SPOKANE, Washington (AP) – Serial killer Joseph Edward Duncan III recently died in a US prison, after admitting to slaughtering seven people – including five children – in Idaho, Washington state, Montana and the California.
Some wonder if Duncan, whose victims included four members of the same family, killed even more people. After his arrest in 2005 for the murder of the Idaho family, the FBI looked at unsolved missing children cases across the country.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan believes all of Duncan’s murders have been disclosed in court. She sued him in what she described as the only federal death penalty case in Idaho history.
“His crimes have all been publicly acknowledged and reviewed by a judge or jury,” Whelan said Tuesday of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “He was held responsible.”
Duncan, 58, died Sunday in an Indiana hospital near the US penitentiary in Terre Haute, where he was in the death row. The Tacoma, Wash. Native was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
He had been implicated as a potential suspect in several crimes that occurred between 1994 and 1997, while on parole, and between 2000 and 2005, when he was released from prison. Duncan has been cleared as a suspect in some cases, but authorities in California and Washington believed Duncan had committed unsolved murders in their jurisdictions.
Duncan was a registered sex offender, telling a therapist he believed he raped 13 younger boys when he was 16. He spent a large part of his life in prison.
Duncan’s most violent crime spree occurred in May 2005, as he crossed the Idaho Panhandle on Interstate 90 and spotted two children playing in swimsuits in the yard of a house next door from the highway. He left the road and began to watch the house.
Using night vision goggles, he broke in and tied up Brenda Groene, 40; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37; and his son, Slade Groene, 13. Then he beat them to death with a hammer. Two of Brenda Groene’s other children, Dylan, 9, and Shasta, 8, were missing when authorities arrived at the house.
Duncan had taken the children to the western Montana wilderness, where he tortured and abused them for weeks before killing Dylan.
In the wee hours of July 2, 2005, Shasta Groene was recognized by employees and customers of a Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene. She was with a man.
The employees called the police and positioned themselves to prevent the man from leaving. The police arrived with the lights off, took out their weapons and entered the restaurant. Duncan was arrested without incident.
Two days later, investigators found human remains at a remote makeshift campsite in the Lolo National Forest near St. Regis, Montana. They have been identified as those of Dylan Groene. During the trial, it was revealed that Duncan shot the boy at close range while holding a sawn-off 12 gauge shotgun against his head.
Duncan argued in court that he took Shasta to the restaurant, located a few miles from where he killed his family, with the intention of returning them to authorities. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008.
Shasta Groene, now in his mid-20s, issued a written statement after Duncan’s death.
“For so long I have been fighting against hatred towards this man. Today I woke up feeling that my soul was finally free, “the statement said.” I hope others affected by Joseph Duncan may have woken up feeling the same. “
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho, which conducted the investigation, also released a statement.
“In May 2005, the Groene family of Kootenai County, living in the Wolf Lodge Bay area, were brutally victimized by a serial killer passing through our community. The family has been hunted down, attacked and tortured, “the statement read.” It was one of the worst tragedies Idaho has ever seen. “
Following his conviction, Duncan was extradited to Southern California to stand trial for the death of Anthony Martinez, 10, of Riverside County in 1997. Duncan pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. .
“The sun is brighter today and my soul is lighter,” Anthony’s mother Diana said in a statement this week.
Duncan also admitted to the murders of 11-year-old Sammie Jo White and her 9-year-old half-sister Carmen Cubias, who went missing after leaving a Seattle motel on July 6, 1996. Their skeletal remains were found on July 6, 1996. February 1996. 10, 1998, in Bothell, Washington. Duncan confessed to beating the two girls to death but was not prosecuted as he was already facing multiple death sentences.
Since the time he was taken into custody in 2005, Duncan has confessed to all of his crimes and has repeatedly sought to plead guilty, court records show. Against his will, Duncan’s attorneys filed numerous appeals until his death.
Whelan, the Assistant United States Attorney in Idaho, said the case weighs heavily on everyone involved, including lawyers, officers, jurors, victims and the community.
“A serial child murderer presents difficulties for everyone,” she said. “There is a human aspect to wanting to protect people, and you cannot protect them.”
Whelan said there was no doubt Duncan deserved the death penalty, but there is no disappointment that he died of cancer.
“He’s not here anymore,” she said.