Joseph Edward Duncan III
Search for Shasta and Dylan Begins
Investigators, along with crime lab personnel, returned to the Frontage Road home at daybreak on Tuesday, May 17, 2005. Positive identification of the bodies soon confirmed the initial suspicions of the Kootenai County deputies: three homicides of a most violent nature had occurred, and the dead were indeed those who had been tentatively identified by the deputies who had initially found the bodies. Following lengthy examinations at the scene by sheriff's department detectives and crime lab technicians, the bodies of Brenda Kay Groene, Slade Groene, and Mark McKenzie were systematically removed from the house and taken to the county morgue. They believed that the victims had been killed sometime between Sunday night and the time their bodies were found on Monday.
Meanwhile, volunteers with the Kootenai County Search and Rescue fanned out in all directions throughout the wooded areas that surrounded the Groene-McKenzie home and Lake Coeur d'Alene in their search for Shasta and Dylan. Some searched on foot, others on horseback or all-terrain vehicles, and some used tracking dogs as well as dogs that had been specifically trained to sniff out corpses as they traversed the woods and back roads throughout the area. A helicopter also searched from the air, and Idaho State Police (ISP) as well as the Coeur d'Alene office of the FBI joined the search effort and canvassed the area, showing Shasta and Dylan's photos to area residents in the hope that someone had seen them.
An Amber Alert was also issued nationwide for the two children. The Amber Alert described Dylan as four-feet tall, 60 pounds, blue eyes and blond crew cut hair. Shasta was described as three-feet ten-inches tall, 40 pounds, with hazel eyes and long brown hair.
"Our main concern right now are the two children we cannot find," Sheriff Rocky Watson told a gathering of reporters at a planned news conference.
Looking into the victims' backgrounds, investigators learned that Brenda had married Steven Groene at Big Bear Lake, California, in 1986, and had five children together before divorcing in 2001. Following the divorce, she moved her family to Wolf Lodge, Idaho and had lived there with Mark McKenzie ever since. Additional background information on Brenda showed that she had operated a business called Maid to Order in which she cleaned houses on a work-for-hire basis. According to those who knew her, she would drop her children at a daycare and typically work all day cleaning other peoples' homes. However, she eventually got out of the housecleaning business so that she could spend more time with her children. Those who knew her described her as a good mother.
Brenda wasn't a person without problems, however. She was on probation for possession of drug paraphernalia at the time of her death, and she had served jail time for the conviction on the aforementioned offense. She had also been ordered by the court to attend drug and alcohol counseling, but financial difficulties had prevented her from completing the programs.
Another son, 18-years-old, was in jail awaiting sentencing on burglary charges at the time of the murders. One can only wonder if the same horrible fate that took the lives of the other members of his family would have befallen him, too, had he not been in jail.
Mark McKenzie was described as an outdoors enthusiast who liked to spend some of his spare time hunting and fishing. He worked full-time at a job as a supervisor at a stainless steel sink manufacturing company in Spokane, Washington, located just across Idaho's western border. Both Brenda and Mark associated with bikers whose visits to their home sometimes gave way to partying. They appeared to be well-liked throughout the community and no one that the police interviewed could understand how they could meet such a vicious end.