The State of Idaho’s motto is Esto perpetua, and it means let it be perpetual, it is forever. It seems like a fitting motto for a state that was pretty much established by the Jesuits in the early 1840s, and gives pause for one to wonder what its motto might have been had it been founded by another group. Nowadays Idaho’s family and religious values are heavily influenced by the Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nonetheless, Idaho is as unusual in its diversity as it is in its natural beauty, with a topography that consists of many mountains that reach elevations of eight thousand feet and areas, like that of Hells Canyon, where the terrain plummets to fifteen hundred feet. Idaho’s scenery is often breathtaking, and recreational opportunities such as world-class skiing, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, fishing, whitewater rafting, snowmobiling and snowboarding, to name a few, abound.
Liberty and freedom are very important to the citizens of Idaho, resulting in part in the state’s lawmakers being historically known for writing laws that rarely infringe on individual or property rights. It is also common for residents to own firearms. When all is said and done, it doesn’t make much sense that a convicted child molester would make a conscious decision to travel hundreds of miles from the Midwest to a state where his past deeds were not likely to be readily accepted, a region whose conservative residents were not likely to throw out the welcome mat and allow him to assimilate into their society. But that is exactly what sex criminal Joseph Edward Duncan III had done, and in the process his alleged criminal actions would literally shock and horrify the state, stun the nation, and ultimately destroy a family.
On the Move
Joseph Edward Duncan III
As best as police have been able to determine, Joseph Edward Duncan III, 42-years-old, fled Becker County, Minnesota almost immediately after someone posted his $15,000 bond following an April 5, 2005 court hearing where he had been charged with sexually molesting a 6-year-old boy and for attempting to molest the boy’s friend. After being released from custody, he apparently began making his travel plans. He stopped by a Wal-Mart and purchased night vision goggle and a video camcorder. At some point he also obtained a shotgun, shells, and a claw hammer.
A claw hammer
Ten days later, on April 15, 2005 he rented a 2005 red Jeep Grand Cherokee in St. Paul, Minnesota. However, he never returned the vehicle at the termination of the rental agreement, and the Jeep was eventually reported to police as a stolen vehicle on May 4, 2005. Police would later learn that between the time the Jeep was rented and reported stolen, Duncan had traveled through parts of Missouri and had gone as far south as Newton County, located in the far southwestern corner of the state in an area that borders Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. It was there, on April 27, 2005, a little more than a week before the vehicle would be reported stolen to police in Minnesota, that he allegedly stole a set of license plates off of a vehicle and placed them on the Jeep that he was driving. It would later become clear to the police that he was fully capable of carefully planning his every move, as most sexual predators are, and had done so in this instance by disguising the vehicle that he was driving even before it had become necessary to do so. It must have been shortly after he had stolen the license plates in Missouri that he had made the decision to go to Idaho.
A red Jeep Cherokee
Satisfied that he had given the authorities the slip, it is believed that Duncan headed north again, the exact route of which he had taken being unknown, until he connected up with Interstate 90 at some point, most likely either in South Dakota or Wyoming, and headed west toward Idaho. While it is not precisely known when Duncan arrived in Idaho, it was while he was en route to that state that an arrest warrant was issued for him in Fargo, North Dakota for failing to properly follow the conditions of his April 5 release and for missing a subsequent court date. No one apparently paid any mind to the sex offender driving the stolen Jeep with the stolen Missouri plates as he made his way west. But then, why would anyone? He was being careful in his cold and calculated planning, and had given little reason for anyone to pay any attention to him.
Map of Idaho with Coeur d’Alene locator
Duncan arrived in Kootenai County, Idaho sometime during the second week in May. Precisely why he stopped in the Wolf Lodge area, located about 8 miles east of Coeur d’Alene and just off Interstate 90, is not known. Perhaps he had stopped there to grab a bite to eat, or merely to rest for awhile. At some point, however, he ended up on Frontage Road and drove past the small white cinderblock and frame house with green trim, the lower portion of which appeared to have been coated with stucco giving it a smooth appearance, where the Groene and McKenzie family lived.
The house, somewhat secluded and surrounded by trees, brush and low-lying hills, made an easy target for someone bent on wrongdoing. Duncan likely saw his next victims, Shasta Groene, 8, and her brother, Dylan, 9, playing outside the house in the unseasonably warm May weather as he drove past. Shasta and Dylan’s mother, Brenda Kay Groene, 40, came and went, as did Brenda’s boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37, and Shasta and Dylan’s older brother, Slade, 13, throughout the weekend of May 13-15. Before Duncan’s arrival there, it was the type of community where parents were not afraid to leave their children alone. It was the type of seemingly safe community where children played outside without parental supervision all the time, rode their bikes wherever they wanted, and built forts in the woods—generally, kids there simply did all of the things that kids would normally do where they felt safe. But that was all about to change.
House where Groenes lived
The Groene-McKenzie home was sometimes visited by strangers whose vehicles broke down on the freeway—their home was the first house anyone looking for help would see after getting off the freeway and onto Frontage Road. And, according to later witness reports, the family was always happy to help a stranger in need.
After having his interest heightened by the sight of the young children frolicking outside in the yard in what had been their safe surroundings, or walking or riding their bikes along Frontage Road and occasionally motioning to passing truckers to honk the air horns of their semis, it is believed that Duncan reconnoitered the area for at least a day or two until he found the perfect vantage point where he could watch the kids and their family from a distance without being easily seen, using his night vision apparatus during the nighttime. While the exact time frame isn’t known for certain, police believed that Duncan may have stalked the family for a few days after becoming comfortable with his surroundings, and had perhaps even followed them to town to watch them when they shopped, before getting up the courage to make his move.
On Sunday, May 15, 2005, the family drove into Coeur d’Alene to run errands, and then returned home where they enjoyed a barbecue together with others. The gathering went into the early evening hours before it broke up and everyone went home. It was the last time that anyone would remember seeing Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie alive.
Earlier on Sunday, May 15, according to a report that appeared in The Spokesman-Review, before the family had left for Coeur d’Alene to go to the barbecue, a neighbor who lived nearby hired 13-year-old Slade Groene to mow the grass by his driveway. However, he didn’t have the correct change to pay Slade the agreed-upon $10 for his work when he was finished but assured the teenager that he would stop by his house and pay him the following day.
When the neighbor showed up with the money on Monday, the house appeared eerily quiet. The neighbor honked his horn, but nobody came outside as they normally would have done when someone pulled into their driveway. Similarly, there was no response when he knocked on the door, and there were no lights visible inside the house. Only a dog barked from inside. The neighbor noticed that both of the family’s cars were parked in their usual places, but the car doors had been left open. Suspicious, the neighbor rushed home and called 911. It was the second time in roughly twenty-four hours that the neighbor had felt compelled to call the sheriff’s department. The first call had been made to report a suspicious white pickup truck that had been parked near his barn and had apparently been abandoned.
When deputies from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the small Frontage Road home at 6:15 p.m., everything appeared just as the neighbor had reported. After easily gaining entry to the home through a rear door to check on the residents’ welfare, the deputies were aghast at the carnage they found inside.
The perpetrator’s point of entry appeared to have been a rear door that led into the kitchen which had been left unlocked. There was blood everywhere, much of which was in puddles around two bodies that were sprawled on the floor. Both victims had been bound with duct tape and zip ties. The injuries appeared to have been centered around the head and face of each of the victims, obviously a young man or teenage boy and a middle-aged woman. It was difficult to determine upon initial examination whether the injuries were the result of blunt trauma or gunshot wounds. Blood spatters, the telltale signs of either mode of death, were everywhere and it would take a careful crime scene analysis to conclusively determine whether they had been beaten or shot, or both. The acrid smell of the congealed blood had become strong, and the sight and smell brought on a nauseous feeling to some of the less seasoned deputies.
As the deputies made their way through the house they encountered a third victim, also bound with duct tape and zip ties, in the living room. There was also a significant amount of blood connected with the third victim and it appeared that he, too, had died as a result of either a gunshot wound or blunt trauma to the head. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that each of the victims died horribly.
As they reported their findings, the deputies believed that the victims in the kitchen were Brenda Groene and her 13-year-old son, Slade, and that the victim in the living room was Brenda’s boyfriend, Mark McKenzie.
There was no sign of 8-year-old Shasta Groene and her 9-year-old brother Dylan.
The deputies sealed off the house without removing or making positive identification of the bodies, and they closed off Frontage Road in the vicinity of the house and designated it as a crime scene. They posted sentries to stand guard throughout the night, and would return at first light with crime scene technicians and homicide investigators.
Search for Shasta and Dylan Begins
Deputies removing bodies of the Groene victims
Investigators, along with crime lab personnel, returned to the Frontage Road home at daybreak on Tuesday, May 17, 2005. Positive identification of the bodies soon confirmed the initial suspicions of the Kootenai County deputies: three homicides of a most violent nature had occurred, and the dead were indeed those who had been tentatively identified by the deputies who had initially found the bodies. Following lengthy examinations at the scene by sheriff’s department detectives and crime lab technicians, the bodies of Brenda Kay Groene, Slade Groene, and Mark McKenzie were systematically removed from the house and taken to the county morgue. They believed that the victims had been killed sometime between Sunday night and the time their bodies were found on Monday.
Serchers cover a trail
Dylan Groene, victim
Meanwhile, volunteers with the Kootenai County Search and Rescue fanned out in all directions throughout the wooded areas that surrounded the Groene-McKenzie home and Lake Coeur d’Alene in their search for Shasta and Dylan. Some searched on foot, others on horseback or all-terrain vehicles, and some used tracking dogs as well as dogs that had been specifically trained to sniff out corpses as they traversed the woods and back roads throughout the area. A helicopter also searched from the air, and Idaho State Police (ISP) as well as the Coeur d’Alene office of the FBI joined the search effort and canvassed the area, showing Shasta and Dylan’s photos to area residents in the hope that someone had seen them.
An Amber Alert was also issued nationwide for the two children. The Amber Alert described Dylan as 4-feet tall, 60 pounds, blue eyes and blond crew cut hair. Shasta was described as 3-feet 10-inches tall, 40 pounds, with hazel eyes and long brown hair.
Shasta Groene, victim
“Our main concern right now are the two children we cannot find,” Sheriff Rocky Watson told a gathering of reporters at a planned news conference.
Looking into the victims’ backgrounds, investigators learned that Brenda had married Steven Groene at Big Bear Lake, California, in 1986, and had five children together before divorcing in 2001. Following the divorce, she moved her family to Wolf Lodge, Idaho and had lived there with Mark McKenzie ever since. Additional background information on Brenda showed that she had operated a business called Maid to Order in which she cleaned houses on a work-for-hire basis. According to those who knew her, she would drop her children at a daycare and typically work all day cleaning other peoples’ homes. However, she eventually got out of the housecleaning business so that she could spend more time with her children. Those who knew her described her as a good mother.
Brenda Kay Groene, victim
Brenda wasn’t a person without problems, however. She was on probation for possession of drug paraphernalia at the time of her death, and she had served jail time for the conviction on the aforementioned offense. She had also been ordered by the court to attend drug and alcohol counseling, but financial difficulties had prevented her from completing the programs.
Another son, 18-years-old, was in jail awaiting sentencing on burglary charges at the time of the murders. One can only wonder if the same horrible fate that took the lives of the other members of his family would have befallen him, too, had he not been in jail.
Mark McKenzie, victim
Mark McKenzie was described as an outdoors enthusiast who liked to spend some of his spare time hunting and fishing. He worked full-time at a job as a supervisor at a stainless steel sink manufacturing company in Spokane, Washington, located just across Idaho’s western border. Both Brenda and Mark associated with bikers whose visits to their home sometimes gave way to partying. They appeared to be well-liked throughout the community and no one that the police interviewed could understand how they could meet such a vicious end.
Robert Roy Lutner
According to information released by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, May 18, a “person of interest” surfaced in the case following interviews with relatives and friends of the victims. Robert Roy Lutner, 33, also known as “Concrete Bob,” a moniker he had been given because of his work in the concrete and construction industry, was a friend of the victims and had visited them twice in recent days—once on the Friday afternoon preceding the murders and again on Sunday evening, which was believed to have been the day of the slayings. A relative of the Groene’s told detectives that Lutner owed Brenda Groene and Mark McKenzie $2,000. However, the relative told the investigators that no one in the family had indicated that there might have been any trouble between them and Lutner, and there was no indication that he was being pressured to repay the money even though the family needed it.
“I never saw him hostile toward my family at all,” the relative said, according to a news report in the Spokesman-Review.
Further investigation revealed that Lutner had been in trouble before, and in fact his criminal record in the county was somewhat lengthy. He had been in trouble on drug possession charges in 1992, and had been arrested for domestic battery in 2004 in an incident outside a bar that involved a fight with a girlfriend. That charge had been eventually reduced to disturbing the peace. He was convicted twice for fraud for improperly representing unemployment claims and was currently on probation for those convictions.
Lutner, at 6-foot-3-inches and weighing in at 230 pounds, was someone the cops definitely wanted to talk with. However, they first had to find him.
He was seen at a bar in the area on Sunday afternoon, which would have been prior to being seen at Groene and McKenzie’s home. Two days later, on Tuesday, he talked to his probation officer on the telephone and said that he was making a trip to Boise. By that time, he had heard about the murders and was crying while talking to a family friend of the victims, but the authorities were not yet looking for him as a person of interest in the case. That all changed, however, in a matter of hours after investigators pieced together the sequence of events that had placed Lutner at the Groene-McKenzie residence prior to the murders.
The next day, Wednesday, May 18, Lutner learned that the investigators were looking for him and he turned himself in to sheriff’s deputies in Coeur d’Alene. He was interviewed over the next several hours and denied having anything to do with the murders. He took a polygraph and passed it with flying colors, and was subsequently dropped as a person of interest in the case, leaving investigators back at square one.
Search for Shasta and Dylan Continues
After the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department established two phone lines for citizen tips about the brutal slayings and child disappearances, more than 150 calls were logged within the first 12 hours. Volunteers had come forward to answer the phones in the department’s emergency operations center, located in the basement of the sheriff’s department headquarters building. Six volunteers were on the phones around the clock, taking calls from concerned citizens, friends of the family, and an occasional psychic trying to help with a thoughtful lead about where Shasta and Dylan might be found. Some of the tips came from parents whose children had known Shasta and Dylan, and they provided outdoor locations where they had sometimes gone to play. However, none of the tips led anywhere immediately or provided any information that might shed some light on why such a terrible thing had occurred in their peaceful county.
Missing poster for Shasta and Dylan
Search dogs occasionally picked up Shasta’s and Dylan’s scent at various locations over a wide area of hills and lakefront acreage, and near area ponds and streams which were searched with the aid of diving teams, to no avail. There simply was no sign of the children.
Captain Ben Wolfinger
“We don’t know if they’re injured,” Captain Ben Wolfinger told a reporter for the Spokesman-Review. “We don’t know if they’re hiding out, if they’re so scared that they’re afraid to come out. We want to search every nook and cranny.”
Although the most viable leads were continually passed on to the makeshift command post, consisting of a white trailer stationed near the crime scene, none of them panned out.
As one day followed another, additional investigators from the FBI as well as from other local agencies joined in the murder investigation and the search for the missing children. The FBI also offered $100,000 in reward money for information leading to the safe return of the children and the capture of the person who abducted them. The case had quickly become the largest criminal investigation in Kootenai County’s history.
Steve Groene, Shasta’s and
Dylan’s biological father
Dylan’s biological father
Even though he was looked at initially as a possible suspect, as husbands always are in any homicide investigation where a spouse or ex-spouse has met a violent end, Steve Groene, Brenda’s ex-husband and Shasta’s and Dylan’s biological father, was quickly ruled out as a suspect in both the murder investigation as well as the missing children investigation.
“Is he emotional already?” Wolfinger asked, as reported by the Spokesman-Review. “Yeah. Is he stressed? Yeah. Is he beside himself with grief? Yeah. However, there is no evidence to substantiate Steve Groene as a suspect or a person of interest.”
Steve Groene, accompanied by relatives and friends, made an emotional plea for the safe return of his children on national television on Thursday, May 19.
“Please, please release my children safely,” Groene said quietly, his voice hoarse from a lot of crying. “They had nothing to do with any of this. Release them in a safe area where law enforcement can find them. Call the help line. Let them know where they can be found.”
Two days later America’s Most Wanted ran a segment on its Saturday night, May 21, telecast which resulted in 19 tips being called in to the sheriff’s department shortly after the program aired. However, none of the tips provided much hope to the investigators that they would find the children anytime soon.
The same day that Steve Groene had made his televised plea for the safe return of his children, sheriff’s department investigators and the Kootenai County Coroner’s Office released details of the official cause of death of the murder victims. According to the coroner’s report, all three victims died from blunt trauma to the head. Each victim suffered skull fractures and contusions of the brain, and investigators believed that a claw hammer may have been the blunt instrument used on each of the bound victims. Following a toxicology analysis, tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was found in the blood of Brenda Groene and Mark McKenzie. Traces of methamphetamine were also found in their blood. Investigators claimed that they still did not know whether the victims had been killed by one person acting alone or by more than one perpetrator. However, due to the fact that each victim had been bound, they theorized that it may have taken more than one person to subdue the victims and carry out the crimes.
Meanwhile, later that day a tip was phoned in by a sporting goods store owner in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, located about 70 miles north of Coeur d’Alene. The store owner said that a man and two children, a young boy and a young girl, came into his store. The man had asked for directions to Libby, Montana, after which the three left in a white van with Washington license plates. The store owner said that the children fit the descriptions of Shasta and Dylan.
Deputies from Boundary County as well as officers from the Idaho State Police searched the main roads as well as the less-traveled roads that led from Bonners Ferry to Libby, Montana, but there was no sign of the van, the man, or the two children.
As the investigation continued, the cops were still no closer to determining a motive for the crime than they were to finding the children. Drugs, or a drug deal gone bad, had been discussed as one possible motive—except that the house on Frontage Road didn’t contain evidence of drugs or of a methamphetamine lab, which were scattered here and there throughout the Pacific Northwest, despite the fact that marijuana and methamphetamine were found in Brenda and Mark’s blood during their autopsies. To the cops it looked more like they had just been recreational users and had likely used the drugs during the Sunday barbecue. There was even some talk among the investigators that the killings may have been gang-related, prompting them to bring in a gang unit from Spokane to go over and study the crime scene. But after all was said and done, there was no indication that the crime was gang-related.
So who killed Brenda and Slade Groene, and Mark McKenzie, and kidnapped Shasta and Dylan Groene? And why? Were the children even still alive? At this point it appeared that there would be no easy answers to those questions and many others, and it seemed that any semblance of answers would not be forthcoming anytime soon.
Investigators, as well as family members, held out hope that Shasta and Dylan were still alive. DNA tests on blood taken from the crime scene showed that the blood belonged to the three murder victims and that Shasta’s and Dylan’s blood appeared to be absent from the crime scene.
Meanwhile, as time slipped forward, investigators hoping to find clues that would help unravel the mystery of what happened not only with regard to the murders on Frontage Road but to what had happened to Shasta and Dylan began sifting through tons of garbage from the area’s public landfills and from Dumpsters in and around Wolf Lodge. They hoped to find clues such as bloody clothing that the killer may have discarded, or even the murder weapon itself. But after sorting through tons of refuse, clues to what happened and why remained elusive.
As the days turned into weeks it began to seem as if Shasta and Dylan had simply disappeared from the face of the earth, never to be seen again. Then, on Saturday, July 2, at about 1:30 a.m. and 48 days after the case had begun, the unexpected happened. A middle-aged man driving a red Jeep Cherokee with Missouri license plates turned into the parking lot of the Coeur d’Alene Denny’s restaurant, located north of Interstate 90, and parked.
Shasta & Duncan getting in the Jeep
He exited the vehicle, along with a little girl. They walked into the 24-hour establishment, passing by two young men who were standing outside smoking cigarettes. In almost a state of shock, one of the young men recognized the little girl as Shasta Groene. He had no doubt that it was Shasta—he had passed a billboard with a photo of her and her brother, Dylan, earlier that evening.
Shasta & Duncan enter store
But where was Dylan? There was no sign of him.
Nonetheless, the young man alerted his girlfriend inside via his cellular phone about what he had just seen. Afterwards he alerted Denny’s employees as well, but a waitress had already recognized Shasta by that time and had told her shift manager. The manager subsequently called 911 at 1:51 a.m. and approximately ten minutes later three police cars arrived at the restaurant, their lights turned off.
Shasta & Duncan in the store
The man with the girl believed to be Shasta apparently saw the police cruisers as they turned into the Denny’s parking lot because he immediately got up from his table, told a waitress that he needed his check, and headed toward the restrooms with the little girl. When the man returned a few minutes later, several officers surrounded him and escorted him outside. Another officer spoke to the little girl, and she told him that her name was Shasta Groene. Shasta said that she wanted her “daddy” and that she wanted to go home.
Outside, shining their flashlights into the windows of the red Jeep, the police officers saw no sign of Dylan, dashing their hopes that he was still alive.
Shasta, who appeared to be in good physical health, was taken to a local hospital for examination and observation where she remained for the next couple of days. She was eventually reunited with her father after he traveled from Seattle to Coeur d’Alene to be with her.
Partial Duncan Timeline
Duncan’s Fargo, ND mugshot
from sex the offender database.
from sex the offender database.
The man with Shasta was identified shortly after his arrest as Joseph Edward Duncan III, a 42-year-old fugitive sex offender from Fargo, North Dakota. He would initially be charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, for which the maximum penalty in Idaho is death or life in prison. Additional charges would come later as the evidence warranted including, initially, three counts of first-degree murder.
In building their background on Duncan, investigators learned that he was born on February 25, 1963 in Tacoma, Washington, where he was also raised. His first run-in with the law occurred in 1978 when he was 15-years-old. In that incident he raped a 9-year-old boy at gunpoint, and the following year he was arrested driving a stolen car.
He was sentenced as a juvenile and sent to Dyslin’s Boys’ ranch in Tacoma, where he told a therapist who was assigned to his case that he had bound and sexually assaulted six boys, according to a report by the Associated Press. He also told the therapist that he estimated that he had raped 13 younger boys by the time he was 16.
In 1980 Duncan was sentenced to 20 years in prison for raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint. Fourteen years later he was paroled on the condition that he have no contact with minor children and was sent to a halfway house in Seattle so that he could eventually, hopefully, return to society as a productive citizen. It didn’t appear that he was capable of going straight, however, and any hope of him returning to society as a normal citizen quickly vanished. He violated his parole in 1996 by using marijuana and getting caught, and for possession of a firearm. He was sent to jail for 30 days, and then released.
Sammiejo White, victim and Carmen Cubias
During that same timeframe, in July 1996, Sammiejo White, 11, and Carmen Cubias, 9, half-sisters from Seattle, were last seen leaving a motel room near downtown where they had been staying. Their bodies were found nearly two years later, in February 1998. Although Duncan wasn’t viewed as a suspect in their disappearances and deaths at that time, given the circumstances surrounding the Shasta and Dylan Groene case his background and movements would be carefully scrutinized in that case and others.
Deborah Palmer, 7-years-old, was last seen walking to school in Oak Harbor, Washington on March 26, 1997. Her body washed up on a beach five days later. Duncan would also be looked at in that case to determine whether he could be linked to Deborah’s disappearance and death. Duncan, on March 31, 1997, the date that Deborah’s body was found, stole his girlfriend’s car and disappeared.
Anthony Martinez, victim
While sitting in jail in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho following his arrest in connection with the Wolf Lodge murders and child abductions, Duncan was quickly connected with the unsolved disappearance, rape and death of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez of Beaumont, California during an interview with FBI agents, according to Globe magazine. Agents were questioning him about his possible involvement in other cases that were similar to the Groene case, and he purportedly told them about the Martinez boy in Riverside County in Southern California where he had apparently fled to after stealing his girlfriend’s car in Washington. He reportedly was visiting his father in Highland, California, only 22 miles from Beaumont, at the time Martinez disappeared.
Anthony Martinez disappeared on April 4, 1997 while playing with his younger brother and several friends in an alley behind their home. A man apparently approached the boys and offered them money to help him find his lost cat.
“He first went after Anthony’s brother, but that boy got away,” Beaumont Police Lt. Mitch White told Globe magazine. “He got Anthony.”
According to Anthony’s brother as related by Lt. White, the man threatened Anthony with a knife and forced him into a white 1986 Chrysler New Yorker sedan and drove away. Anthony’s bound naked body was found fifteen days later, on April 19, in a shallow grave. Recently and in conjunction with the Groene investigation, Duncan’s partial right thumbprint found on duct tape from Anthony’s body nearly nine years later was determined to be Duncan’s. A wanted poster that was circulated in Southern California at the time of Anthony’s death depicted a suspect that bore a striking resemblance to Duncan.
By August 27, 1997, Duncan had made his way to his half-sister’s house in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was arrested for parole violations. He was returned to Washington and sent back to prison, but was released less than three years later. On July 21, 2000, Duncan moved to Fargo, North Dakota.
Realizing that they were dealing with a probable serial killer, the cops found themselves wondering why Duncan had ever been released from prison. He was clearly an example of a habitual offender who had managed to slip through the cracks of the system.
According to the details that Shasta recounted to Kootenai County Detective Dan Mattos, contained in court records from a probable cause hearing held on Tuesday, July 5, 2005, Shasta was asleep in her bedroom the night that her family was killed. Her mother came into her room, woke her up, and led her into the living room where she first saw Duncan. According to court records, Duncan carried Shasta and her brother outside and placed them inside a pickup truck and drove them to a location where he had parked the red Jeep Cherokee. He then placed the children inside the Jeep and drove them to a campsite deep in the forests of western Montana. Over the next several weeks, according to Shasta, he repeatedly raped and sexually abused both of the children. She told Mattos that Duncan had acted alone. She also said that she had called Duncan “Jet,” a nickname of his own device, Joseph Edward the Third.
According to a report in USA Today, Shasta recalled vividly the smallest details of the night that her family was killed and she and her brother abducted. Shasta told the investigators that Duncan wore dark gloves inside the house, and carried a shoulder-style weapon, such as a shotgun. During a search of the stolen Jeep, investigators found dark gloves, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a red shotgun shell. She even recalled the brand name of the claw hammer that Duncan allegedly used to kill her family, a FatMax. Although Shasta said that she and her brother had not witnessed the actual murders, she explained how Duncan had showed her and her brother the FatMax hammer and how he told them that he had used it to kill her family.
According to Kootenai County Sheriff’s Detective Brad Maskell, investigators purchased a FatMax brand hammer and were able to match the tool markings on it to the wounds on victims’ skulls.
Shasta also explained to the investigators how Duncan had said that he used the night vision goggles to watch the Groene-McKenzie home for two or three nights prior to the murders and abductions. Police also found night vision goggles in the stolen Jeep.
Shasta also stated that Duncan had told her sordid details of how he had sexually molested her brother. He had even tortured him, burning him with cigarettes.
Based on Shasta’s statements, investigators were able to locate the remote Montana campsite where Duncan had allegedly held Shasta and her brother captive. A short time later, authorities sadly announced that they believed they had found Dylan’s remains off of a remote Forest Service road in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. A week later, forensic DNA testing confirmed that the remains were indeed Dylan’s. The authorities announced that he had been shot to death and that his body had been burned.
It was also revealed by the Pacific Northwest Inlander, a free weekly newspaper published in Spokane, Washington, that a video camcorder was recovered from the stolen Jeep. The camcorder contained video of Duncan abusing Shasta and Dylan, as well as threatening to kill them. Shasta told investigators that Duncan had showed her some of the digital pictures. Prosecutors successfully argued that the videos should not be copied for the defense out of fear that during the process they could fall into the wrong hands and get leaked to the public and make their way onto the Internet. Prosecutors indicated that Duncan may also be charged with production of child pornography, but it was not clear whether those charges, if they materialize, would be the result of the digital videos taken of himself, Shasta and Dylan, or if those charges would be unrelated to the Groene case.
Joseph Duncan, arrested
Following Duncan’s arrest, it was discovered that he had been keeping an Internet diary of sorts, a web log, commonly referred to as a blog, in which he disturbingly implied that he had left a string of bodies following his release from prison.
“I got out and I got even,” wrote Duncan in his blog. “But I did not get caught. So I got even again, and again did not get caught. I got even twice (actually more).”
Duncan also wrote of keeping a second diary, a secret diary written in code that provided more details of his horrible crimes.
“…the world will know who I really was, and what I really did…” he wrote. “…I am scared, alone, and confused, and my reaction is to strike out toward the perceived source of my misery, society. My intent is to harm society as much as I can, then die.”
Duncan’s writings were voluminous, and could easily fill a book. He also had an affinity for dressing in drag, and at one point in his life he posted as series of such photos of himself on the Internet and labeled them, “Jazzi Jet,” and is an example of how he apparently views himself.
At the time of this writing, the FBI as well as investigators in at least five states are continuing in their efforts to determine where Duncan might have been at any given time where any unsolved murders or rapes of children were committed. The investigation, while no longer in its infancy, is still continuing and new details will likely emerge as Duncan’s case moves toward trial.
Duncan’s trial date was originally slated to begin on January 17, 2006. However, according to the November 23, 2005 edition of The Seattle Times, First District Judge Fred Gibler vacated the January date and pushed his trial date back to April 4, 2006, in response to defense attorneys’ requests for more time to prepare for trial.