COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho – For 8-year-old Shasta Groene (search), the terror is behind her. What's ahead for the little girl with the shy smile is anyone's guess.
Her mother and one older brother are slain, a second brother is likely dead — and Shasta herself endured nearly seven weeks of captivity with a convicted sex offender. Now, she faces a new life with different family members and the psychological fallout from her ordeal.
"Shasta's doing very well," her father, Steve Groene (search), said Wednesday. "Certainly more than we could hope for. She's very upbeat, she's pretty healthy, she's glad to be home."
When she leaves the hospital, Shasta will benefit from a large extended family on both her mother's and father's side, who have clustered around her.
Her father, 48, is a blues musician. Older brother Jesse, 18, is serving at least the next six months in prison on a burglary charge. Brother Vance, 20, is so disturbed by all the activity swirling around his family that he left to stay with relatives in Tacoma, Wash.
"This is all so incomprehensible," said Steve Groene, who had a new tattoo on his arm saying "In Loving Memory Slade Vincent 13," in honor of son Slade, 13, who was killed at the rural home near here where Shasta lived with her mother, two of her brothers and her mother's boyfriend. "It will take quite a lot of time for us to even realize what happened here."
Mental health experts agree with that assessment and caution that the savage ordeal that Shasta survived is bound to have lasting effects.
"She has witnessed horrible things," said Dr. Paul Domitor, a Spokane, Wash., psychiatrist. "These things will stay with her."
Shasta is believed to be the sole survivor among the five people in her home the night Kootenai County sheriff's officers allege Joseph Edward Duncan III (search) appeared and bound them all. Bludgeoned to death in addition to her brother Slade were her mother, Brenda, and her mother's boyfriend Mark McKenzie. Their bodies were found May 16.
Brother Dylan Groene, 9, was abducted with Shasta, and is believed dead. Remains found at a Montana campsite are being analyzed for positive identification.
Kootenai County officials said they believe Duncan acted alone in the crime. Sheriff Rocky Watson said he believes the motive was to acquire the children for sex.
While it is the Associated Press' policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault in most cases, the search for the children and Shasta's recovery were so heavily publicized that their names were already widely known.
FBI agents in St. Regis, Mont., led reporters Wednesday to a remote campsite in the Lolo National Forest where they believe Duncan spent at least several weeks with the children.
The site is accessible only by an old dirt logging road. About an hour's drive from Interstate 90, the small campsite, nothing more than a dirt clearing, juts out from a steep cliff and is surrounded by towering ponderosa pines. Evidence of a campfire and burned metal cans could be seen to one side, but the site otherwise was barren.
Duncan, 42, a convicted sex offender in Washington state who lived most recently in Fargo, N.D., was on the run from an earlier child molestation charge. He was arrested Saturday at a local Denny's restaurant with Shasta.
Duncan has been charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, a crime that carries the death penalty, and likely will face additional charges.
Privacy laws prevent Kootenai Medical Center from releasing any details of Shasta's condition, but family members say she did not suffer any physical injuries.
The hospital may still be the best place for her, Domitor said. "It gives her a place of safety and security," he said. "It allows medical professionals an opportunity to talk gently with this child."
By all counts, Shasta has already been a remarkable witness. She has described for law enforcement officers the night of her abduction, helped them pinpoint the Montana campsites where she and Dylan were kept, and told them Duncan was the only person involved.
"She's a normal 8-year-old girl," said brother Jesse, 18, in a pooled interview from a county jail in Wallace, Idaho, that was viewed on videotape. "She's a little girly girl."
Jesse Groene recently pleaded guilty on a burglary charge and was sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary. But he could be released on probation in six months.
Jesse, who has spoken with his sister by telephone, said she sounded good. "Maybe she is too young for it to register in her mind," he said.
Steven and Brenda Groene were married in 1986 and had five children before they divorced in 2001. After the divorce, Brenda lived in a rural home owned by McKenzie. Slade, Dylan and Shasta lived with her.
Steven Groene has acknowledged heavy narcotics use in the past, and was arrested once for battery. Jesse and Vance both have had problems with drugs.
From jail, Jesse Groene said the tragedy has prompted him to reform himself from a life of petty crime.
"I'm done with the life I was living," he said.