June 27, 2006 in Idaho

Duncan: ‘It had to end’

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer
 
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Joseph Duncan laughed at times and cried at times in the hour after he was booked into the Kootenai County Jail nearly one year ago, according to recently filed court documents.

The accused killer also told authorities he wouldn’t have been caught if he hadn’t wanted to be.

“I could have gotten away with it,” Duncan allegedly told sheriff’s deputy Art Dollard. “I’m smart enough that you guys would have never caught me, but it had to end.”

He also told Dollard he was “glad to have known” 8-year-old Shasta Groene, and he said she and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, whom Duncan is accused of killing, “taught me so much,” the court records say.

Statements Duncan made in the days and weeks after his arrest last July are detailed in a brief Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas filed in opposition to a motion by Duncan’s attorneys to suppress those statements.

The 43-year-old Duncan has been charged with using a framing hammer to kill Brenda Matthews Groene, the children’s mother; her fiancé, Mark McKenzie; and Groene’s 13-year-old son, Slade. Douglas is seeking the death penalty for the May 2005 killings in the family’s home east of Coeur d’Alene.

Federal charges are expected against Duncan for allegedly kidnapping Shasta and Dylan, killing Dylan and committing sex crimes against both children in the weeks he allegedly held them captive at a remote Montana campsite.

Duncan’s attorneys filed a motion in January to suppress statements he made in the early morning hours of July 2 after he had been arrested at a Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene in the company of Shasta. Public Defender John Adams also wants the court to suppress statements Duncan made to jail Chaplain Robert Smalley, social worker Chrystal Hodgson and FBI agents.

Adams said in a response to Douglas’ brief that Duncan repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent. The state’s brief says when Duncan was asked by police if he knew why officers were at the restaurant, he said it was because he was with the missing girl.

According to court records, Duncan said he was bringing her to Coeur d’Alene because she wanted to see her father, Steve Groene.

As he was booked into jail, Duncan began sobbing, according to the brief.

When Dollard asked if he was OK, Duncan reportedly said he hoped Shasta was OK. Duncan told Dollard he wasn’t in a condition to talk because he “had been through a lot, and the important thing was that (Shasta) was OK.”

Then Duncan told Dollard “he had been through a lot and so had Shasta.”

As the two sat in an interview room at the jail waiting for detectives to arrive, Duncan cried and laughed, according to the state’s brief.

Prosecutors contend that Duncan was not asked questions about his arrest but “spontaneously” made several statements to Dollard.

“All that matters is she’s OK,” Duncan allegedly told Dollard. “You don’t know how much danger she was in.”

Duncan requested to meet with Smalley, the chaplain, on July 3. He allegedly admitted to crimes against the family and children, after Smalley had reportedly advised him in advance the information would not be privileged.

Duncan also made admissions July 6 to Hodgson, whom the jail requested to do a mental health check on Duncan, court documents said. Hodgson told Duncan anything he said could be used in court, according to the documents, to which Duncan replied, “I don’t care what the courts hear.”

When the FBI came to get fingerprints and a DNA sample from Duncan on July 19, he allegedly began to talk. At that point, the FBI reportedly advised Duncan of his rights, and he said he wanted to remain silent.

Less than an hour after FBI agents left, Duncan reportedly told jail staff that he wanted to talk to the agents. Duncan began talking about religion, according to the documents, and then said it was important he be honest.

When the FBI agent told Duncan he was willing to spend all night talking with him if Duncan wanted, Duncan reportedly said that was “awesome.”

Duncan told the agents that God wanted him to talk to the FBI, and he allegedly made several admissions about the case. Duncan continued to talk, according to court documents, even after the tape had run out.

Hearings on the motion to suppress and other motions in Duncan’s case are scheduled for August. He is scheduled to go on trial in October.


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