Idaho girl recounts nightmarish ordeal - East Valley Tribune: News

Idaho girl recounts nightmarish ordeal

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Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2005 10:02 am | Updated: 7:53 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Eight-year-old 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. Police said that by the time her ordeal ended six weeks later, Shasta would be repeatedly molested by a convicted sex offender and become the only apparent survivor of the five people in the home.

"This little girl really went through more than any little girl should ever have to think about," Kootenai County Sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger said Tuesday.

Joseph Edward Duncan III, 42, of Fargo, N.D., a convicted sex offender on the run from an earlier child molestation count, was charged Tuesday in 1st District Court with two counts of first-degree kidnapping.

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.

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.

Shasta Groene's statements to police place Duncan inside the rural home near here where the girl's mother, older brother and mother's boyfriend were bound and bludgeoned to death. Their bodies were found on May 16.

The tiny girl told authorities the man repeatedly molested her and her brother Dylan. Her ordeal finally ended Saturday morning when people at a Denny's restaurant here recognized her and called police.

Her brother Dylan was presumed dead. A body believed by authorities to be that of the 9-year-old was found in western Montana and awaits positive identification.

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. Duncan has not been charged with anything other than the kidnapping counts, which can carry the death penalty or life in prison.

"Shasta and Dylan were repeatedly molested," Kootenai County Sheriff's Sgt. Brad Maskell wrote in a terse, handwritten affidavit released Tuesday. "Shasta saw Mr. Duncan molest Dylan."

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.

The girl 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.

Shasta told officers that Duncan did not have an accomplice. Despite her statement, investigators were still trying to determine if Duncan acted alone, Wolfinger said.

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.

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

He was released on $15,000 bail earlier this year after being charged with molesting the boy. Police in Fargo, N.D., had been looking for Duncan since May, when he failed to check in with a probation agent.

"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.

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 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

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