November 4, 2008 in Idaho

Groene opposes California trial

He blames politics for next Duncan chapter
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 
Betsy Russell photo

Steve Groene talks with the media Monday following the morning session of sentencing of Joseph Duncan in Boise.
(Full-size photo)

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BOISE – Steve Groene, father of two North Idaho children murdered by Joseph Duncan, said Monday that he’s against trying Duncan for an additional child murder in California.

“I’m going to head down there myself to put an end to that,” he declared. “There’s no reason to spend the taxpayers’ money and there’s no reason to drag Anthony Martinez’s memory through the crap like they did Dylan’s up here.” Groene said if authorities won’t listen to him, he’ll make a public appeal.

Groene’s son Dylan, 9, was kidnapped, abused and murdered by Duncan in 2005 in an attack on the family that only Dylan’s little sister, Shasta, then 8, survived. Groene also lost his 13-year-old son, Slade, to Duncan’s murderous rampage, along with ex-wife Brenda Matthews Groene and her fiancé, Mark McKenzie.

Groene repeatedly objected to the graphic evidence that was presented at Duncan’s death penalty sentencing trial, in which the 45-year-old sex offender received three death sentences for abducting, torturing and murdering Dylan.

Groene said he fears the same type of evidence could be on display if Riverside County seeks a fourth death penalty against Duncan for the 1997 abduction and murder of 10-year-old Martinez.

He accused officials in California of wanting to hold another trial to boost their political or career interests. He said he’d shared his concerns with the Riverside County district attorney, to no avail.

“This guy’s doing it for personal reasons, not to get any kind of closure to the family or anything,” Groene charged.

Duncan will “never spend time in a California prison. There’s no point spending that type of money … so that somebody can fulfill their political aspirations,” he said. He added that he talked to the California boy’s family members and they agreed with him.

Ryan Hightower, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, said Monday afternoon, “We are already in the process of extraditing the defendant to California to stand trial, and our case will go forward as planned.”

Groene said although a slip of paper with his name and phone number was found in Duncan’s vehicle after Shasta was rescued in July 2005, the killer never called him. “That was my one hope the whole time the kids were gone – I knew they knew my phone number,” he said. “They would call me every day at work.”

Groene said he hoped, while Dylan and Shasta were being held for weeks by Duncan, that they’d somehow get a chance to call him.

He’s angry that people view him as “some kind of an absentee dad” because the children were with their mother at the time of the crime. “When we separated in ’98, I had all five kids for over a year,” he said.

He said he always paid child support, “up until the time of Brenda’s murder.”

Four female jurors from Duncan’s federal sentencing trial returned to the courtroom to watch the final sentencing Monday and exchanged hugs with Groene afterward. The jurors, who declined to comment, talked with Groene about a possible monument to his two dead sons. Groene said there are two memorials already to Dylan, but he’d like to have a local memorial to both boys.

“Slade kind of became the forgotten kid,” Groene said. “He was a 13-year-old kid that was brutally murdered for no reason.”

Groene hopes his family’s case will lead to new laws for sexual predators.

“There needs to be a one-strike law,” he said. “You do it once, you’re history.”

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