Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Mullen, Sex Offender Vigilante

Joseph Duncan's Impact

Now and again, America is subjected to the acts of a criminal so profoundly depraved that it changes the way we view our fellow human beings.

Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Gary Ridgway. Dennis Rader. Richard Speck.

This pitiless club has a new member: Joseph Edward Duncan III.

Joseph Duncan arrested
Joseph Duncan arrested

As a teenager in Tacoma, Wash., Duncan raped and tortured a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint. Convicted as an adult, he spent 18 years in prison and was afforded many opportunities to overcome—or perhaps constrain—his psychopathic sexual urges.

Ultimately, all efforts failed.

After prison, Duncan enrolled in college in Fargo, N.D., registered as a sex offender and spent several years without any reported lapses.

But early last spring, he was accused of molesting a boy on a playground in Minnesota. Facing charges that almost certainly would have led him back to prison, Duncan vanished from Fargo in a stolen Jeep, just weeks before he was to graduate from North Dakota State University.

Map of Idaho with Coeur-d'Alene locator
Map of Idaho with Coeur-d'Alene locator

Three days later, authorities allege, Duncan turned up with a shotgun and carpenter's hammer at the home of Brenda Groene and her children near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He bludgeoned to death Groene, her son Slade, 13, and Brenda's boyfriend, Mark McKenzie.

He bound the woman's two youngest children, Dylan, 9, and Shasta, 8, and carried them away in his Jeep. He took them to a hideout in the Montana woods and used the children as sexual playthings for seven weeks before finally killing Dylan, officials allege.

He was arrested July 2 at a Coeur d'Alene restaurant while having breakfast with Shasta.

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