Arrow-right Camera


Spokane music school among sites Duncan tracked via GPS

Thu., Aug. 14, 2008, midnight

Before Joseph Duncan kidnapped and sexually abused two children near Coeur d’Alene in 2005, he stalked a musical activity school for preschoolers on Spokane’s South Hill, authorities revealed Wednesday.

The confessed killer used a Global Positioning System device to electronically record the geographic coordinates of Kindermusik, a private music-motion school located near 14th and Adams, a federal death-penalty jury was told Wednesday in Boise. The jury will decide if Duncan lives the rest of his life in prison or is put to death.

“That’s creepy,” said Matt Birch, the son of Kindermusik owner Teresa Birch, who was out of town and couldn’t be reached. Birch said as far as he knew, his mother had not been told by the FBI that Duncan had surveilled the business, which she recently bought from its founder, Shirley Grossman. Grossman also couldn’t be reached for comment.

Kindermusik teacher Ruth Michaelis, who teaches music, rhythm and movement to 5- to 7-year-olds at the school, was surprised to learn that Duncan had used an electronic device to record the exact location of the business. It currently has 300 children – ranging from infants to 7-year-olds – enrolled in a progressive music curriculum that culminates with kids playing musical instruments.

“Oh, that’s awful,” Michaelis said Wednesday when told about the revelation.

After FBI agents arrested Duncan in the summer of 2005, they seized a vast collection of electronic gadgets, including a wireless laptop computer, digital cameras and a GPS device – with its memory intact.

It appears from the federal case that Duncan was using the GPS to keep track of locations where he’d spotted children. He spent days secretly watching the Wolf Lodge Bay home of Shasta and Dylan Groene before killing their family and abducting them.

Michaelis said even though she’s horrified to learn Duncan was outside Kindermusik, she is reassured by the school’s extraordinary security. Students never go outdoors, are inside a locked classroom and are released only to their parents, she said.

“It doesn’t scare me too much that he was there because it’s a very secure school,” Michaelis said.

“If it’s not Duncan, it’s somebody else,” she added, “and that’s why student security is so very important to us.”

Click here to comment on this story »