COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho – A day after missing 8-year-old Shasta Groene (search) turned up with a registered sex offender at a Denny's restaurant in her hometown, investigators struggled with a troubling question: What happened to her 9-year-old brother Dylan?
The man with Shasta, Joseph Edward Duncan III (search), was arrested and charged with kidnapping, but he has requested a lawyer and is refusing to talk to authorities, Kootenai County (search) Sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger said Sunday.
Duncan won't be appointed a public defender until a court hearing Tuesday, Wolfinger said.
In the meantime, the search for Dylan continues, though investigators say the information they have points to the boy being dead.
"Our goal is to find Dylan one way or another," Wolfinger said.
Investigators haven't revealed what they believe happened to Dylan or how long they believe the boy was alive after the children's mother, 13-year-old brother and their mother's boyfriend were bludgeoned to death in their home on May 16.
There was no sign of the boy when Shasta was found around 2 a.m. Saturday in the restaurant with Duncan.
Shasta was recognized by a waitress at the restaurant, who called police, and the little girl was reunited that afternoon with her father, Steve Groene. She was reported in good condition at the hospital Sunday, Wolfinger said. The girl's father has declined requests for interviews.
The arrest of Duncan, a 42-year-old from Fargo, N.D., who had spent more a decade in prison for raping a boy at gunpoint when Duncan, has raised many questions and provided few answers.
"Where have Duncan and Shasta and Dylan been the last six weeks? Was Duncan involved in the triple homicide? Were other people involved? Is so, who and where are they?" Wolfinger said.
"I think why is probably the biggest question we have," he said.
Shasta spoke at length with investigators on Saturday, but authorities are treating her gently, Wolfinger said.
"She's a little girl who's been through who knows what in the past six weeks," he said.
Authorities believe Duncan, who was raised in Tacoma, Wash., remained in the Pacific Northwest with the children during the six weeks they were missing. Wolfinger hasn't said if authorities believe Duncan was involved in the slayings, and it wasn't known if he had any connection with the victims.
Half way across the country, officials were facing another tough question: Why had Duncan been released on bail earlier this year after being charged with molesting a 6-year-old boy at a Minnesota school playground.
Becker County, Minn., District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who had set bail at $15,000 despite prosecutors' request that it be $25,000, said Sunday that he barely remembers the case and isn't sure if he knew then that the man was a registered Level 3 sex offender.
"Usually on a bail hearing you have limited information, and so you set it in an amount that you think is appropriate," the judge said. He said if he had known Duncan's record, he would have set it high enough that Duncan would not have gone free.
Police in Fargo said they had been looking for Duncan since May, but had no indication he had fled to Idaho.
Days before the children disappeared, an ominous message was posted on a Web site that officials said Duncan maintained.
"I am scared, alone and confused, and my reaction is to strike out toward the perceived source of my misery, society," the May 11 entry said. "My intent is to harm society as much as I can, then die."
Forty investigators were working the case Sunday, with the FBI and Idaho State Patrol backing up city and county police.
A search of the stolen Jeep Duncan was driving has been completed, and the evidence was forwarded to the FBI, Wolfinger said. He declined to describe that evidence.
The astonishing emergence of Shasta more than six weeks after she disappeared, countered by her brother's continued, ominous absence, created mixed emotions here.
"We're happy about Shasta," Bill Todd, owner of Davis Donuts, said Sunday. "But I'm sad there's no good news on Dylan yet."
"There can be happy endings," employee Darcy Furey said hopefully.
Todd's business was one of many that taped up posters of the missing children and displayed readerboards praying for their safe return. The case dominated conversations in this northern Idaho resort community of 35,000, decked with flags for the sunny Fourth of July weekend — a big event in tourist-dependent Coeur d'Alene.
Investigators had interviewed hundreds of people, searched through 800 tons of trash and fielded more than 2,000 tips.
In the end, the restaurant where Shasta was found was just a few miles from her family's home.