting that videos and pictures might not accurately depict the scene as an in-person visit would. However, Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson stated that the current condition of the premises is so different from the time of the homicides that a jury view would not be authorized.
The University of Idaho plans to build a memorial garden on the site, with the design being contributed by UI architecture students. Meanwhile, the families of the victims have expressed their desire for the house to remain until after Kohberger’s trial and for a trial date to be set.
Kohberger’s trial, initially scheduled for October, has been delayed as he focuses on challenging the indictment and DNA evidence. The decision to demolish the building has been met with mixed reactions, with the Goncalves family expressing sadness over the loss of the building and its significance in the pursuit of justice.