Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Edward Duncan III

Watching Children

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

Duncan arrived in Kootenai County, Idaho sometime during the second week in May. Precisely why he stopped in the Wolf Lodge area, located about eight miles east of Coeur d'Alene and just off Interstate 90, is not known. Perhaps he had stopped there to grab a bite to eat, or merely to rest for awhile. At some point, however, he ended up on Frontage Road and drove past the small white cinderblock and frame house with green trim, the lower portion of which appeared to have been coated with stucco giving it a smooth appearance, where the Groene and McKenzie family lived.

The house, somewhat secluded and surrounded by trees, brush and low-lying hills, made an easy target for someone bent on wrongdoing. Duncan likely saw his next victims, Shasta Groene, eight, and her brother, Dylan, nine, playing outside the house in the unseasonably warm May weather as he drove past. Shasta and Dylan's mother, Brenda Kay Groene, 40, came and went, as did Brenda's boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37, and Shasta and Dylan's older brother, Slade, 13, throughout the weekend of May 13-15. Before Duncan's arrival there, it was the type of community where parents were not afraid to leave their children alone. It was the type of seemingly safe community where children played outside without parental supervision all the time, rode their bikes wherever they wanted, and built forts in the woods — generally, kids there simply did all of the things that kids would normally do where they felt safe. But that was all about to change.

House where Groenes lived
House where Groenes lived

The Groene-McKenzie home was sometimes visited by strangers whose vehicles broke down on the freeway — their home was the first house anyone looking for help would see after getting off the freeway and onto Frontage Road. And, according to later witness reports, the family was always happy to help a stranger in need.

After having his interest heightened by the sight of the young children frolicking outside in the yard in what had been their safe surroundings, or walking or riding their bikes along Frontage Road and occasionally motioning to passing truckers to honk the air horns of their semis, it is believed that Duncan reconnoitered the area for at least a day or two until he found the perfect vantage point where he could watch the kids and their family from a distance without being easily seen, using his night vision apparatus during the nighttime. While the exact time frame isn't known for certain, police believed that Duncan may have stalked the family for a few days after becoming comfortable with his surroundings, and had perhaps even followed them to town to watch them when they shopped, before getting up the courage to make his move.

On Sunday, May 15, 2005, the family drove into Coeur d'Alene to run errands, and then returned home where they enjoyed a barbecue together with others. The gathering went into the early evening hours before it broke up and everyone went home. It was the last time that anyone would remember seeing Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie alive.

 

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