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At mother and son’s funeral, pastor urges focus on life

A local pastor told more than 500 people gathered Wednesday to honor the lives of Brenda Groene and her 13-year-old son that they should not play detective and try to figure out who attacked the family.

Instead, he said, the victims of the horrific crime should be remembered for how they lived.

“Remember her life, more than her death,” said the Rev. Bill Putnam, of Real Life Ministries, during a prayer for Brenda Kay Groene, 40.

Groene was found bound and beaten to death last week in her Wolf Lodge Bay home along with her 13-year-old son, Slade Vincent Groene, and her live-in boyfriend, Mark McKenzie. Groene’s two youngest children, Dylan and Shasta, remain missing.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department expects to start a search of the Fighting Creek landfill south of Coeur d’Alene either today or Friday, Capt. Ben Wolfinger said. Investigators will concentrate on a half-acre portion of the landfill.

Apart from the landfill, investigators hope that additional clues could be found this holiday weekend when thousands of campers, anglers and picnickers venture into North Idaho’s forests and mountains.

The Memorial Day weekend will provide a “huge” opportunity for gathering additional evidence in the region’s considerable stretches of public land, Wolfinger said.

The Sheriff’s Department also expects additional results from the FBI’s crime lab in Quantico, Va., that could provide critical “solid physical evidence,” Wolfinger said. He declined to provide further details.

Local and FBI detectives attended the Post Falls funeral where the pastor urged people to avoid seeking revenge or turning to drugs, alcohol or suicide. Putnam told the crowd only God could help with the pain of loss.

Jesse Groene, 18, who was released from the Kootenai County Jail to attend his mother and brother’s funeral, performed a rap that he wrote for his mother.

Before he began, Groene said, “The person who did this will be found, and they will be dealt with.” Then he apologized to his family and friends, without specifying what the apology was regarding.

Jesse Groene praised his mother for always standing with him, even through troubled and confusing times.

“You are everything to me,” Groene said. “You’re not just my mom; you are my homey, too.”

He went on to say, “You will stick with me even when there are demons I have to strangle.”

In earlier interviews, Jesse Groene said that he struggled with methamphetamine use and that his mother would often track him down and take him home.

Groene also spoke highly of McKenzie, whom he considered a stepfather. A private service was held for McKenzie earlier in the week.

Slides of Brenda and Slade Groene were shown on two large screens in the spacious gymnasium.

The pictures of Slade Groene began with him as a baby in a bathtub and progressed to show a grade-schooler with red hair and freckles. In one shot, he’s dressed in camouflage and sits in a pickup with his two youngest siblings. His most recent school photo shows Groene with a big smile, a shaved head and an earring.

The crowd included many teachers and students who attended Lakes Middle School with Slade Groene. The foyer of the church was covered in large posters with messages from classmates that read “RIP Slade” and “We will miss you.”

The photos of Brenda Groene, known as “Bones,” showed her as a young girl with a yellow barrette in her long, brown hair and then as a teenager in the sunshine. The pictures quickly moved to a baby shower and shots of her with her five children.

Her sister Brandy Hoagland wrote a note: “Whether she was putting up Grandma’s hair or cooking a meal from her garden … she had an open heart.”

The Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Freebird” filled the gymnasium as family members filed out.