Prosecutors want the courts to allow 9-year-old Shasta Groene, the only survivor of a family kidnap-murder, to testify against her alleged abductor outside his immediate presence.
The girl’s 13-year-old brother, her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were bludgeoned to death in their Idaho home last spring, and Shasta and her 9-year-old brother were kidnapped.
Court documents released Wednesday also indicate that Shasta didn’t witness the killings in her mother’s home but that she told investigators she heard of their deaths from the suspect, Joseph E. Duncan III.
Duncan, a convicted sex offender, was arrested after a waitress spotted Shasta with him at a Coeur d’Alene restaurant.
Her missing brother’s remains were later found at a remote campsite in Montana where authorities believe Duncan held the children captive and sexually abused them.
Prosecutor Bill Douglas also said he plans to ask the judge to allow Shasta to testify by alternative means, though he did not say what method of testimony he will seek. In other sex-abuse cases, children have been allowed to testify from behind a screen in court or via closed-circuit television from another location.
State law allows alternate testimony if the judge agrees that the witness would otherwise risk emotional trauma that would hinder communication.
Duncan has pleaded innocent to three counts of murder.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. They contend that Duncan killed the two adults and older brother to abduct the younger children for sex.
Federal government lawyers say they will wait until the state case is resolved before deciding on kidnapping and other potential charges.