Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Edward Duncan III

Partial Duncan Timeline

Duncan's Fargo, ND mugshot from sex the offender database
Duncan's Fargo, ND mugshot
from sex the offender

The man with Shasta was identified shortly after his arrest as Joseph Edward Duncan III, a 42-year-old fugitive sex offender from Fargo, North Dakota. He would initially be charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, for which the maximum penalty in Idaho is death or life in prison. Additional charges would come later as the evidence warranted including, initially, three counts of first-degree murder.

In building their background on Duncan, investigators learned that he was born on February 25, 1963 in Tacoma, Washington, where he was also raised. His first run-in with the law occurred in 1978 when he was 15-years-old. In that incident he raped a nine-year-old boy at gunpoint, and the following year he was arrested driving a stolen car.

He was sentenced as a juvenile and sent to Dyslin's Boys' ranch in Tacoma, where he told a therapist who was assigned to his case that he had bound and sexually assaulted six boys, according to a report by the Associated Press. He also told the therapist that he estimated that he had raped 13 younger boys by the time he was 16.

In 1980 Duncan was sentenced to 20 years in prison for raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint. Fourteen years later he was paroled on the condition that he have no contact with minor children and was sent to a halfway house in Seattle so that he could eventually, hopefully, return to society as a productive citizen. It didn't appear that he was capable of going straight, however, and any hope of him returning to society as a normal citizen quickly vanished. He violated his parole in 1996 by using marijuana and getting caught, and for possession of a firearm. He was sent to jail for 30 days, and then released.

Sammiejo White and Carmen Cubias
Sammiejo White and Carmen Cubias

During that same timeframe, in July 1996, Sammiejo White, 11, and Carmen Cubias, nine, half-sisters from Seattle, were last seen leaving a motel room near downtown where they had been staying. Their bodies were found nearly two years later, in February 1998. Although Duncan wasn't viewed as a suspect in their disappearances and deaths at that time, given the circumstances surrounding the Shasta and Dylan Groene case his background and movements would be carefully scrutinized in that case and others.

Deborah Palmer, seven-years-old, was last seen walking to school in Oak Harbor, Washington on March 26, 1997. Her body washed up on a beach five days later. Duncan would also be looked at in that case to determine whether he could be linked to Deborah's disappearance and death. Duncan, on March 31, 1997, the date that Deborah's body was found, stole his girlfriend's car and disappeared.

Anthony Martinez
Anthony Martinez

While sitting in jail in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho following his arrest in connection with the Wolf Lodge murders and child abductions, Duncan was quickly connected with the unsolved disappearance, rape and death of ten-year-old Anthony Martinez of Beaumont, California during an interview with FBI agents, according to Globe magazine. Agents were questioning him about his possible involvement in other cases that were similar to the Groene case, and he purportedly told them about the Martinez boy in Riverside County in Southern California where he had apparently fled to after stealing his girlfriend's car in Washington. He reportedly was visiting his father in Highland, California, only 22 miles from Beaumont, at the time Martinez disappeared.

Anthony Martinez disappeared on April 4, 1997 while playing with his younger brother and several friends in an alley behind their home. A man apparently approached the boys and offered them money to help him find his lost cat.

"He first went after Anthony's brother, but that boy got away," Beaumont Police Lt. Mitch White told Globe magazine. "He got Anthony."

According to Anthony's brother as related by Lt. White, the man threatened Anthony with a knife and forced him into a white 1986 Chrysler New Yorker sedan and drove away. Anthony's bound naked body was found fifteen days later, on April 19, in a shallow grave. Recently and in conjunction with the Groene investigation, Duncan's partial right thumbprint found on duct tape from Anthony's body nearly nine years later was determined to be Duncan's. A wanted poster that was circulated in Southern California at the time of Anthony's death depicted a suspect that bore a striking resemblance to Duncan.

By August 27, 1997, Duncan had made his way to his half-sister's house in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was arrested for parole violations. He was returned to Washington and sent back to prison, but was released less than three years later. On July 21, 2000, Duncan moved to Fargo, North Dakota.

Realizing that they were dealing with a probable serial killer, the cops found themselves wondering why Duncan had ever been released from prison. He was clearly an example of a habitual offender who had managed to slip through the cracks of the system.


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