Plans for memorial garden grow before trial of murder suspect

Candles, stuffed toy lambs and a framed photo of the four students sits atop grey rocks in front of the King Road house.
Gifts in honor of victims Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin continue to appear in front of the King Road house. (Credit: Lauren Paterson / NWPB)



It’s a sunny day at the Moscow Farmer’s Market, and Main Street is bustling with visitors and vendors from around the Northwest. 

Robert Loftus has lived in Moscow for most of his life. He has three kids and never worried about them going around town on their own when they were young.

A banner reading "Moscow Farmer's Market" is hung between trees under a blue sky as Main Street is filled with people.

The Moscow Farmer’s Market attracts 10,000 visitors from across the region every Saturday during the season, said Moscow Mayor Art Bettge. (Credit: Lauren Paterson / NWPB)

“They would ride their bike over to the mall across town. They would ride their bike to the city park or East City Marketplace and go see a movie,” said Loftus.

Crime is rare in Moscow, especially a quadruple stabbing. Loftus said he’s been disappointed by the media portrayal that Moscow is a scary place to live.

“Moscow’s still got all the great things that let me raise my kids here safely. The Moscow murders haven’t changed my mind on that at all,” said Loftus.

The suspect in the killings of four University of Idaho students Bryan Kohberger’s arraignment hearing was May 22. He chose to “stand silent” rather than entering a plea. 

Richard Seamon is a professor at University of Idaho’s College of Law. 

“This is a very common rule that if a defendant chooses not to enter plea, the judge gets to enter it, and it will be a plea of not guilty,” said Seamon.

At his arraignment, Kohberger declined to waive his right to a speedy trial. Seamon says a motion to change venue is still possible but will likely happen soon if it’s to happen at all.

“The next step for the prosecution most likely, is going to be to give notice about whether they are seeking the death penalty or not,” Seamon said.

As the community awaits the trial in the fall, Moscow Mayor Art Bettge said people are trying to find ways to heal and move forward. 

The King Road house is displayed with boarded up windows and a truck and small trailer parked out front.

The university is working with a remediation company to get the last of the victims’ belongings returned to the families before the King Road house (pictured here) can be demolished. Harmful chemicals are present in the house due to the gathering of forensic evidence, said University of Idaho Dean of Students Blaine Eckles. (Credit: Lauren Paterson / NWPB)

“This hit really, really hard and shook everybody up,” said Bettge.

Since the tragedy, the city has installed more lighting on the roads between the university and downtown.

While the city is doing what it can, local students have banded together to create fundraisers for a memorial garden. 

Daniel Ramirez is a recent graduate of the University of Idaho. 

Two young people sit at a table reading a newspaper with a bookshelf behind them.

Recent graduates Haadiya Tariq and Daniel Ramirez review the most recent issue of the Argonaut student paper. Both graduated with degrees in journalism earlier this month. (Credit: Lauren Paterson / NWPB)

“Students are trying to find a way to heal the community because they lost four of their own. Just seeing how students can find ways to heal and help other students heal,” Ramirez said.

The “Vandal Strong” bracelet fundraiser netted more than $20,000 toward the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial. More money was raised when music students did a benefit concert in the spring. 

Black bracelets with the names Xana, Ethan, Kaylee, and Maddie are shown in a pile.

Bracelets with the names of the four University of Idaho students who were killed on Nov. 13, 2022 are displayed on a table at a vigil for the victims. Bracelets were sold to buyers across the world to raise funds for the new memorial garden. (Credit: Ted S. Warren / AP, File)

“We’ve raised over $200,000 for this Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial, and that’s from people from across the country, across the globe, saying, ‘we care, we want to support, how can we help?’”

That’s Blaine Eckles, the Dean of Students for U of I. He said students who knew the victims will also be working on the project to design the memorial garden. 

Design ideas on how to honor Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin can be submitted on the university’s website

“We’ve got this call for inspiration out now where anyone, anyone can submit a design concept or idea. We’re going to print all those off and give them to the students in the class to help inspire them to create design features for what the healing garden can look like,” said Eckles.

As a community member, Loftus said it’s unfortunate to see the focus is now on suspect Bryan Kohberger and the circus he’s created.

“We’ll still be Moscow after this has all blown over,” said Loftus. “We’ll still be a nice friendly town.”