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Sheriff rewards Shasta’s rescuers

Fri., July 29, 2005, midnight

Two Denny’s employees were rewarded Thursday for their role in the rescue of Shasta Groene earlier this month, but her father thinks another rescuer was shortchanged and is considering giving him his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department awarded $4,315 each to Amber Deahn, the Coeur d’Alene Denny’s waitress who recognized Shasta, and to her manager Linda Olson, who told the 911 dispatcher that a customer in the restaurant looked a lot like the missing Coeur d’Alene girl.

Four minutes later, Denny’s customer Nick Chapman, 21, also called 911, after seeing Shasta and her alleged abductor, Joseph E. Duncan III, walk into the restaurant on July 2.

“The fact that Nick wasn’t offered any of the reward kind of upset me,” Steve Groene said. “If I can rectify that by giving Nick the bike, then that’s what I may do.”

He continued: “I personally think that reward should’ve gone to more than Amber and the manager, definitely.” The first 911 call was vague and faltering, he said, and would have ended up on the “B pile” had Chapman not made the second, more definite call. Plus, Groene said, other restaurant employees played a role in making sure Duncan did not get away. .

The sheriff’s department made the decision based on who placed the first call to authorities. “Otherwise you’ll be splitting hairs or second-guessing yourself,” said Sheriff Rocky Watson, who noted that the manager chose to split the money with Deahn.

A much larger reward for the safe return of Shasta is still to be awarded. The FBI is currently reviewing how to distribute its $100,000 reward.

The sheriff department’s reward came from donations by private citizens and companies, such as Bluebird Recycling, where Steve Groene worked. It was initially under the supervision of the Secret Witness Program, but that organization does not allow donations to be earmarked for a specific case.

As for those who might think the company’s reward money should have gone instead into a fund set up for Shasta, Bluebird vice president Willie Lampe said the company did that, too. “I guess there’s money for both things.”

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