June 1, 2005 in Idaho

Extra hours add up in Wolf Lodge case

Staff writer
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Background and the latest updates

Investigators with Kootenai County have logged at least 1,595 hours of overtime since three people were killed and two children turned up missing from their Wolf Lodge area home two weeks ago.

And Idaho State Police Capt. Clark Rollins said he hasn’t even begun to count how much overtime his crew of 13 investigators has put into the case.

“My 40-hour weeks are 100-plus now,” Rollins said.

Yet, even with the help of more than three dozen FBI investigators – including many who continued to comb through 40 tons of garbage in the Kootenai County landfill Tuesday – authorities have yet to announce a big break in the case.

So authorities are asking the public to remain vigilant and report anything that could help bring Shasta, 8, and Dylan “D.J.” Groene, 9, back safe.

Among the many tips and leads being chased is one of a possible sighting of the missing children in northeast Oregon on Sunday.

Wallowa County (Ore.) Sheriff Fred Steen said his office took a report Sunday of a suspicious adult male who contacted a couple of local girls who were riding their bicycles. A witness told authorities that the suspicious man had two young children with him, Steen said.

The man was said to be driving a blue Dodge Dakota extended cab pickup truck with Idaho license plates. A possible license plate number – 209795 – was passed along to authorities, but Kootenai County Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said the only match they could find in Idaho was to a vehicle of a different description from Twin Falls, Idaho.

Wolfinger said that Oregon tip isn’t so different from many that emerged from the some 1,500 calls to the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

“We’ve had tips like that from the Florida Keys to the Pacific Northwest,” he said Tuesday.

The public still could hold the key to finding the children, Wolfinger said, by reporting unusual activity or behavior of neighbors or acquaintances. “People not coming to work, kids crying in the house … people buying unusual food. … We’d want to hear about it,” he said.

Authorities learned the children were missing, and likely abducted, after discovering the bodies of their mother, her boyfriend and their older brother dead in their home.

Brenda Groene, 40, Mark McKenzie, 37, and 13-year-old Slade Groene were bound and bludgeoned to death sometime either May 15 or May 16. Investigators have not said what they think the murder weapon is. The family had several visitors the evening of May 15, but no one is currently considered a suspect, according to Wolfinger.

Blood, fingerprints and other evidence from the murder scene are being processed at the FBI’s forensic laboratory in Quantico, Va. Initial results from the lab showed that Shasta and Dylan’s blood was not at the scene, giving investigators hope that they could still be alive.

Some fingerprint results have been returned as well, Wolfinger said Tuesday, but so far all the fingerprints belong to family members.

Meanwhile, FBI investigators are searching the landfill for more clues, but nothing of significance had been discovered as of Tuesday, the sixth day of the search. They are expected to be done at the landfill Thursday, Wolfinger said.

Sheriff’s department overtime costs will likely be paid from the county’s $500,000 contingency fund, said county Finance Director David McDowell. So far this year, the county has not had major expenses to come out of the contingency fund, he said.

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