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Both sides rest case in Duncan sentencing

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

BOISE, Idaho —  Both sides rested their case Tuesday in the death sentencing hearing of Joseph Edward Duncan III, who has been convicted of torturing, abusing and murdering a 9-year-old boy in Montana in 2005.

A federal jury could begin deliberating as early as Wednesday whether Duncan lives or dies.

Dylan Groene's father and grandmother on Tuesday offered a personal glimpse into the life of the impish third-grader.

His grandmother, Darlene Torres, described a shy but affectionate young boy who loved being outside, whether he was playing in the creek near their northern Idaho home or riding a four-wheeler around their property.

His father, Steve Groene, said Dylan was protective of his younger sister, Shasta, stepping in to protect her when older siblings tried to pick on her.

"You have to cherish every minute with your children," Steve Groene said. "You can't take any of that time for granted because you could wake up the next day and they may not be there. I miss him. A lot."

After Steve Groene's testimony, U.S. Attorney Tom Moss told Lodge that prosecutors rested their case. Duncan, who is representing himself, also rested his case, opting not to present any witnesses or offer any mitigating evidence for the jury to weigh against the heinousness of his crimes.

Duncan murdered 13-year-old Slade Groene, his mother, Brenda Groene, and her fiance, Mark McKenzie in their Coeur d'Alene home. He then kidnapped Dylan and his then-8-year-old sister, Shasta Groene.

Duncan took the two deep into the Montana wilderness, where he sexually abused and tortured them for weeks. He ultimately shot Dylan point-blank in the head while Shasta watched. He was arrested after returning with Shasta to Coeur d'Alene, where a waitress recognized the girl as the two ate at a Denny's restaurant.

Duncan pleaded guilty to the three Idaho murders in state court in 2006. In January 2007, the federal government charged him with 10 felonies for the trauma he inflicted on Dylan and Shasta. Duncan pleaded guilty in December to those charges.

The federal jury is considering the death penalty on charges related to the kidnappings and Dylan's murder, but he also could face execution on state counts in the other three killings.

Closing arguments in the case are scheduled Wednesday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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