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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 of the 8-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother. "There's a sense of relief that we have the right guy," Kootenai County Sheriff Capt. Ben Wolfinger said during a press conference.
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. So why couldn't Washington keep convicted rapist Joseph Edward Duncan III off the streets? Because a state board and a sex-offender evaluator didn't think Duncan – now accused of kidnapping two Idaho children and killing three other people – was enough of an ongoing threat.
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 rapist and accused child molester Joseph E. Duncan III, of Fargo, N.D., according to a probable cause hearing before a Kootenai County magistrate judge Tuesday morning.
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 the remains of 9-year-old Dylan Groene. At the makeshift campsite at the end of the road, there's a small fire ring, freshly cut brush and a large ponderosa pine tree oozing fresh sap from what appears to be deep cuts from an ax and slash marks from a knife.
Since Saturday morning, when Shasta Groene was found alive, TV newscasters throughout the country have played over and over a homemade video clip of Shasta making a presentation at school. The video is difficult to watch, knowing that Shasta's life will now be divided into two segments – life before the tragedy and life after. The Groene family tragedy began in the middle of May when three members of the family – including Shasta's mother and older brother – were bludgeoned to death. Shasta, 8, and her brother, 9-year-old Dylan, disappeared at the same time.
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 Groene, authorities said Sunday. But investigators reiterated that they don't expect to find him alive.
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 television personality Geraldo Rivera in a live appearance Sunday evening.
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 people say young children are resilient," said Jenny Wieland, executive director of Washington-based Family and Friends of Violent Crime Victims. "That's true, but they are extremely traumatized if they witness a violent crime."
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 being filled with a sense of panic that the little girl might again vanish. Although it's not clear whether it was employees of Denny's or a group of Coeur d'Alene young adults who first spotted Shasta, both groups give similar accounts of how she was identified and rescued at the all-night restaurant just north of Interstate 90. Two calls were made to the emergency police line; they came within a four-minute time span. First was the call from the manager at Denny's at 1:51 a.m. Then came the call from Nick Chapman, a 21-year-old Coeur d'Alene resident. The messages were the same: There's a little girl here who looks exactly like Shasta.
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. - - - - - -
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 January 2004. Investigators on Saturday said Duncan was the creator of the Web site, www.fifthnail.com, which opposes registration for sex offenders. The blog has a similar name, fifthnail.blogspot.com, and contains links to the Web site.
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 and feared dead. Shasta was recognized by customers and employees at the Coeur d'Alene Denny's restaurant shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday after she arrived there with Joseph Edward Duncan, III, a 42-year-old sex offender from Fargo, N.D.
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 in the Midwest. Duncan hoped to graduate from North Dakota State University this spring and land a job, according to his online resume.
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 Tuesday. He said his life has changed since his mother, Brenda Groene, stepfather, Mark McKenzie, and brother Slade Groene were bludgeoned to death last month in their Wolf Lodge-area home.
In at least one respect, Shasta and Dylan Groene were fortunate. They had two father figures who loved them very much.
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 and tips in the disappearance of Shasta Groene, 8, and Dylan "D.J." Groene, 9. Their mother, 40-year-old Brenda Groene, her boyfriend, 37-year-old Mark McKenzie, and her 13-year-old son Slade Groene were found dead in their home near Wolf Lodge Bay on May 16.
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 weeks ago. And Idaho State Police Capt. Clark Rollins said he hasn't even begun to count how much overtime his crew of 13 investigators has put into the case.
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 a triple homicide on May 16. "We didn't get a single call," Kootenai County Sheriff's spokesman Capt. Ben Wolfinger said.
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 the city, is adjacent to the Groene home, scene of a triple homicide nearly two weeks ago, a case in which two children remain missing.
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 might cause unnecessary delays in North Idaho was borne out less than two weeks ago when two children turned up missing from a triple homicide scene. That state system had recently replaced a regional one that had been in place for eight years.