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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Duncan sentenced on remaining charges

Killer had pleaded guilty to all counts

By Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – In addition to three death sentences, killer and child molester Joseph Duncan is now under nine life prison sentences.

“There’ve been no redeeming qualities demonstrated throughout the course of your life that would lessen the risk to society,” U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge told the bearded, long-haired Duncan in court Monday, as he sat with his head bowed and received his final sentences in Idaho.

A federal jury earlier sentenced Duncan to death three times over for the kidnapping, sexual exploitation and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene in 2005.

On Monday, Lodge sentenced him for the seven remaining non-capital federal charges, imposing three life terms, four 10-year terms and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. The life terms are for the kidnapping of then-8-year-old Shasta Groene and the aggravated sexual assaults of Shasta and Dylan. The other charges involved firearms offenses and transporting a stolen vehicle.

An hour earlier, 1st District Judge Fred Gibler, acting by video link from Kootenai County, handed down three more life sentences for the murders of Brenda Matthews Groene, her fiancé, Mark McKenzie, and her 13-year-old son, Slade. Duncan bludgeoned the three to death at their home at Wolf Lodge Bay in order to kidnap and assault the family’s two youngest children; only Shasta survived. He’d earlier been given three life sentences on kidnapping charges related to the three murders.

The pile-up of death and life sentences “may be some kind of record,” said University of Idaho law professor Richard Seamon. Duncan, dressed in the same yellow-orange, jail-issue sweatshirt and scrubs that he wore throughout his capital sentencing trial in federal court, gave a brief and odd statement, quoting the Bible and comparing himself to St. Paul. “My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent,” he told the court. “The truth is my only judge. There’s a whole lot more that I wish I could say, but I’ve found that words are a very poor substitute for the truth, and so instead I will continue to allow the truth to speak for itself.”

He pleaded guilty to all charges in the murderous attack on the Groene family in 2005 and said he was on a rampage designed to get revenge against society. A repeat sex offender, he also was on the run from child molestation charges in Minnesota when he traveled across eight states seeking children to attack before settling on the Groenes in North Idaho.

Lodge said, “The message must be sent to all child predators that such … crimes will result in a permanent lack of freedom, without any chance of reprieve.” He added to Duncan, “You are and always will be a danger to society.”

Steve Groene, father of the murdered children, said, “I just want to see him put to death. Once you’ve got a death sentence, what else matters? You’re not going to live out four life terms. That’s all just kind of a moot point.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or For more news from Boise go to

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