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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 FBI's forensic laboratory. Preliminary DNA testing of blood spatter at the homicide scene shows that none of the blood samples belonged to either Shasta Groene, 8, or her brother Dylan "D.J." Groene, 9, said Capt. Ben Wolfinger, of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department.
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 figure out who attacked the family. Instead, he said, the victims of the horrific crime should be remembered for how they lived.
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, McKenzie's family members said Wednesday. "Mark and Brenda were good people," said McKenzie's youngest brother, Steve McKenzie. "The media has pounded on the rampant drug use out there. It wasn't true."
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 for the return of the two children still missing. About 150 people lighted candles and stood in a circle at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds during the first large public vigil since the discovery early last week of the beaten and bound bodies of 40-year-old Brenda Groene; Mark McKenzie, 37; and Slade Groene, 13.
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 week's triple homicide or find two missing children. "With the holiday weekend coming up, thousands of people are going into the national forests," said Capt. Ben Wolfinger, of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office. "If anybody sees anything suspicious, please don't touch it."
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 two missing North Idaho siblings and whoever killed three of their loved ones. Along with the manpower, the FBI is offering up to $100,000 in reward money for information that leads to the safe return of the children or helps authorities capture their abductors, FBI special agent Timothy J. Fuhrman announced Monday during a press conference with county Sheriff Rocky Watson.
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 Coeur d'Alene. None of the tips "made us say 'wow' or gave us a new area to explore," said Rick Ohnsman, a spokesman for the Idaho State Police.
Investigators gave up the search in the woods near Wolf Lodge Bay on Friday for two children missing since three bloody homicides earlier this week. Now they're sifting through a mountain of information – tips, sightings, rumors and even psychic visions – in their efforts to find Dylan and Shasta Groene. The siblings haven't been seen in the week since their 13-year-old brother, mother and her boyfriend were found bound and beaten to death Monday in their home in the forested area near Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Investigators still had no explanation Thursday for why three people were murdered earlier this week in a house near Lake Coeur d'Alene or who may have done it, but the Kootenai County Coroner's Office revealed what killed them. Brenda Groene, her teenage son and her boyfriend suffered fatal injuries from blows to the head, according to a coroner's report released Thursday.
The last time Jesse Groene talked to his mom, she had just taken in a stray dog found near their Wolf Lodge Bay home because she couldn't stand to see it lonely, cold and hungry. Brenda Groene was that way with everyone, her son said.
The disappearance of two children who live in a Coeur d'Alene area house that was the scene of a triple homicide prompted the Idaho State Police on Tuesday to issue its first Amber Alert since the system became fully operational in the state. The names, descriptions and photos of the missing children – 9-year-old Dylan Groene and 8-year-old Shasta Groene – were spread throughout Idaho and many Western states early Tuesday.
Kootenai County sheriffs deputies are investigating an apparent homicide involving three victims at a house east of here. With investigators just beginning their work, little information was available Monday night.