Plans for memorial garden grow before trial of murder suspect
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”