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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shasta Groene says her ‘soul was finally free’ after hearing of Joseph Duncan’s death

These undated family photos provided by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department on May 17, 2005, show Shasta and Dylan Groene.  (AP)

The sole survivor of a brutal attack and kidnapping in 2005 released a statement Monday after the death of the man who killed her family.

“One thing is for sure, he does not exist anymore. Now, we can live our lives knowing that. For so long I have been struggling with hate towards that man,” Shasta Groene wrote of Joseph E. Duncan III in a statement released to multiple news organizations. “Today, I woke up feeling like my soul was finally free. I hope other people affected by Joseph Duncan were able to wake up feeling the same way.”

Duncan , 58, died Sunday at a hospital near the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, just weeks after his terminal brain cancer diagnosis was made public.

In 2005, Duncan killed Brenda Groene, her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and her 13-year-old son, Slade, in their home near Coeur d’Alene. Duncan also kidnapped two of Groene’s other children, Shasta, then 8, and Dylan, 9.

After abducting the children, Duncan took them to Montana, where he abused them and killed Dylan. Shasta was rescued 48 days later when she appeared in a Coeur d’Alene Denny’s with Duncan.

“In May of 2005, the Groene Family of Kootenai County, living in the Wolf Lodge Bay area, was brutally victimized by a serial killer passing through our community,” a statement from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office reads. “The family was stalked, attacked and tortured.”

The sheriff’s office called the case “one of the worst tragedies that Idaho has ever seen.”

“Duncan was a brutal killer and the embodiment of evil,” the statement from the sheriff’s office reads. “Duncan is now dead, and we can thankfully close this dark chapter.”

The Sheriff’s office said its thoughts and prayers go out to the Groene and McKenzie families.

“This crime was horrendous and its impact on the families, the community, the jurors, court staff, our litigation team, and law enforcement were far reaching,” wrote Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. in a statement. “While his death will not bring back the lives cut so tragically short or remove the indelible memories of his unspeakable acts, perhaps death will now allow space for some degree of healing, peace, and closure.”

Duncan was also convicted for the 1997 killing of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez in Riverside County, California. Duncan also admitted to the 1996 killing of two young girls in the Seattle area, but he was never charged.

Groene said she has been thinking of the Martinez family and the families of Duncan’s other victims.

“If I could, I would hug them all,” Groene said. “If I could, I would take all their pain away. I know that me saying that doesn’t take their pain away, but I hope they find a little bit of contentment knowing that they are thought about so often and prayed for.”

Groene went on to thank those who spent thousands of hours searching for her and her brother and still prayed for and supported their family after she made it home.

“The continued support for me and my family does not go unnoticed, and for that I am extremely thankful,” Groene said.