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Joseph Duncan

Summary

Joseph Edward Duncan III is the murderer and kidnapper who attacked a Wolf Lodge Bay family in May 2005.

Kootenai County deputies discovered three dead on May 16, 2005. Brenda Groene, 40; her fiance Mark McKenzie, 37; and her son, Slade Groene, 13, were bludgeoned to death. An Amber Alert was issued the next day for Brenda Groene’s two youngest children, 9-year-old Dylan Groene and 8-year-old Shasta Groene.

The murders and children’s disappearance launched the biggest investigative effort in Kootenai County’s history, at one point involving more than 100 FBI personnel and more than 80 investigators from several other agencies.

Shortly before 2 a.m. on July 2, Shasta was recognized by workers and patrons at the Denny’s in Coeur d’Alene, and her kidnapper, Duncan, was arrested without incident.

Duncan, 42 at the time, was a federal fugitive and a Tacoma native who had spent much of his adult life in Washington state prisons for sex crimes against children. He was on the run from a child molestation charge in Minnesota when he drove past the Groene home on Interstate 90 east of Coeur d’Alene and spotted Shasta and Dylan playing outside.

Over the July 4 weekend, investigators found Dylan Groene’s remains at a campsite near St. Regis, Mont.

On Oct. 16, 2005, Duncan pleaded guilty to three counts of kidnapping and three counts of murder in the deaths of Brenda Groene, Mark McKenzie and Slade Groene. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the kidnappings. The sentences for the murders were undecided, pending federal prosecution.

More than two years later, after numerous legal delays and psychiatric evaluations, Duncan acted as his own lawyer as he pleaded guilty to 10 federal counts, including the kidnapping of the two children and Dylan’s murder, on Dec. 3, 2007.

On Aug. 27, 2008, a federal jury sentenced Duncan to death. The decision ended the state’s earlier case, with a judge imposing three more life sentences for those murders. Later, Duncan was given three more life sentences, for a total of nine, for his federal crimes.

Duncan pleaded guilty in the death of Anthony Martinez, a 10-year-old California boy, adding his 10th life sentence on March 15, 2011. Duncan has also been linked to the 1996 slayings of two young half-sisters in Seattle.

Key people

  • Joseph Duncan

    Joseph Edward Duncan III is the murderer and kidnapper who attacked an Idaho family in May 2005. Duncan was 42 at the time, was a federal fugitive and a Tacoma native who had spent much of his adult life in Washington state prisons for sex crimes against children. On Dec. 3, 2007, after numerous legal delays and psychiatric evaluations, Duncan acted as his own lawyer as he pleaded guilty to 10 federal counts, including the kidnapping of the two children and Dylan Grone’s murder.

  • Brenda Groene

    Brenda Groene, 40, was found at her home by Kootenai County deputies on May 16, 2005, bludgeoned to death, along with her fiance Mark McKenzie; and her son, 13-year-old Slade Groene. Her 9-year-old son Dylan Groene and 8-year-old daughter Shasta Groene were kidnapped by Joseph Duncan.

  • Mark McKenzie

    Mark McKenzie, 37, was found by Kootenai County deputies May 16, 2005, bludgeoned to death, along with his fiancee, Brenda Groene, 40; and her son, Slade Groene, 13, were bludgeoned to death.

  • Steve Groene

    Steve Groene is the father of Shasta Groene. His sons, Dylan and Slade Groene and his ex-wife, Brenda Groene, were killed in 2005 by Joseph Dundan. Shasta was kidnapped and was found two months later.

Key places

  • Wolf Lodge Bay

Latest updates in this topic


  • Records show discussion of Duncan’s bail

    On April 5, 2005, Joseph E. Duncan III appeared in Minnesota District Court in Detroit Lakes, Minn., where he pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of criminal sexual assault. …


  • 25 trouble-free years end

    DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – It was at a school playground in a rural Minnesota town where Joseph Edward Duncan III is believed to have resumed his criminal sexual behavior nearly …


  • Duncan case goes into prosecution

    A dramatic week of revelations in the Groene killings and missing children’s case ended quietly with officials protecting remaining details of the investigation for upcoming court proceedings. Those court proceedings …


  • Groenes picked at random

    Authorities are now backing what some kin of the triple-homicide victims thought all along – that the killer had picked the Groene family at random for his crimes. Sheriff Rocky …


  • ‘We have the right guy’

    Investigators linked Joseph Edward Duncan III Wednesday to the slaying of Shasta Groene’s family, saying the convicted sex offender is the only person responsible for the killings and the kidnapping …


  • Board found Duncan not a threat

    Fifteen years ago, Washington drew both fire and praise for its civil commitment law, which allows the state to hold violent sex predators even after they’ve served their prison sentences. …


  • Victims’ father wants sex predators off the streets

    Steve Groene called on the public Wednesday to lobby their congressmen, their senators and “even the president” to keep sexual predators off the streets. “People need to start complaining to …


  • The Scene: Remains thought to be Dylan’s lay at remote Montana camp

    ST. REGIS, Mont. – The dead end of a nameless, nearly overgrown logging road deep in the backcountry of Western Montana is believed to be the site where investigators found …


  • Duncan’s History: By age 17 he fit definition of a ”sexual psychopath”

    TACOMA – Long before Joseph Edward Duncan III crossed paths with the two Idaho children he’s now accused of kidnapping, it was clear that something was seriously wrong with him. …


  • Chilling details emerge

    Shasta Groene was asleep in bed the night of May 15 when her mother woke her up and took her into the living room. That’s when she first encountered convicted …


  • Investigation turns to Dylan

    With a suspect in custody and one kidnapping victim safe at Kootenai Medical Center, investigators are sorting through a “mountain” of new evidence in an effort to find 9-year-old Dylan …


  • Dad says reunion a high point of life

    Steve Groene says being united with his daughter, Shasta, on Saturday was “one of the happiest moments of my life.” Groene made his comments during an exclusive interview with Fox …


  • Shasta must overcome grief, trauma

    Now that Shasta Groene has been found, the 8-year-old has the dual challenge of overcoming intense grief over her loss, and her exposure to violence, according to victims’ advocates. “Often …


  • The investigation

    Shasta Groene, missing for more than six weeks from a grisly murder scene near Wolf Lodge Bay, was found alive and safe Saturday, but her brother, Dylan, was still missing …


  • Tense late-night drama ends quietly, safely

    Customers and workers at the Denny’s Restaurant in Coeur d’Alene where Shasta Groene was rescued early Saturday say they tried to stay calm during the moments before police arrived, despite …


  • ‘My intent is to harm … then die’

    Joseph E. Duncan III, the man found Saturday with 8-year-old Shasta Groene, was a promising computer science student with a dark secret: He was on the run from sex crimes …


  • 911 tape

    Following is a transcript of calls to 911 from employees and customers of the Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene where Shasta Groene was found. - - - - - -


  • Suspect created Web log

    Joseph Edward Duncan III, the man accused of kidnapping 8-year-old Shasta Groene and a registered sex offender, was the apparent author of a blog, or Web journal, that began in …


  • Deaths spur change in Groene son

    The possibility that drugs were a factor in the slaying of his mother and younger brother has Jesse Groene wanting to go straight, he told Judge John Mitchell in court …


  • Dad’s Day wish is for kids’ return

    In at least one respect, Shasta and Dylan Groene were fortunate. They had two father figures who loved them very much.


  • Firm offers billboards to help search

    Three billboards in the Inland Northwest are being donated by Lamar Advertising to display photos and descriptions of the two missing children from North Idaho. Authorities continue to follow leads …


  • Extra hours add up in Wolf Lodge case

    Investigators with Kootenai County have logged at least 1,595 hours of overtime since three people were killed and two children turned up missing from their Wolf Lodge area home two …


  • No clues offered by holiday campers

    Investigators were hoping that thousands of residents flocking to the woods of North Idaho for the Memorial Day holiday would uncover something helpful in the search for two children after …


  • Both life, investigation carry on

    As tourists packed into Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, a half-empty Wolf Lodge Campground was enjoying a hint of calm after an unthinkable storm. The family campground, eight miles east of …


  • New protocol slowed Amber Alert

    About two months ago, Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson wrote a letter to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne complaining about the statewide Amber Alert system. Watson’s hunch that the statewide system …


  • Search gains new hope

    Investigators have renewed hope that two children missing from the scene of a triple homicide last week could still be alive, authorities said, after getting initial DNA results from the …


  • Families share fond memories

    The home of homicide victims Brenda Groene and Mark McKenzie was not some scene out of the “Leave it to Beaver” television show, but it also wasn’t a drug den, …


  • At mother and son’s funeral, pastor urges focus on life

    A local pastor told more than 500 people gathered Wednesday to honor the lives of Brenda Groene and her 13-year-old son that they should not play detective and try to …


  • 150 pray for victims, children

    Relatives and community members gathered in a field in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday night to pray for three people who were recently killed near Wolf Lodge Bay and to plead …


  • Officials ask public to watch out for clues

    Authorities are asking campers and hikers venturing into the forests of North Idaho this Memorial Day weekend to be on the lookout for anything that might help them solve last …


  • More agents join murder case

    Thirty more investigators from the FBI are joining the biggest criminal investigation in Kootenai County history, as a team that sometimes numbers in the hundreds assists with the search for …


  • Few new clues in triple homicide

    Kootenai County investigators received 19 tips after a Saturday night “America’s Most Wanted” TV segment on the search for two North Idaho children last seen at their home near Lake …