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Three murder charges await kidnap suspect

Tue., July 12, 2005

The Kootenai County prosecutor plans to file three counts of first-degree murder charges today against Joseph Edward Duncan III in the bludgeoning deaths of Brenda Groene, Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie.

Prosecutor Bill Douglas announced late Monday afternoon that a probable cause hearing to consider evidence in support of the charges will be held this morning in magistrate court.

If probable cause is found, Duncan will then appear in court on the murder charges.

Currently, Duncan, a 42-year-old registered sex offender from Fargo, N.D., is being held without bail on two counts of first-degree kidnapping for the abduction of 9-year-old Dylan and 8-year-old Shasta Groene. Shasta Groene is back with her father, but Dylan Groene’s remains were found in the Lolo National Forest southwest of St. Regis, Mont..

As of Monday, about 40 investigators were still working on their investigative report in the murders of Brenda Groene, 40, McKenzie, 37, and 13-year-old Slade Groene. The three were found beaten to death in their rural home May 16.

Dylan and Shasta were missing from the home, and authorities say they were abducted by Duncan, who allegedly took them to at least two campsites in Montana where he sexually abused them.

Duncan has not been charged in the death of Dylan, whose remains were so unrecognizable they were identified only through DNA testing. The test results were released Sunday.

Shasta was recognized in the early morning hours of July 2 when she entered the Coeur d’Alene Denny’s restaurant with Duncan.

“It’s probably the most complex case I’ve ever seen,” said Kootenai County Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger. “You have two totally different crimes and you’ve got multiple jurisdictions.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Idaho, Jean McNeil, said the case possibly could be divided into two, one handled in state and the other handled in federal court.

“Basically what’s going on right now, we’re talking,” she said Monday morning. “Everybody’s concerned that this is charged and prosecuted in the most appropriate jurisdiction to make sure justice is done to the extent it can ever be done in a case like this.”

While Duncan has a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 19 on the kidnapping charges, public sentiment appears impatient with due process.

The reader board sign at Davis Donuts in Coeur d’Alene expressed it this way: “Duncan, Welcome to Idaho, a death penalty state. May you get your wish and die.”

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