Image: Shasta and Steve Groene
Kootenai County Sheriff's Department  /  AP
Steve Groene, left, is shown with his daughter 8-year-old Shasta Groene on Monday at the Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. Shasta's alleged kidnapper, who Shasta says repeatedly molested her and her brother, was with her for seven weeks.
updated 7/7/2005 3:38:21 PM ET 2005-07-07T19:38:21

For 8-year-old Shasta Groene, the terror is behind her. What's ahead for the little girl with the shy smile is anyone's guess.

With her mother and one older brother slain, a second brother likely dead — and traumatized herself by nearly seven weeks of captivity with a convicted sex offender — Shasta faces a new life with different family members and the psychological fallout from her ordeal.

"Shasta's doing very well," her father, Steve Groene, said Wednesday. "Certainly more than we could hope for. She's very upbeat, she's pretty healthy, she's glad to be home."

When she leaves a hospital, Shasta will benefit from a large extended family on both her mother's and father's side, who have clustered around her now.

Her father, 48, is a blues musician. Older brother Jesse, 18, is serving at least the next six months in prison on a burglary charge. Brother Vance, 20, is so freaked out by all the activity swirling around his family that he left to stay with relatives in Tacoma, Wash.

"This is all so incomprehensible," said Steve Groene, who had a new tattoo on his arm saying "In Loving Memory Slade Vincent 13" in honor of son Slade, 13, who was killed at the rural home near here where Shasta lived with her mother, two of her brothers and her mother's boyfriend. "It will take quite a lot of time for us to even realize what happened here."

Long-lasting psychological effects
Mental health experts agree with that assessment, and caution that the savage ordeal that Shasta survived is bound to have lasting impacts.

"She has witnessed horrible things," said Dr. Paul Domitor, a Spokane, Wash., psychiatrist. "These things will stay with her."

Shasta is believed to be the sole survivor among the five people in her home the night Kootenai County sheriff's officers allege Joseph Edward Duncan III appeared and bound them all. Bludgeoned to death in addition to her brother Slade were her mother, Brenda, and her mother's boyfriend, Mark McKenzie. Their bodies were found May 16.

Brother Dylan Groene, 9, was abducted with Shasta, and is believed dead. Remains found at a Montana campsite are being analyzed for positive identification.

Kootenai County officials said they believe Duncan acted alone. Sheriff Rocky Watson said he believes the motive was to acquire the children for sex.

Duncan's public defender, Lynn Nelson, did not return repeated telephone messages left by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

While it is the AP's policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault in most cases, the search for the children and Shasta's recovery were so heavily publicized that their names were already widely known.

FBI agents in St. Regis, Mont., led reporters Wednesday to a remote campsite in the Lolo National Forest where the agents believe Duncan spent at least several weeks with the children.

The site is accessible only by an old dirt logging road. About an hour's drive from Interstate 90, the small campsite, nothing more than a dirt clearing, juts out from a steep cliff and is surrounded by towering ponderosa pines. Evidence of a campfire and burned metal cans could be seen to one side, but the site otherwise was barren.

Suspect had violent history
Duncan, 42, a convicted sex offender in Washington state who lived most recently in Fargo, N.D., was on the run from an earlier child molestation charge. He was arrested Saturday at a local Denny's restaurant with Shasta.

Duncan has been charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, a crime that carries the death penalty, and likely will face additional charges.

Washington state could have tried to keep Duncan off the streets, under an involuntary commitment law for violent sexual predators that the state Legislature passed in 1990. But an evaluation upon his release from prison in 2000 found there wasn't enough evidence he would reoffend.

Duncan was sentenced to a maximum 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint in Tacoma, Wash., in 1980. Initially, the sentence was suspended and he was committed to sex offender treatment at Western State Hospital in Washington state. After 22 months, officials there said the treatment wasn't working. He was resentenced in 1982 and ultimately released in July 2000.

Even though court records show that Duncan talked about raping multiple children from the time he was 12, a psychological review in 2000 found that while Duncan was a "Level 3" high-risk offender, there was no pattern to indicate that a civil commitment proceeding should be requested.

Privacy laws prevent Kootenai Medical Center from releasing any details of Shasta's condition, but family members say she did not suffer any physical injuries.

The hospital may still be the best place for her, Domitor said. "It gives her a place of safety and security," he said. "It allows medical professionals an opportunity to talk gently with this child."

By all counts, Shasta has already been a remarkable witness. She has described for law enforcement officers the night of her abduction, helped them pinpoint the Montana campsites where she and Dylan were kept, and told them Duncan was the only person involved.

‘A normal 8-year-old girl’
"She's a normal 8-year-old girl," said brother Jesse, 18, in a pooled interview from a jail in Wallace, Idaho. "She's a little girly girl."

Jesse Groene recently pleaded guilty to a burglary charge and was sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary. But he could be released on probation in six months.

Jesse, who has spoken with his sister by telephone, said she sounded good. "Maybe she is too young for it to register in her mind," he wondered.

Steven and Brenda Groene were married in 1986 and had five children before they divorced in 2001. After the divorce, Brenda lived in a rural home owned by McKenzie. Slade, Dylan and Shasta lived with her.

Steven Groene has acknowledged heavy narcotics use in the past and was arrested once for battery. Jesse and Vance both have had problems with drugs.

From jail, Jesse Groene said the tragedy has prompted him to reform himself from a life of petty crime.

"I'm done with the life I was living," he said. "I just turned 18.... I've definitely got time to change my whole life around."

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