MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The defense team for a man accused of killing four University of Idaho students has been given access to the off-campus home where the deaths occurred so the lawyers can gather photos, measurements and other documentation before the house is demolished later this month.
Bryan Kohberger is charged with four counts of murder in connection with the deaths at the rental house just a block from the university campus in Moscow, Idaho, last November. A judge entered a not-guilty plea on Kohberger’s behalf earlier this year. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson has said he intends to seek the death penalty, and a trial date has not yet been set.
Kohberger’s defense team accessed the home on Thursday and was expected to do so again on Friday, the university said.
The home where students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were killed was given to the university earlier this year, and university officials plan to begin demolition on Dec. 28. The university hopes that removing the house will reduce the impact the deaths have had on the many students who live nearby.
“It is the grim reminder of the heinous act that took place there,” President Scott Green said. “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.”
Kohberger was a graduate student studying criminology at Washington State University, which is a short drive from the scene of the killings across the state border. He was arrested at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, and the unusual details of the case have drawn widespread interest. Investigators pieced together DNA evidence, cellphone data and surveillance video that they say links Kohberger to the slayings.
University officials are working with students to design a memorial garden that will be built on the property once the house is gone.
The “Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial,” will include a permanent reminder of the four students who were killed, and will be a place for students and community members to reflect and remember loved ones they have lost. The name of the memorial refers to the nickname given the school’s sports teams, “The Vandals,” and its mascot, Joe Vandal.
“The sad reality is that we lose students each year to a variety of causes,” the university wrote on its website. “In the wake of loss, we turn to each other for support and healing.”
In October, the FBI gathered at the house to collect additional data that could be used to create visual aids for jurors when the case goes to trial. The judge in the case has issued a gag order, preventing the prosecution and defense attorneys and law enforcement officials from discussing the case.