History of what happens to homes linked to notorious killings as Idaho murders house is being razed

ByDakin Andone, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, December 28, 2023
Families of 2 Idaho college murders victims oppose demolition of crime scene house
The off-campus house where four Idaho college students were brutally murdered is set to be demolished Thursday morning.

MOSCOW, Idaho -- The University of Idaho on Thursday plans to begin demolition of the off-campus home where four students were fatally stabbed last year - the latest instance in which a property is razed following grisly, high-profile killings.

Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen were killed inside the Moscow, Idaho, off-campus rental on November 13, 2022, stunning the university and the surrounding community.

The owner of the home donated it to the university and the school planned to tear it down in July, before the start of the new academic year. But those plans were delayed until this month, when the university announced attorneys for the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, had been given access to the home as part of their preparations for trial. Prosecutors also accessed the house on December 21, the school said.

RELATED: Idaho college murders timeline: From off-campus killings to Bryan Kohberger's court appearance

Kohberger has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, and not guilty pleas have been entered on his behalf. Prosecutors have proposed his trial begin in the summer of 2024.

Thursday's demolition - taking place during winter break - is expected to start at 7 a.m. and last several days, the University of Idaho said in a news release this month.

"It is the grim reminder of the heinous act that took place there," University of Idaho President Scott Green said in a news release. "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."

On the eve of the demolition, the families of Goncalves and Kernodle pleaded with the university and local prosecutors to preserve the home. They argued it may provide evidence during the murder trial, including about how much the surviving roommates may have heard during the killings, according to a joint statement.

But neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys have opposed the demolition, the university said, and a prosecutor told school officials in an email the house is "so substantially different than at the time of the homicides" that a jury wouldn't be authorized to see it.

With the house gone, attention can turn to the property's future. The university intends to create a memorial garden on the site to honor the four students, it has said, and landscape design and architecture students were set to draft concepts for the garden this past fall.

The question of what to do with such properties has become distressingly rote in recent years, particularly in the US, where communities regularly have to grapple with the scenes of mass shootings, asking themselves how they honor the victims and their families while allowing those left behind to heal and move forward.

That's particularly difficult following mass shootings at schools, where students and teachers face the possibility of having to return: For example, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, was torn down and rebuilt after 26 people, including 20 6- and 7-year-old children, were killed in a shooting there in December 2012.

But for decades, communities have faced similar questions about private homes, like the one in Idaho, where notorious killers lived or their victims were murdered. Often these homes are torn down, like the Sandy Hook shooter's home, where he lived with his mother - his first victim the day of the shooting.

Here's a look at what happened to other homes synonymous with the killings that took place there.

10050 Cielo Drive

In 1969, five people, including the actress Sharon Tate, were murdered at 10050 Cielo Drive in what was perhaps the most notorious of the murders carried out by the cult led by Charles Manson.

The Beverly Hills, California, home was demolished in 1994, and a new one - a sprawling nine-bedroom, 18-bathroom mansion - was built and completed in 1996. It received a new address.

The mansion was put on the market in January 2022 for $85 million, but the asking price has repeatedly dropped over the last 23 months. The sellers are now asking $49.5 million, according to the real estate agent's listing, which makes no mention of the property's dark history.

John Wayne Gacy's home

The serial killer John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 people, and the remains of more than two dozen of them were found underneath his house near Chicago by investigators following his arrest in December 1978, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Gacy's home was demolished months later, in April 1979, the Tribune reported at the time. It was a relief to neighbors, including one who told the newspaper, "I'll be glad when every bit of it's gone."

The lot was empty for almost a decade, until a new home was erected on the site beginning in June 1988, per the Tribune. Like the Cielo Drive house, the new home also was given a new address.

The home of Fred and Rose West

Fred and Rose West abducted, sexually abused and killed a series of girls and young women - two of their daughters among them - between the 1960s and 1980s in England. Fred, accused of 12 murders, died by suicide before he could stand trial, while Rose was convicted on 10 counts of murder in November 1995 and sentenced to life in prison.

When the case broke open in the 1990s, investigators found the remains of many of their victims at their house at 25 Cromwell Street in the city of Gloucester, including in the garden, the basement and the bathroom.

The home, dubbed a "house of horrors," was torn down in 1996. A public walkway has since been built in its place.

Alex Murdaugh's hunting estate

Before it became known as the site where Alex Murdaugh murdered his wife, Maggie, and grown son Paul, the 1,700-acre Islandton, South Carolina, property known as Moselle was the family's hunting estate - including a house, a cabin and dog kennels where the killings occurred.

During the now-disgraced attorney's trial earlier this year, jurors visited the estate to help them better understand the crime scene and the prosecution and defense arguments.

Unlike the other crimes' sites, however, Moselle is still standing.

The estate went up for sale several months after the killings, according to CNN affiliate WJCL, and many items from the home were auctioned off soon after Murdaugh's conviction. He has filed an appeal, which is on hold while his defense attorneys pursue a motion for a new trial.

The home was sold for $2.6 million, another affiliate, WCIV, reported in March.

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