Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Former Sex Slaves, Where Are They Now?

Shasta Groene then (left) and now.

Shasta Groene then (left) and now.

Shasta Groene was abducted in 2005 along with her brother Dylan, 9, by convicted serial killer Joseph Duncan III from their home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was 8 at the time. Duncan killed her mother, mother’s boyfriend, and one other sibling during the abduction. Kept for weeks as a sex slave, Shasta was finally rescued after a Denny’s waitress recognized her and Duncan, from a security camera photo, and kept them at the restaurant until she could notify authorities. Dylan was killed by Duncan before he could be rescued.

Since then Shasta has lived with her father, Steven Groene, and has led a private life, but an October 2012 report from Idaho’s caught up with the high school junior volunteering at a benefit for a local animal shelter. Shasta, now 15, broke her silence about her abduction saying, “I’ve thought about it every day, but it’s something that helps me stay strong every day …because not a lot of people have survived what I have been through.” Shasta has used her name recognition to lend support to local charitable causes whenever she can, “I just try to help out as much as I can. I mean, whenever someone asks me to I will.” The brave young woman, who wants to go on helping people as possibly a forensic scientist, a beautician, or a therapist, however, does not want her ordeal at the hands of Duncan to define her, “I’m not a scared little girl that I was back when I was 8. I have grown up a lot, and I’m really strong today.”

Natascha Kampusch then (left) and now.

Natascha Kampusch then (left) and now.

Natascha Kampusch, of Vienna, Austria, was 10 when she was abducted in 1988 by Wolfgang Priklopi on her way to school. He kept the child as a sex slave in a windowless six-by-nine-foot underground cell that he could enter from behind a cupboard in the garage. Over time she was given more freedom, and in 2006 hatched her escape plan. Priklopi committed suicide the same day by jumping in front of an oncoming commuter train. At the time Natascha issued a statement to the press saying that she was not angry and did not feel deprived, but that her captor “was a part of my life.” She wrote a book, and moved on.

Natascha’s case, however, resurfaced in the news in a December 21, 2012, report from the Daily News about questions concerning the case. In an effort to quell growing suspicion of a cover-up of serious flaws in the investigation of the case, Austrian officials have announced that the FBI has agreed to examine the physical evidence in the case. No new witness interviews will be conducted. The public scandal comes in the wake of an independent investigation conducted by the legal team of Ludwig Koch, Natascha’s father, which uncovered evidence linking Priklopi’s best friend Ernst Holzapfel to the abduction. Koch’s attorney Dietmar Heck said, “We believe there is sufficient evidence to prove that Mr. Holzapfel at the very least knew that his best friend, with whom he reportedly worked in the garden of his house in Strasshof with an excavator just before the kidnapping, was holding Natascha against her will — and did absolutely nothing to end her ordeal.”

Additional information, uncovered by a special Austrian commission analyzing police failings in the Kampusch investigation, indicated inconsistencies in the handwriting on Priklopi’s suicide note, calling into question the very notions not only that he wrote it, but that he committed suicide at all. Also neither the body’s temperature nor a blood sample were taken at the scene, which is inconsistent with standard investigative procedures. Holzapfel believed to have been the last person to have seen Priklopi alive.

Elisabeth Fritzl then (left) and an artist's imression of what she might look like today.

Elisabeth Fritzl then (left) and an artist's imression of what she might look like today based on her photo.

Austrian incest victim Elizabeth Fritzl, who was imprisoned from the age of 18 in a concrete bunker and kept as a sex slave by her father, Josef Fritzl, now 74, for nearly 25 years, also resurfaced in the news, though not as recently. The ordeal she suffered was extreme, consisting of repeated rapes (an estimated 3,000 times) with the occasional kinks her father threw in, beatings, starvation, heat, cold and rats. Alone, she bore him seven children in the dark dungeon that became her world, one child dying because of Josef Fritzl’s refusal to get medical help and three taken from her to be raised by her father. After he released her in 2008, a psychological evaluation showed that she suffered from PTSD, which manifested itself in the form of blackouts, waking nightmares and flashbacks.

Elizabeth at 43 was in therapy but, with her doctors’ approval, stopped seeing a psychiatrist because, according to the Austrian Times, the love she found in 2009 with her bodyguard Thomas W., 14 years her junior and assigned to her and the children in the immediate aftermath of her incarceration, has cured her. Of the relationship, the only consensual one Elisabeth has had with a man since 1984, one of her caretakers remarked, “This is vivid proof of the power of love being the strongest force in the world. With the approval of her doctors she has ceased psychiatric therapies while she gets on with her life – learning to drive, helping her children with their homework, making friends with people in her locality. She lost the best years of her life in that cellar; she is determined that every day remaining to her will be filled with activity.” The children, unfortunately, have not been as quick to heal as Elisabeth and still require many hours of therapy each week; the doors to their rooms fastened open. Josef Fritzl, now in prison for life, reportedly hopes to write a book about his love for Elisabeth, the proceeds of which would go to his children with her, but she no longer takes his calls.

Slideshow: Abducted in Idaho

Sex Slaves: The Psychology of Mastery

The Daughter-Dungeon of Joseph Fritzl


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