- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2005

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — A convicted sex offender sat silently in a courtroom yesterday as a judge read aloud accusations that he bludgeoned three persons to death and abducted two children.

Wearing a red jailhouse jumpsuit, a shackled and unshaven Joseph Edward Duncan III, 42, at times looked down at the table in front of him, although his eyes often were 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.

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.

Judge 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 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 ensure 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 TV channel and spotted a picture of Duncan.

“She saw this guy and said, ‘There’s Jet,’” Mrs. Torres said, referring to a nickname used by Duncan. “It was really disturbing.”

Investigators say Shasta has provided vivid and detailed recollections of her six weeks with Duncan, who 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.

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