DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – It was at a school playground in a rural Minnesota town where Joseph Edward Duncan III is believed to have resumed his criminal sexual behavior nearly 25 years after his last known sexual assault.
In the middle of the day on Saturday, July 3, 2004 – one of the busiest weekends of the year for the lakeside resort community of Detroit Lakes – Duncan pulled down the pants of a 6-year-old boy, according to court documents from Becker County, Minn.
Detroit Lakes is located about 45 minutes east of Fargo and a popular vacation destination for Fargo residents.
Duncan was spotted with a video camera lurking near playground equipment. At some point he called over the 6-year-old boy and his 8-year-old friend, according to the criminal complaint. Duncan pulled down the shorts of the younger boy and touched the boy’s genitals, but Duncan was unable to pull down the older boy’s pants.
The boys alerted adults, and police arrived at the scene after Duncan had fled in his red Pontiac Grand Am, according to the criminal complaint. The boys described the stranger who had molested them and said he had a noticeable bump on his upper lip, which touched his bottom lip when he spoke.
Based on the description, as well as another witness’s account of the car being parked near the playground, Detroit Lakes police Detective Chad Jutz put together a photo lineup of six men from a database of Minnesota predatory criminals.
The 6-year-old boy picked Duncan from the lineup. On March 4, one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct were filed against Duncan.
A warrant was not issued for Duncan’s arrest; rather a summons to appear in court listing the charges was sent to his home in Fargo. Duncan appeared April 5, when District Judge Thomas Schroeder set his bail at $15,000 and ordered Duncan to return for a hearing May 16.
– James Hagengruber