Joseph Edward Duncan III
Investigators, as well as family members, held out hope that Shasta and Dylan were still alive. DNA tests on blood taken from the crime scene showed that the blood belonged to the three murder victims and that Shasta's and Dylan's blood appeared to be absent from the crime scene.
Meanwhile, as time slipped forward, investigators hoping to find clues that would help unravel the mystery of what happened not only with regard to the murders on Frontage Road but to what had happened to Shasta and Dylan began sifting through tons of garbage from the area's public landfills and from Dumpsters in and around Wolf Lodge. They hoped to find clues such as bloody clothing that the killer may have discarded, or even the murder weapon itself. But after sorting through tons of refuse, clues to what happened and why remained elusive.
As the days turned into weeks it began to seem as if Shasta and Dylan had simply disappeared from the face of the earth, never to be seen again. Then, on Saturday, July 2, at about 1:30 a.m. and 48 days after the case had begun, the unexpected happened. A middle-aged man driving a red Jeep Cherokee with Missouri license plates turned into the parking lot of the Coeur d'Alene Denny's restaurant, located north of Interstate 90, and parked.
He exited the vehicle, along with a little girl. They walked into the 24-hour establishment, passing by two young men who were standing outside smoking cigarettes. In almost a state of shock, one of the young men recognized the little girl as Shasta Groene. He had no doubt that it was Shasta — he had passed a billboard with a photo of her and her brother, Dylan, earlier that evening.
But where was Dylan? There was no sign of him.
Nonetheless, the young man alerted his girlfriend inside via his cellular phone about what he had just seen. Afterwards he alerted Denny's employees as well, but a waitress had already recognized Shasta by that time and had told her shift manager. The manager subsequently called 911 at 1:51 a.m. and approximately ten minutes later three police cars arrived at the restaurant, their lights turned off.
The man with the girl believed to be Shasta apparently saw the police cruisers as they turned into the Denny's parking lot because he immediately got up from his table, told a waitress that he needed his check, and headed toward the restrooms with the little girl. When the man returned a few minutes later, several officers surrounded him and escorted him outside. Another officer spoke to the little girl, and she told him that her name was Shasta Groene. Shasta said that she wanted her "daddy" and that she wanted to go home.
Outside, shining their flashlights into the windows of the red Jeep, the police officers saw no sign of Dylan, dashing their hopes that he was still alive.
Shasta, who appeared to be in good physical health, was taken to a local hospital for examination and observation where she remained for the next couple of days. She was eventually reunited with her father after he traveled from Seattle to Coeur d'Alene to be with her.