Video: Missing children still a mystery

updated 5/21/2005 8:18:42 PM ET 2005-05-22T00:18:42

Authorities looking for two children missing from a home where three people were beaten to death dismissed a tip that the youngsters were in a van about 20 miles from the Canadian border.

Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said the reported sighting of the children from a shopkeeper in Bonners Ferry was incorrect. The boy in the van had long hair, but the boy being sought has a crew cut, he said.

Authorities said they have few clues in the disappearance of Dylan James Groene, 9, and his sister, Shasta Kay Groene, 8, who were last seen Sunday at their rural home near Coeur d’Alene.

The next evening, their mother, Brenda Kay Groene, 40, their 13-year-old brother, Slade Vincent Groene, and the mother’s boyfriend, Mark Edward McKenzie, 37, were discovered bound and bludgeoned to death in the white cinderblock home.

Searches of about 400 acres of brush and woods near the house wrapped up Thursday, but divers continued to check ponds near the home Friday, Wolfinger said.

Sheriff Rocky Watson told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane on Thursday that he believed the children were still alive, because it would not make sense for the killer or killers to leave some bodies and take others.

“I’ve got to believe they’re alive. I need to,” Watson said.

Dad begs for his kids
Also Friday, the children’s father begged for the children’s return.

“If they can see me or hear me, I want them to know I love them, I need them back with me,” Steve Groene told CNN. “Everybody’s praying for them, and all I can tell them is please hang in there. This will be over soon. They’re coming home.”

On Thursday, a concrete worker was cleared as a suspect in the slayings after authorities said he voluntarily took and passed a polygraph test during a seven-hour interview with investigators.

Robert Roy Lutner, 33, had visited the house Sunday where the victims — Brenda Kay Groene, 40; her 13-year-old son, Slade; and her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37 — were discovered the following day.

Lutner told investigators he saw the three alive when he attended a “barbecue-type get-together” at the home Sunday night, Wolfinger said.

Probation violation warrant
Lutner remained in custody on a probation violation warrant unrelated to the slayings and child disappearances, authorities said.

County Coroner Dr. Robert West said the victims were bludgeoned to death. He would not say when they died or what kind of weapon was used.

Wolfinger urged anyone who attended the Sunday gathering to contact the sheriff’s office. Authorities have received pledges of more than $70,000 for a reward fund.

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