Breeze Knoll: The John List Murder House

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image from: notes.andrewromano.net

image from: notes.andrewromano.net

One of the most confounding crimes of the 1970’s was the List family murders.

On November 9, 1971, John List shot and killed his wife, mother and three children in the house (pictured above) at 431 Hillside Avenue in Westfield, New Jersey. He left their bodies neatly lined up on Boy Scout sleeping bags in the grand ballroom.

image from: blog.mlive.com

image from: blog.mlive.com

He tuned the PA system on to a gospel music station and quietly slipped away into history. Almost.

The murders were so meticulously planned that the bodies were not even found until a month after the victims were killed. By that time, John List was long gone with a new identity.

As fate would have it, the tenacious John Walsh (love that guy) and the good folks at America’s Most Wanted, profiled the John List murders on one of their first shows in 1989. The national airing of the story led to the arrest of John List, who had been living under an alias in Denver, Colorado, then Richmond Virginia. List had been a fugitive for 18 years. He had been living right under the radar, working in his trade of accounting, and even getting remarried.

image from: themindofaserialkiller.tumblr.com

image from: themindofaserialkiller.tumblr.com

John List was tried and convicted in 1990 and died in prison in 2008. You can read more about the details of the crime and capture of John List here.

The List family home still captivates, all these years later, even though it no longer exists.

That’s right. The home on the hill known as “Breeze Knoll” sat vacant for nine months after the tragic murders until it mysteriously burned down to the ground in late August of 1972. The fire was ruled an arson but no suspect has ever been charged.

Image courtesy of: Chris Eline

Image courtesy of: Chris Eline

image from: notes.andrewromano.net

image from: notes.andrewromano.net

The large Victorian era mansion had nineteen rooms over three stories and was said to be the most expensive house in the neighborhood. One of the defining features of Breeze Knoll was the grand ballroom which featured a massive stained glass skylight rumored to be a Tiffany original worth more than $100,000.

The ballroom and skylight were visible in this 1971 aerial shot:

image from: skcentral.com

image from: skcentral.com

Unfortunately, all we have to remember of the interior are some grainy old crime scene photos, as often is the case with these old homes pre-digital camera age. [One of the reasons I started the Crime Scene Houses category on my website was to preserve some of these photos in one place]

image from: skcentral.com

image from: skcentral.com

I hesitate to show dead body photos on my blog but the one below is one of the few photos on record that gives us a peek at the grand ballroom of the List house and the herringbone floors:

image from: tea-and-skeletons.tumblr.com

image from: tea-and-skeletons.tumblr.com

It is chilling to see how John List left the bodies of his wife and 3 children arranged on the ballroom floor, their heads covered with towels and bodies cushioned on boy scout sleeping bags.

A reader sent me this picture from the crime scene photos which shows the floor pattern up close:

image courtesy of: Chris Eline

image courtesy of: Chris Eline

The burning of this historic house was a shame, but in the end, it was probably a good thing for the neighborhood in terms of moving on with life.

The lot was sold in 1974 and a new 3,900 square foot house was erected on the exact same spot as Breeze Knoll.

Here’s the house that was built in 1974 on the site of John List’s former house:

image from: morbidnewjersey.com

image from: morbidnewjersey.com

According to Zillow, the property last sold in 2004 forĀ $2,250,000.

The new brick house bears a ghostly resemblance to the original house in the way it is situated on the ridge of the hill:

image from: www.nj.com

image from: www.nj.com

There aren’t many photos left of Breeze Knoll, so if anyone out there can find anymore pictures of the John List house, please share!

 

Sources:

morbidnewjersey.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_List

http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/family/list/1.html

http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/431-Hillside-Ave-Westfield-NJ-07090/40085127_zpid/

 

Special thanks to Chris Eline for sharing some rare photos of the John List house with me!