The house where four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death in November will be razed, amid a rise in “true-crime tourists” visiting the area.
The university announced on Friday that the owner of the home in Moscow had offered it to the university, and it had accepted.
“The house will be demolished,” University President Scott Green said in a memo to students and employees.
“This is a healing step and removes the physical structure where the crime that shook our community was committed. Demolition also removes efforts to further sensationalize the crime scene.”
University spokesperson Jodi Walker told the Idaho Statesman that the university is working with students and other community members to come up with a plan for the property’s future development that would honor the slain students: Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Ethan Chapin, 20.
A timeline hasn’t been set, but the plan is to have the house knocked down by the end of the current semester, Walker said.
Since then, a petition has been launched, calling on the university to preserve the property. “All of the victims had fun and made memories in that house and likely wouldn’t want their house destroyed,” the petition’s organizer, David Nitz, wrote.
Nitz has been contacted for comment.
The four students were found dead on the second and third floors of the house in the early hours of November 13. Goncalves, Mogen and Kernodle lived there with two other roommates, who survived, and Chapin, Kernodle’s boyfriend, was visiting.
In late December, a suspect was arrested.
Bryan Kohberger—then a Ph.D. student in criminology at Washington State University in nearby Pullman—has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony burglary.
He hasn’t yet entered a plea, but a lawyer who previously represented him in Pennsylvania said he was “eager to be exonerated.”
As police worked to hone in on a suspect, the murders gripped internet sleuths who posted theories online.
Some fascinated by the case even traveled to Moscow to get a glimpse of the house, located near the university campus. Multiple people have been seen taking photos of the King Road house in recent days, according to NewsNation.
Visitors have long descended on sites associated with violent crimes, a phenomenon now known as “dark tourism.”
“Sadly, sites of murder have long attracted ‘tourists’ or the ‘morbid onlooker’,” Philip Stone, executive director of the Institute for Dark Tourism Research at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K., told Newsweek.
He pointed as far back as the Jack the Ripper killings in London in 1888, when “enterprising landlords” charged visitors to view the corpse of one of the victims.
More recently, a Netflix show about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer prompted some to visit his childhood home.
“In a contemporary world that is interconnected by social media and where ‘Big Brother’ surveillance is often carried out by the masses on their smartphones, we want to capture ‘fatality moments,'” Stone said.
“Reasons for doing so will be as diverse and contentious as the people who make these pilgrimage-like trips to sites of pain and shame. So called ‘true-crime tourism’ will happen as people mediate their own sense of mortality at sites of fatality and ponder their own-life worlds.”
Jeffrey S. Podoshen, a professor of marketing at Franklin and Marshall College, who specializes in dark tourism, said some “are attracted to these sites out of mere morbid curiosity, others go to these sites to contemplate the reality of a harsh or violent death from a ‘safer space.'”
He told Newsweek: “With so much death, dying and suffering in the media in more recent years, the cold reality of unnatural death is all around us. It is difficult for people to process this, however, it still sticks in the mind.
“Visiting sites of death and tragedy is one way to examine and process death, killing and murder in person without actually having to endure actual violence. In a sense, this type of tourism brings us closer to death, allowing for both commemoration and contemplation that the media falls short of allowing us.”
Some may mistrust information from authorities and media reports, Stone added, and go in search of their own answers.
“For many people, we no longer turn to the priest or other religious leaders for moral guidance but to the Internet. We seek morality on our own terms,” he said.
“We live in an Information Age and an age of ‘exposure’ where data is the no longer the preserve of the institutions, such as governments, journalism, the Church, or academia. Instead, ordinary people often treat information as knowledge, without the resources or intellectual capacity to critically compare and contrast.
“Consequently, we search for meaning to events that perturb the collective consciousness. To that end, we often undertake dark tourism and sightsee in the mansions of the dead searching for our ‘heritage that hurts’.”
A five-day preliminary hearing in Kohberger’s case is scheduled to begin on June 26.
Update 2/28/23, 9:55 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comments from Jeffrey S. Podoshen.