Why It Matters
In an email to students and employees, the university’s president, Scott Green, said the university still planned to demolish the house, but would not do so before October, when the man charged with the murders is scheduled to go on trial.
Mr. Green said he was trying to balance the needs of students forced to walk by the house every day with those of the victims’ families and others who have expressed concern that demolishing the house might hinder the prosecution of the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, who was a graduate student at a nearby university.
“We still fully expect to demolish the house, which was given to the university by the former owner,” Mr. Green said. “But we believe leaving the house standing, for now, is the right course to take.”
Some family members of the four students killed — Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20 — pushed the university to halt the planned demolition of the property.
Steve Goncalves, the father of Ms. Goncalves, said he was worried that demolishing the house would foreclose the possibility of a jury visiting the property, if necessary.
“What’s best for the case is for us to take caution and protect what the jury may possibly want to wrap their heads around,” Mr. Goncalves said.
Shanon Gray, a lawyer representing the Goncalves family, has said that jurors may need to see the house to understand how noise traveled in the building and how a killer could have moved through the home’s unusual six-bedroom layout.
Jury visits are rare, and emails obtained by The New York Times show that both Mr. Kohberger’s lawyer, Anne Taylor, and the lead prosecutor, Bill Thompson, said they did not object to the university’s initial plans to demolish the building before a new class of students arrived in August.
The parents of Mr. Chapin were less certain. Mr. Chapin’s mother, Stacy, agreed with Mr. Goncalves that demolishing the home this summer felt quick. But she noted that Mr. Chapin’s two siblings — they were triplets — are still students at the University of Idaho, and one of them has a room that looks out toward the house.
“Our kids have to walk past that house every day,” Ms. Chapin said. “The kids, they need to heal. The university needs to heal. And the community.”
Mr. Green said the university, which was deeded ownership of the house after the killings by the previous private owner, would revisit its decision in October, and would go ahead with “lead and asbestos abatement” in the meantime.
“There is no legal requirement for leaving the house standing — both the prosecution and defense have released any interest in the house for their cases,” Mr. Green said.
Mr. Green said that the personal items of the people who had lived there had been removed and that they would soon be returned to the families who wanted them.
Mike Baker contributed reporting.