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20061012: Prosecutor Rejects Duncan's Plea Deal for Groene Slaying WA Spokane Serial Killer News
Lawyers for a man accused of killing three members of a family so he could molest two children said a prosecutor rejected Joseph Edward Duncan III's offer to confess in exchange for being spared the death penalty. In a letter to Prosecutor Bill Douglas of Kootenai County, Idaho, Duncan's lawyers John Adams and Roger Peven said their client will cooperate fully with law enforcement if granted a deal, even though he could face a death sentence in federal court later. Peven, head of the federal public defender's office in Spokane, said Douglas has rejected the offer. Douglas has consistently rejected a plea bargain for Duncan. A spokeswoman in his office said he did not want to comment because jury selection in the case begins Monday. Duncan is accused of killing the mother of Dylan and Shasta Groene, their 13-year old brother and their mother's boyfriend in May 2005 at their home near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Click here to visit's Crime center. He is suspected of taking Dylan and Shasta to a campsite in Montana, and Dylan, 9, was killed at some point. Shasta, now 9, was rescued at a Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene after seven weeks of captivity. "Mr. Duncan will admit to the intentional killing of Dylan Groene in Montana in the early part of 2005, as well as all other crimes committed against Shasta and Dylan Groene," said the letter, dated Oct. 4. Duncan's trial in the three Idaho killings is to begin Monday in Coeur d'Alene. Court documents allege Duncan, who spent most of his adult life in Washington prisons for sexual crimes against children, committed the slayings so he could kidnap the two children for sex. Peven said Duncan is willing to plead guilty to spare Shasta Groene the trauma of having to testify in court against him. Steve Groene, father of the abducted children, in recent months has asked for a plea bargain so Shasta would not have to face Duncan in court. Steve Groene is recovering from recent throat cancer surgery and was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Shasta is scheduled to meet with a judge on Thursday in a closed session to determine if she is competent to testify because of her age, and also whether she will be given special considerations such as not having to look directly at Duncan, or having a comforting person sit near her. Duncan understood that making the confessions would have made it easier for the federal government to convict him of expected charges of kidnapping and murder in the abduction of Shasta and Dylan when the state case concludes, Peven said. At the time of his arrest last year, Duncan was on the run from a molestation charge in Minnesota. Duncan has also been implicated in the deaths of two children in the Seattle area and one child in Southern California. Peven said he did not believe Duncan was involved in the killing of any other children. The letter said that in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole, Duncan would plead guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the cases involving Brenda Groene; her fiance, Mark McKenzie; and Groene's son Slade. He also agreed to give law enforcers access to his encrypted computer files, according to the letter. A computer expert, Duncan has bragged that officers wouldn't be able to crack into his computer files — thought to contain details of criminal activities — for 30 years.

20050706: Idaho suspect’s records show violent history ID Coeur D´Alene Serial Killer News

Man now thought to be solely responsible for triple homicide

Idaho kidnapping suspect Joseph Edward Duncan III committed his first act of sexual assault 30 years ago, preying on a 5-year-old boy when he was just 12, according to a report published Wednesday.

Duncan’s records reveal a history of inflicting violence and sexual torture upon others, particularly young boys, with his crimes escalating in their seriousness. His past shows a series of failed treatments and refusal to comply with therapists and law enforcement officials who tried to correct his behavior, which mental health evaluators diagnosed in 1980 as consistent with an antisocial personality and a sexual deviant, the Seattle Times reported.

On Tuesday, Duncan was charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping in connection with the abduction of Shasta Groene, 8, and her brother Dylan, 9, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The two children had been missing since May 16, when the bound and beaten bodies of their mother, older brother, and mother’s boyfriend where found in their rural home.

In addition to kidnapping the children, authorities believe Duncan is also responsible for killing the children's brother, mother and her boyfriend at the family home, a sheriff's spokesman said Wednesday.

Duncan the ‘only one responsible’
"We believe Joseph Duncan is the only one responsible for these crimes," Kootenai County Sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger told a news conference.

Duncan was never a suspect in the attacks on the family and his name never came up until his arrest, Wolfinger said. He could not explain why Duncan's fingerprints were not found at the scene.

Wolfinger declined to say whether Duncan had a gun or to speculate on how he might have overpowered the five people at the house.

Officials still have no motive for the crimes, nor have they found a connection between Duncan and the family, Wolfinger said, raising the possibility the attack and kidnapping were random.

Still no clear motive
"When we get the pieces together, we'll find out what the motive is," he said, adding, "A sense that we got the right guy permeates through the investigators as they work diligently."

Duncan, of Fargo, N.D., was charged Tuesday in 1st District Court in Coeur d’Alene with two counts of first-degree kidnapping.

Shasta safely returned home after being spotted with Duncan in a Denny’s at 2 a.m. Sunday in Coeur d’Alene. In an affidavit released Tuesday, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Maskell disclosed that Shasta told authorities Duncan repeatedly molested her and Dylan during their six-week nightmare.

“Shasta and Dylan were repeatedly molested,” Maskell wrote in a terse, handwritten affidavit released Tuesday. “Shasta saw Mr. Duncan molest Dylan.”

The intent of the crimes, court documents said, was to rape, seriously injure or commit a lewd and lascivious act on a child under 16 years old.

While it is the Associated Press’ policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault in most cases, the search for the children and Shasta’s recovery were so heavily publicized that their names were already widely known.

Dylan is believed to be dead by authorities, and Wolfinger said officials likely would not be able to conclusively identify human remains found in western Montana, believed to be those of the boy, until next week.

One of five children born into a military family in Fort Bragg, N.C., Duncan moved frequently when he was growing up. The high school dropout often felt lonely and displaced, particularly after his parents’ divorce in 1979, the Times reported.

Rape at gunpoint
It was these feelings that prompted him to victimize others: by the time he was 16, Duncan estimated he had raped 13 younger boys, some at gunpoint, it said.

“It was an outlet for my feelings [of] rejections. One from my mother and one from my father,” Duncan wrote in a personal history cited by The Times. He said he didn’t feel wanted at home and at school, he was bullied by peers because of his constant moves.

His hostility led him to sexually assault a 9-year-old boy at gunpoint when he was 15, and a year later, to tie up six young boys and sexually assault them, the newspaper said.

Duncan was deemed a sexual psychopath at 17, after he was arrested for the rape and torture of a 14-year-old boy in 1980. Police said Duncan broke into a neighbor’s house, stole a gun, and then pulled it on the boy, who was walking to school.

Duncan forced him into a wooded area and made the boy take off his clothes and perform a sexual act, according to court documents. Duncan then prodded the boy further into the woods, sexually assaulted him again, and then beat the boy’s buttocks with a stick and burned him with a cigarette. He led the boy back to his clothes and told him to run away.

14 years in prison
As an alternative to prison, Duncan underwent treatment at the Sex Offender Program and Western State Hospital in Washington state, where he lived during his teenage years. Twenty-two months later, he was kicked out of the program for sneaking off the campus and having rape fantasies, the Times said. A judge then reinstated his 20-year prison sentence in March 1982 and Duncan served 14 years in prison.

Duncan's next encounter with the law came in April, when he was released on $15,000 bail  after being charged with molesting a boy in Minnesota. Police in Fargo, where his last-known address was, had been looking for Duncan since May, when he failed to check in with a probation agent.

Shasta and Dylan Groene were discovered to be missing on May 16, when police found the bodies of the girl’s mother, older brother and mother’s boyfriend bound and bludgeoned to death.

Shasta Groene said her nightmare began when she was awakened, tied up and carried with her 9-year-old brother to a waiting pickup truck.

“This little girl really went through more than any little girl should ever have to think about,” Wolfinger said Tuesday.

Darlene Torres, Shasta’s grandmother, said Duncan has no known connection to the family. “Nobody in the family has ever seen this man before. Ever,” Torres told CBS’ “The Early Show” Wednesday.

'Doing really good'
Misty Cooper, Shasta’s aunt, said Shasta “seems to be doing really good right now,” but that the family has not spoken to the girl about her ordeal. “We just go on with every day, normal things,” Cooper said.

And Shasta's father, Steven Groene, made comments calling on more vigilance to prevent such crimes from happening.

“There's been so many times I've seen the news announce sex offenders being released into the community,” Groene said in a Wednesday news conference.

“People need to contact their congressmen, their senators, and even the president. There's a lot more that can be done.”

“These people are put in their position by us, are supposed to be working for us, and they are not doing their jobs whatsoever,” he said.

Taken to three campsites
Shasta told Maskell she had never seen Duncan before.

She was awakened at her home and watched as her mother Brenda Groene, 13-year-old brother Slade and Mark McKenzie, her mother’s boyfriend, were tied up, the document said. She and Dylan were also bound and placed in the pickup truck. The children were later transferred to a stolen red Jeep and taken to the first of three campsites, she said.

The affidavit does not mention the beating deaths of the girl’s family or whether she witnessed the killings. It also did not say if she witnessed what happened to Dylan.

Duncan was shackled and appeared unshaven and choked up as he quietly answered Magistrate Judge Scott Wayman during a brief appearance Tuesday via video link.

“Really, is it possible not to be frustrated at the way events have unfolded in this case?” Fargo Police Chief Chris Magnus asked Tuesday at a news conference.

Spotted in Montana town
Duncan was described as relaxed and clean-cut when he stopped at a store in the western Montana logging community of St. Regis more than a month ago for gas and a 12-pack of Bud Light.

He chatted with attendant Jackie Allen for nearly 15 minutes, peppering her with questions about area parks and campgrounds and asking for directions to nearby communities.

Allen said she was “shocked and stunned” to learn that the man she said visited her store was Duncan. “I know people can fool you, but he was a really clean-cut and relaxed guy,” Allen said. “It’s just kind of shocked me. I still don’t know what to think.”

Like others in the timber town of about 300 near the Idaho state line, Allen had been on the lookout for Dylan and Shasta since they were reported missing six weeks ago.

Posters with their photos hung in nearly every business in town. And though hundreds of tourists pass through every day en route to Glacier National Park, residents watched for any suspicious people or activities.

After Duncan’s arrest, business owners meticulously paged through fishing licenses and other records, checking to see if he’d stopped in their establishments.

“You hate for this kind of thing to happen anywhere, but especially for it to happen close to home,” said Laura Palmer, a St. Regis gift shop employee and longtime resident.


20050705: Authorities in Idaho case find human remains ID Coeur D´Alene Serial Killer News

DNA analysis pending; police say missing boy is dead; suspect due in court

Seven weeks to the day after Shasta and Dylan Groene were reported missing, Shasta was seen cuddling in the arms of her father, while authorities said they had found human remains that might be her missing 9-year-old brother.

Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson said Monday that “possible” human remains had been found at a site in western Montana, and would be sent to the FBI crime lab in Virginia for DNA analysis. That is expected to take three days.

Watson declined to answer questions, but the fact that he called a press conference at the place where reporters were following the Groene story indicated officials believe the remains were related.

“Unfortunately we believe Dylan to be deceased,” Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said after Watson’s announcement. But until the remains are identified, they could not be certain, he said.

Spotted in a Denny's
Dylan and Shasta, 8, had been missing since May 16, when the bound and bludgeoned bodies of their mother, older brother and mother’s boyfriend were found at their rural home near here. Shasta was spotted by employees and customers early Saturday morning eating breakfast with a man at a Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene.

Officers arrested the man, Joseph Edward Duncan III, 42, on suspicion of kidnapping and other charges. Duncan, from Fargo, N.D., is a violent sexual predator who has spent much of his adult life in prison.

Authorities planned to formally charge Duncan with kidnapping and being a fugitive from justice, and have said more charges were possible. A judge ruled Monday that there was probable cause to keep Duncan in jail until an initial court appearance Tuesday.

The sheriff’s office released a photograph showing a smiling Shasta hugging her father Steve at Kootenai Medical Center. Another photo showed her holding a doll. The photos do not show any apparent injuries from her nearly six weeks of captivity.

“She’s a much happier little girl right now,” Wolfinger said, adding she was listed in good condition.

'A lot of questions left unanswered'
Officers have interviewed the girl a couple of times, but details of what happened to the children are agonizingly slow in coming. Duncan has refused to cooperate, officials said.

Major questions include: Was Duncan involved in the three initial slayings? Have the children been with him the whole time? And, if so, where have they been hiding?

“We’ve got a lot of questions left unanswered,” Wolfinger said, and some 60 investigators from the local area, the Idaho State Patrol and the FBI are working the case.

Authorities have relied on information from Shasta, evidence from Duncan’s stolen red Jeep Cherokee and some 100 new tips from the public in the search for the boy. The tips have poured in since photos of Duncan and the Jeep were released, and many are “vehicle-specific and Duncan-specific,” Wolfinger said.

Watson said the remains were found at “one of the possible locations in western Montana,” but did not elaborate about the site.

“Investigators continue to follow all of the other leads in this complex case,” Watson said. “This case continues to be the No. 1 priority for all agencies involved.”

Shasta has provided helpful information, but Wolfinger declined to say exactly what the girl was telling officers. “It’s a slow process with Shasta,” he said. “We’re taking that very slowly.”

The children were declared missing when authorities arrived at their home May 16 and found the bodies of their mother, Brenda Groene, 40, brother Slade Groene, 13, and their mother’s boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37.

Authorities believe Duncan and the children remained in the Northwest during the past seven weeks, but Wolfinger declined to say where. He also would not say if there was any evidence others were accompanying Duncan.

Steven Groene on Sunday night spoke publicly for the first time about being reunited with his daughter, and thanked the community for its support. He said his daughter was watching movies and had a vanilla shake and pancakes for breakfast.

“Shasta is doing very well and we all are very hopeful that Dylan will come home safely,” he said.

Officials have not said why they believe the Groene family was targeted. Steve Groene said he had never heard of Duncan before Saturday. Authorities searched Duncan’s Fargo apartment.

More than a decade in prison
Duncan, who was raised in Tacoma, Wash., had spent more than a decade in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint and was a fugitive at the time of his arrest for allegedly molesting a 6-year-old boy in Minnesota.

A registered high-risk sex offender, Duncan was released on $15,000 bail earlier this year after being charged with molesting the boy. Police in Fargo had been looking for Duncan since May, when he failed to check in with a probation agent.


Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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