‘Who’s going to want to live here?’: Site of Edmonton's worst mass murder up for sale
The house where a man killed his family is for sale, and neighbours are divided on what should happen next.
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It was a sunny day in July when Luis Machado noticed a dumpster on the driveway of the house next door.
He watched from his second-floor bedroom window as it sat there for four days, filling up with women’s and children’s clothing, toys and books. He watched from the same spot four months earlier, when bloody mattresses were pulled from the house.
He watched the last remnants of a family’s life leaving their home and thought about moving his wife and daughter away from the north-end Klarvatten neighbourhood. Moving them somewhere away from that house, where seven people, including a three-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy, were killed seven months earlier.
“My daughter played with the boy every day,” Machado says. “It was hard, because we knew them. It brought back a lot of memories.
“But I tell my family, ‘It happened there, not here. We are a different family.’”
The worst mass-murder in Edmonton’s history happened last year in the house at 18024 83 Street. Within its walls, Phu Lam, 53, shot his wife and six of her family members and friends to death on Dec. 29. He killed another woman in her home on the city’s south side, but spared his one-year-old daughter and eight-month-old nephew.
He ended the massacre by killing himself inside a Vietnamese restaurant in Fort Saskatchewan.
There’s no “For Sale” sign on the mowed lawn, but the house went on the market in August. Built in 2012, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house — foreclosed by the bank — is listed online at $365,000. Similar homes in the neighbourhood are listed for $419,000 or more.
The home is being sold as-is. From the outside, it mirrors the other houses in the affluent Edmonton neighbourhood. “18024” is printed in prominent white letters above the two-car garage. The vinyl siding, marked with bullet holes half a year ago, is clean and repaired. A single young tree, stricken by the summer drought, is staked on the front lawn.
The listing describes the house as a “handyman special needing lots of work inside.” Realtor’s photos show a modern kitchen with granite countertops. But the staircases and some of the rooms are missing carpet.
No explanation is given.
In Alberta, the seller does not have to disclose to potential buyers that a major crime occurred in the home — unless a buyer specifically asks, says RE/MAX River City Realtor Jennifer Pretty. This is the case in every province except for Quebec.
“If there is a latent defect that’s going to cause somebody grief or a lot of money to remedy, it’s written right into the real estate contract that that is something they need to disclose,” Pretty says. “If they lie, then there would be grounds for a lawsuit.”
Pretty says she has sold a home in which a man hanged himself in the garage, but a multiple homicide weighs heavier on her mind.
“I would have a really hard time, ethically, to sell someone a house like that and not tell them something like that happened,” she says.
The house is listed by Jim Noble of Homes and Gardens Real Estate Limited on Lilypad.ca. A call to the number provided on the listing was answered by Atul Kaushal, of Zolo Realty.
Kaushal says he’s not aware of the history of the house.
Anna Pluta moved into a house directly facing 10824 in April. The house across the street was just any other house to her, until neighbours told her its gruesome history.
She learned from a neighbour that her home’s previous owners had children who once played with Elvis, the eight-year-old boy killed in the shooting. That family was eager to leave after the crime, neighbour Ron Bailey says. A few others in the neighbourhood eventually did as well, he adds.
Staring at it from her driveway, Pluta says she can’t imagine anyone wanting to live in the house across the street.
The Real Estate Council of Alberta dictates how real estate professionals should deal with sellers who may be selling a “stigmatized property.” The term encompasses a variety of incidents that can render a house ‘stigmatized’ or hard to sell: if it has been the site of a suicide or death, the scene of a major crime, reportedly haunted, vandalized, or if a grow-op was ever on the property.
In other parts of Canada, bolder steps have been taken to find peace and closure for a neighbourhood.
When serial killer Paul Bernardo was convicted of raping and murdering young women in 1995, the city of St. Catharines purchased the home in which the crimes happened and tore it down the same year. A new home exists on that lot today, with a new address number.
This is what many neighbours in the community would like to see happen to the house, Machado says.
The Machado family put blinds on their upstairs bathroom window shortly after the crime next door. The glass is textured and it’s their only window facing the house, but they couldn’t stand looking through it.
Machado also installed a privacy wall on their property line with the house so his wife could enjoy sitting on their backyard deck this summer.
Still, it’s been hard to cope.
“Even this week, I told my husband ‘Maybe we should move,’” Machado’s wife says. “But we thought, ‘Who’s going to buy our house? Who’s going to want to live here?’”
Many potential buyers have visited the house since it went up for sale, Machado says. Whether or not they’re aware of its history, he doesn’t know.
His family stands beside him in the doorway of their home in late August as a black truck pulls up to the house next door. A man with a rag and a spray bottle steps out of the truck, labelled “Trauma Scene Bio Services Inc.”
“Here they are again,” he says with a sigh, pulling his daughter close. “But this is still a nice area. It’s quiet, lots of families and kids.
“We’ll never forget what happened, but time heals. Maybe if someone moves in there it’ll give us some closure. A new beginning.”