October 31, 2008 in Idaho

Duncan to be sentenced Monday

Federal prosecutors cite ‘depraved’ crimes
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 
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BOISE – Already sentenced to death, Joseph Duncan should get three more life sentences for his crimes against two North Idaho children in 2005, federal prosecutors say.

Duncan is up for sentencing Monday for the seven non-capital charges in his 10-count federal indictment; he pleaded guilty to all charges. Duncan could leave court that day with a total of nine life sentences and three death sentences for his crimes against the children and members of their family.

After a capital sentencing trial in Boise, a federal jury Aug. 27 sentenced him to death three times over for the kidnapping, sexual exploitation and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene, of Coeur d’Alene.

Now Duncan is due to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge for the remaining federal charges, which include kidnapping and sexual assault of Dylan and his then-8-year-old sister, Shasta, along with firearms charges and transportation of a stolen vehicle across state lines.

“The criminal conduct that the defendant engaged in against these children is perhaps the most horrific, cruel and depraved criminal episode in Idaho’s history,” U.S. Attorney Tom Moss argued in court documents. “Consecutive life sentences on counts three and four would help ensure that this defendant, even if his death sentence were somehow overturned should he elect to appeal, is never allowed access to the public.”

Moss is arguing for consecutive life sentences for the aggravated sexual assaults of the two children, and a concurrent life sentence for kidnapping Shasta. He’s also calling for concurrent 10-year sentences on each of four other charges, three involving the shotgun Duncan stole and used in the crimes, and one involving the red Jeep Grand Cherokee that Duncan stole from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and used on his multistate crime spree.

Duncan, 45, is a sex offender from Tacoma who spent much of his adult life in prison for raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint when Duncan was 16. On the run from child-molesting charges in 2005, Duncan developed a plot to carry out what he called revenge against society, and he traveled across eight states in search of children to kidnap, molest and murder.

Duncan spotted Shasta and Dylan playing outside their home near Interstate 90 at Wolf Lodge Bay, east of Coeur d’Alene. In May 2005, he invaded the Groene family home, bound three family members and beat them to death with a hammer, and kidnapped the family’s two youngest children.

Murdered at the home were the children’s mother, Brenda Matthews Groene; her fiancé, Mark McKenzie; and the children’s 13-year-old brother, Slade Groene.

Duncan pleaded guilty on state charges to kidnapping and murdering the three family members at the home. As part of a plea bargain, he’ll be formally sentenced Monday to three life terms for those three murders; he’s already been given three life terms for the state kidnapping charges.

Shasta, the only survivor of Duncan’s attack on her family, was rescued from Duncan seven weeks after her kidnapping. The girl told investigators that Duncan had told her of killing other children: 10-year-old Anthony Martinez in Riverside County, Calif., in 1997, and two girls, Sammiejo White, 11, and Carmen Cubias, 9, in Seattle in 1996. Those killings coincide with times Duncan was out of prison on parole.

Duncan later told police he’d committed those killings. He has been charged in Martinez’s slaying and faces another possible death penalty in California; investigators found Duncan’s fingerprint on duct tape at the scene there.

As part of Duncan’s federal sentencing, federal prosecutors are asking the court to order the killer to pay $100,000 in restitution for future counseling costs for Shasta; $11,152 in past medical and counseling costs for her; $1,025 for funeral costs for Dylan; $20,500 to Enterprise Rent-A-Car for the theft of the Jeep; and $750 for the stolen shotgun.

Duncan, who sidelined his court-appointed defense attorneys partway into his capital sentencing trial and instead acted as his own attorney, declined to submit any arguments or legal briefs about his sentencing or restitution.

In court filings, Moss argued that consecutive life sentences for the sexual assaults are warranted. “A single life sentence is not sufficient to address the nature, circumstances and seriousness of these offenses,” he wrote. The assaults of the children “independently warrant a sentence that insures he will never again be able to commit a crime against children.”


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