Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Edward Duncan III

The First Plea Deal

Joseph Edward Duncan III in court
Joseph Edward Duncan III in court

Sex offender, pedophile, kidnapper and murderer Joseph Edward Duncan III, through his lawyers, worked out a deal with Idaho prosecutors just as his trial was about to begin in October 2006 for crimes he committed in that state. As a result of the deal, he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and to three counts of first-degree kidnapping in the murders of Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie, and for the abductions of Shasta and Dylan Groene for sexual purposes.

In October 2006, before jury selection could be completed, Duncan worked out a stipulated agreement through his attorney in which he described how he had stalked his victims' family for two days after choosing them at random after seeing young Shasta playing outside her home in a bathing suit. Duncan had then taken Shasta and Dylan deep into the Lolo National Forest, where he tortured them for weeks. He molested, tortured and hung Dylan during the course of the horrendous ordeal, eventually murdering the boy and disposing of his remains in the forest.

"This agreement was made possible because of a brave little nine-year-old girl who was willing to confront Duncan face-to-face in the courtroom," Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas said. "A lot of hard work went into this."

After the guilty pleas were accepted, Duncan was allowed to make a statement.

"I've thought a lot about what I wanted to say," Duncan said. "I have nothing to say."

Duncan showed no remorse throughout the proceedings.


By the terms of Duncan's stipulated deal with Idaho prosecutors, he was required to cooperate with Kootenai County investigators in the murder and kidnapping aspects of the cases involving Shasta and Dylan. It was agreed that his guilty pleas could not be withdrawn, and if he was not convicted in similar pending cases in federal court the State of Idaho could hold a death sentence trial in which Shasta would not be required to testify. Duncan was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole, pending the outcome of the federal cases against him.

According to KTLA News, Duncan was convicted of the murders and kidnappings a year later in federal court after prosecutors showed jurors videos that Duncan had made in which the molestation and torture of Dylan, including Dylan being hanged until unconscious and near death before being revived, were monstrously recorded. The federal jury also heard that Duncan shot Dylan point-blank in the head while his sister, Shasta, watched in horror. Duncan received three death sentences in federal court, as well as nine life terms under varying charges for the murders of four members of the family and the kidnapping of Shasta and Dylan.


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