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IDAHO Suspect hears charges in court



Published: Thu, July 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The only survivor, Shasta, 8, gave police detailed accounts of her kidnapping.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) -- A convicted sex offender sat silently in a courtroom Wednesday as a judge read aloud allegations that he bludgeoned three people to death and abducted two children.

Wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit, a shackled and unshaven Joseph Edward Duncan, 42, at times looked down at the table in front of him, although his eyes were often closed. His chin appeared to tremble as District Judge Benjamin Simpson read the murder and kidnapping charges in the slayings of Brenda Groene, 40, her son Slade, 13, and her boyfriend Mark McKenzie, 37.

A preliminary hearing will be scheduled within two weeks.

First appearance

Duncan's public-defender attorney, Lynn Nelson, said his client had wanted to speak as little as possible at his first appearance on the charges, filed Tuesday. The judge and Duncan were in separate rooms for the hearing, which was conducted by video.

Simpson did not set bail. Duncan has been held without bail since his arrest at a local restaurant July 2, where he appeared with one of the missing children -- 8-year-old Shasta Groene. The body of her brother, 9-year-old Dylan Groene, was found within days near a Montana campground.

All six of the state charges carry the death penalty. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Shasta's family is trying to make sure the child does not see news coverage of the crimes. Darlene Torres, Shasta's grandmother, said the girl was "devastated" Tuesday morning when she was changing the television channel and spotted a picture of Duncan.

"She saw this guy and said, 'There's Jet!"' Torres said, referring to a nickname used by Duncan. "It was really disturbing."

Child's accounts

Investigators say Shasta has provided vivid and detailed recollections of her six weeks with Duncan, whom she said told her how he staked out her home for days after he saw her and Dylan playing in the yard, and bragged about using a hammer to kill her family.

After the state prosecution, Duncan will likely face federal kidnapping charges in the abduction of the children and Dylan's death. Duncan is accused of taking them across a state line into Montana. Under federal law, a kidnapping that results in a death is punishable by death.

State kidnapping charges related to the children will be dismissed.

Duncan's mother, Lillian, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., told The Seattle Times she had spoken briefly with her son after his arrest. She said he showed remorse.

Duncan, a native of Tacoma, was convicted there in 1980 of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint. He was released from prison in 2000 and moved to Fargo, N.D., to attend North Dakota State University.




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