Sex Offender May Face Death Penalty For Abducting 2 Kids, Killing 1

Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for registered sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III for the abduction of two children last year, the U.S. Attorney's office said Tuesday.

Jean McNeil, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Tom Moss in Boise, said prosecutors have received permission from the Justice Department to seek capital punishment once Duncan is charged in the abduction of Shasta Groene, 8, and the abduction and slaying of her 9-year-old brother, Dylan Groene.

"Federal charges and formal notice to seek the death penalty are expected to be filed at a later date," McNeil said.

She declined to say exactly what federal charges Duncan would face, which she acknowledged made Tuesday's announcement unusual.

"There has been so much publicity and so much speculation about what we would do, that we think it is appropriate to make the announcement now," McNeil said.

Duncan already could face the death penalty if he is convicted in state court on three counts of murder for allegedly using a hammer to kill the children's mother, Brenda Groene; her fiance, Mark McKenzie; and Groene's 13-year-old son, Slade, in May 2005 at the family's home east of Coeur d'Alene.

Before his arrest in Idaho, Duncan lived in Fargo and attended North Dakota State University.