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Missing Idaho girl reunited with her father

Man charged with kidnapping is registered sex offender
Shasta Groene was found Saturday but her brother is still missing.


Missing Children

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (CNN) -- The father of an 8-year-old girl, missing in the aftermath of a triple homicide at her mother's house six weeks ago, was reunited with his daughter Saturday, hours after she was found alive in a Denny's restaurant with a convicted sex offender.

Steve Groene was out of town when Shasta was found around 2 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) and rushed back to this community. The two were reunited at Kootenai Medical Center Saturday afternoon.

"There's no greater love between a parent and a child, and having a child come back to you has got to be a great experience," Kootenai County Sheriff Capt. Ben Wolfinger told CNN.

But the reunion was mixed with sadness, as investigators told the father they believe his 9-year-old son Dylan, who disappeared with Shasta, may be dead.

Shasta was found at a Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, just miles from the home where she was last reported seen, said Wolfinger.

In her company was 42-year-old Joseph Edward Duncan III of Fargo, North Dakota, who has outstanding warrants for his arrest and may face further charges, Wolfinger said.

Shasta was taken to the Kootenai Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. Wolfinger said she appeared "to be in generally good health."

Wolfinger said authorities had information that Shasta's 9-year-old brother, Dylan, is dead. Both children had been missing since May 16, when their mother, a brother and their mother's boyfriend were found beaten to death in the mother's Coeur D'Alene home, Wolfinger said.

"Our best information right now is that Dylan is deceased," Wolfinger said. Authorities described the boy as 4 feet tall, 60 pounds, with crew-cut blond hair and blue eyes.

They had all been seen alive at a get-together of family and friends Sunday, May 15.

The coroner's office said 40-year-old Brenda Groene, her 37-year-old boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and her 13-year-old son, Slade, died of blunt force trauma to the head and that each had been bound.

Wolfinger said while it was "too early to tell" if Duncan had any connection with the slayings, investigators were "working all the angles in this case."

He said he was "very surprised" the girl and Duncan were found so near her home.

Wolfinger said Coeur d'Alene police received a call from the Denny's restaurant about 2 a.m.

Several people in the restaurant said they immediately recognized the girl, whose picture has been widely circulated in the media.

Amber Deahn, the waitress attending the man and girl's table, went to look at the restaurant's "missing" poster of Shasta, but it was gone. A manager said Duncan tore the poster from the wall shortly after he entered.

The girl seemed especially closed off and the man with her was high-strung, Deahn said. Another witness said she was relaxed, coloring and drinking a soda.

Deahn said she made every effort to keep the girl in the restaurant before police arrived.

"I made sure to make a large shake instead of a child's shake," Deahn said. "We wanted to make sure to take just long enough to where if it turned out to be nothing we could say, 'Hey our shake machine's running a little slow.' "

"We didn't want to cause any suspicion." (Full story)

One of the cooks said he blocked the restaurant's back entrance in case the man tried to make a getaway.

Coeur d'Alene police detained Duncan at the restaurant until Kootenai County deputies arrived to arrest him.

Deahn said she comforted the girl who burst into tears after police took the man away.

"I would really hope that if my children, God forbid, ever went missing, somebody would do the same," Deahn said.

Wolfinger said investigators had obtained a search warrant for the red 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Duncan was driving.

He said the vehicle was reported stolen from St. Paul, Minnesota, in early May, and that the license plates were stolen in Newton County, Missouri, a few days before.

Duncan's arrest record goes back to a 1980 rape conviction in Pierce County, Washington, when he was 16.

His last address was in Fargo, North Dakota, where he was a registered sex offender, but he is listed as "delinquent" on the North Dakota offenders Web page.

"One of his outstanding warrants is failure to register as a sex offender in Washington," Wolfinger said. "The other is an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution out of Minnesota for second-degree sexual offense."

According to the Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Police Department, Duncan was charged in early March with molesting a 7-year-old boy near a middle school in Becker County in July 2004.

The department issued a warrant for his arrest when he violated the terms of release from an April 5 court appearance.

Wolfinger said Duncan runs a Web site that advocates against prosecuting sex offenders. CNN was unable to locate the site.

In his 1980 conviction in Washington, Duncan pleaded guilty to abducting and raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint, burning the victim with a cigarette and firing the gun -- on empty chambers -- causing him to believe he would be killed, according to a description from the North Dakota sex offender registry.

Upon turning 17, Duncan was transferred to adult court where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to the city of Fargo.

He was released on parole in 1994 after serving 14 years, but returned to prison for a parole violation in 1997.

On July 14, 2000, he was released at the end of his prison term, and on July 21 he arrived in Fargo, where he immediately enrolled at North Dakota State University. (Full story)

On his personal Web site at the school, Duncan claimed he was an honor student studying computer science and said he expected to graduate in May.

David Wahlberg, a school spokesman, said Duncan did not graduate. He said the university was aware of the charges in Minnesota.

Duncan will make his first official court appearance in Kootenai County Tuesday at 2 p.m. (5 p.m. ET), Wolfinger said.

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