BOISE, Idaho – After her older brother was shot in the head, his remains were burned in front of her, an 8-year-old girl told a police officer in a gut-wrenching tape played for jurors deciding whether a convicted sex offender should die for his crimes.
Shasta Groene spoke to Coeur d'Alene police Officer Shane Avriett on July 2, 2005, shortly after she was rescued from weeks of torture and despair.
Avriett testified Thursday that he turned on his vehicle's dashboard-mounted video camera, with the camera pointed away from Shasta, and recorded her talking about her ordeal.
When Avriett asked where her 9-year-old brother Dylan was, she told him, "in heaven ... there may be some evidence down in the Lolo forest, because that's where we were."
She cried as she told Avriett how Joseph Edward Duncan III shot her brother in the stomach at a campsite, then shot him again in the head and burned the body.
"He's killed way a lot more people that you don't even know about," Shasta told the officer. "He killed Dylan."
The testimony came on the second day of the sentencing hearing for Duncan, 45, who faces either life in prison or death. The convicted pedophile from Tacoma, Wash., pleaded guilty in December to 10 federal charges related to the kidnapping of Shasta and Dylan. Three of the counts carry a potential death penalty. He is representing himself in his sentencing.
The children were taken from their Coeur d'Alene home in May 2005 after Duncan fatally bludgeoned the children's mother, Brenda Groene; their 13-year-old brother, Slade; and the mother's fiance, Mark McKenzie.
Both children were sexually abused before Duncan shot and killed Dylan at the western Montana campsite. Shasta was rescued when a waitress spotted Duncan and the girl in a Coeur d'Alene restaurant and called police.
In the videotape, Avriett told Shasta a lot of people were looking for her. "What made you end up here?" he asked. "Just hungry?"
"He was going to take me home," Shasta replied, talking about Duncan, whom she called "Jet."
When Avriett asked why Duncan changed his mind, her voice broke.
"He was going to change his mind because he said I taught him how to love," she said.
It wasn't clear what was meant in the discussion about Duncan changing his mind, and lawyers in the case weren't able to elaborate. They are under a gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge.
The children's father, Steven Groene, took the stand Thursday morning, showing pictures of his youngest children and choking up after confirming their handwriting on notes apparently written at their kidnapper's behest.
Groene said it was the first time he had seen one of the letters, which offered a false promise. "Dear Dad, I have very good news. And it is we are coming home soon! It might be a week or 2 so we will be back," the unsigned letter read.
Prosecutors avoided discussing the contents of the letters. But they're believed to be the letters found in the car Duncan was driving just before his arrest.
Duncan's past is littered with arrests and prison time for crimes ranging from car theft to rape and molestation. He is suspected in the 1996 slayings of two half-sisters from Seattle and is charged with the 1997 killing of a young boy in Riverside County, Calif.