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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Family’s home forever tainted

The Spokesman-Review

No one can blame Mark McKenzie’s family for never wanting to set foot in the long-time family home on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Bay.

The horrific mid-May deaths of McKenzie, his girlfriend, Brenda Groene, and her son, Slade, have forever tainted the wonderful memories the family shared there. It’s possible that someone would buy the white cinderblock house that can be seen from Interstate 90. But the chances are good that no one would. The violence with which the killer dispatched the three unfortunate victims contaminated the entire property as well as the home’s ceiling, floors and walls.

Besides, the Coeur d’Alene area doesn’t need the grim reminder of the night death stalked the Groenes. In the person of 8-year-old survivor Shasta Groene, it has a living testament to an individual’s courage and determination to survive in the most brutal of situations. Neither the community nor the McKenzie family should be haunted by a grim monument to violent death.

The house should be razed before it becomes a macabre attraction for vandals and curious busybodies.

The McKenzie family shouldn’t be penalized a second time as a result of the tragedy that felled its loved one. The property could be preserved as part of a larger area to protect native fish. Ralph McKenzie, the McKenzie family patriarch, told The Spokesman-Review that he has had preliminary discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about transforming the property into a wetland preserve. Federal and Idaho state officials should embrace the idea.

A wetlands that would serve as a migration corridor and rearing area for cutthroat trout would be a more fitting memorial to the victims than the vacant slaughter house. A monument could be erected on the site to the victims or simply to the two slain Groene brothers: 13-year-old Slade, who was killed at the house, and 9-year-old Dylan, who reportedly was abused and killed later in the northwest Montana wilderness.

The monument and property could serve to remember the nation’s abused and murdered children, as well.

The government, of course, shouldn’t be in the business of transforming murder sites into acceptable ones. Yet, the McKenzie property has much to offer in the form of wetlands. In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, biologist Kathy Cousins of the state Fish and Game Department, said: “We’re very interested in trying to preserve that.” The property, she said, would be “a very good access point” for a larger fisheries project. The Idaho Department of Lands is aware of the wetland potential of the McKenzie property, too. The U.S. Corp of Engineers has been involved as a contact source in gauging interest in a sale.

Meanwhile, Ralph McKenzie has said he’ll sell the property only if it’s preserved as wetlands.

Nothing will ever expunge the horror of the tragedy that befell the McKenzie/Groene family. But the creation of wetlands in memory of the victims and the one survivor would provide a slim silver lining.

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