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Duncan’s extradition will wait

Joseph Edward Duncan won’t be extradited to Minnesota to face charges for a July 2004 assault on two children at a Minnesota playground until after the state of Idaho finishes criminal proceedings against the convicted sex offender, a Kootenai County District Court judge ruled Tuesday.

A fully bearded Duncan appeared via a video link from the Kootenai County Jail for Tuesday’s hearing before Judge Benjamin Simpson. The murder suspect did not speak during the hearing, which lasted only a moment or two.

Simpson said the purpose of the hearing was to return a governor’s warrant issued out of Minnesota – a warrant that was served on Duncan on Aug. 31 while he remained in custody in Kootenai County. The arrest stemming from the Minnesota charges – charges that Duncan allegedly skipped out on – came two weeks after Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed an order approving the extradition.

According to Minnesota court records, Duncan approached two boys, age 6 and 8, at a playground. He allegedly fondled the younger boy and attempted to fondle the other.

He was charged with a felony count of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and a count of attempted criminal sexual conduct. The warrant was issued after Duncan failed to appear in court on those charges.

In Idaho, Duncan is facing three counts of first-degree murder in the May deaths of Brenda Groene, 40; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene. He has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

Once the case, set for trial in January, is complete, federal charges are expected in connection with the kidnapping of Shasta Groene, 8, and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan.

Charges have yet to be filed for the murder of Dylan Groene, whose remains were discovered at a campsite in Western Montana.

The Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday, but shortly after Duncan was arrested at a Coeur d’Alene restaurant in July, the office announced it would handle the kidnapping charges and also charges related to Dylan’s death.

Since Duncan’s arrest, other agencies have pegged him as a suspect in unsolved crimes.

Last month, a Justice Department source told The Spokesman-Review that Duncan implicated himself in the deaths of two Seattle girls as he talked with FBI agents. Authorities in Riverside, Calif., have reported that they tied Duncan to the 1997 abduction and murder of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez.