Groene shares letters from children; Duncan questions FBI agent - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Groene shares letters from children; Duncan questions FBI agent

Joseph Duncan III court sketch Joseph Duncan III court sketch
Joseph Duncan III Joseph Duncan III

BOISE, Idaho. - Witnesses, including Steve Groene, began taking the stand Thursday in the sentencing phase of convicted killer Joseph Duncan's federal murder case.

The jury heard from the first deputy on the scene of the gruesome Duncan murders in September of 2005 at Wolf Lodge Bay. The Kootenai County deputy described arriving at the scene and finding the bodies of Slade, Brenda and Mark all zip-tied and lying in pools of blood.

He said he found large amounts of blood in other rooms of the house, prompting his initial concern about the welfare of the children, Dylan and Shasta.

The deputy told the court the Duncan case "pushed him to the end" of his law enforcement career. He retired for four months before returning to work as a Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy.

Using an electronic larynx because of his cancer, Steve Groene was the second witness to take the stand.

Groene testified that he gave police his children's toothbrushes so they could get DNA samples. He also shared letters that Dylan and Shasta wrote him while being held by Duncan.

The letters included passages like the following from a letter from Dylan to her father: "This is dylan, we are still alive we are okay," and this one from a letter written to her father by Shasta, "Dear Dad, I have good news we are coming home soon."

Jurors also heard from an Idaho State Police detective, a second Kootenai County detective, and an FBI agent.

The FBI agent was the first witness Duncan chose to question. Duncan questioned him about a surveillance tape from a Conoco in Kellogg, Idaho, that shows Duncan with with Shasta on July 1st, 2007, hours before the pair was spotted at a Dennys restaurant.

Duncan's first question was whether or not the agent saw a black-and-white police car on the tape. Court clerks were not able to freeze the tape. The agent said he did not see the car, and was excused from the stand.

The prosecution continued their questioning of the first Kootenai County deputy to arrive at the murder scene. He described more of his interview with Duncan following the October guilty plea and plea deal.

The deputy described in detail what Duncan said that day, about beating the victims with a framing hammer, and "showing compassion" for Brenda by hitting her several times to finish her off and using a towel to collect her brain matter while he did it.

Duncan, who's acting as his own attorney, refused to cross-examine the first four witnesses.

As the proceeding continue jurors will decide whether Duncan should spend life in prison without parole, or get the death penalty. 

Duncan pleaded guilty to 10 federal counts in December, to kidnapping Shasta Groene and her brother Dylan from their Coeur d'Alene home in 2005, and the torture and slaying of Dylan at a Montana campsite.

Also on KHQ.com

- Jury selected; opening statements made in Duncan murder sentencing
- Judge closes court during Duncan victim testimony
- Duncan's standby counsel want no part in jury selection
- Court rules Duncan mentally competent

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