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Idaho suspect tied to ’97 California slaying

Idaho kidnapping and murder suspect Joseph Edward Duncan III has been linked by a fingerprint to a 1997 murder in California, the Riverside County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Idaho kidnapping and murder suspect Joseph Edward Duncan III is under investigation in the 1997 kidnapping and killing of a 10-year-old Beaumont, Calif., boy, the Riverside County sheriff said Wednesday.

Duncan, 42, is linked by a single fingerprint to the scene of the killing of Anthony Martinez, Sheriff Bob Doyle told a press conference in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Duncan was arrested last month for investigation of bludgeoning to death three people at a home near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and kidnapping Shasta Groene, 8, and her brother Dylan, 9, on May 16.  Duncan was seized when people at a restaurant recognized the girl with him. Dylan’s body was later found in Montana.

Confirmation of the fingerprint match was received Monday, the sheriff said.

“We’re pretty confident that he’s our suspect. ... This is huge,” Doyle said. “We followed up 15,000 leads over eight years.  You can imagine the elation that everybody has.”

On April 4, 1997, Anthony was forced into a white car in the town of Beaumont as his friends watched. The children were playing when a stranger offered them a dollar to help find his lost cat. Sixteen days later, the boy’s nude, bound body was found in a desert area about 70 miles to the east.

Blue-eyed stranger
The kidnapper was described at the time as blue-eyed and mustachioed, but efforts to track him down proved fruitless despite the extremely high profile of the case. Before the end of that April, authorities had evaluated more than 100 people as suspects.

Anthony’s kidnapping united Beaumont, a small town on Interstate 10 in the inland region east of Los Angeles. Yellow ribbons were tied to trees and thousands of fliers with sketches of the suspect were handed out.

After circling vultures led a ranger to Anthony’s remains in Berdoo Canyon in the Indio Hills, residents of Beaumont wept and prayed, and authorities vowed to capture the killer.

“I know we’re going to get this guy,” then-Sheriff Larry Smith pledged at the time.

Idaho, federal cases
Duncan has been charged in Idaho with kidnapping and murdering Shasta’s mother, Brenda Groene, 40, as well as the woman’s son Slade, 13, and her boyfriend Mark McKenzie, 37, at their home outside Coeur d’Alene.

Idaho had charged Duncan with kidnapping Shasta and Dylan from the home, but the state dropped those counts in anticipation of the federal government charging him with kidnapping the two children and with killing Dylan.

Federal prosecutors have said they will file charges in the abduction of the children and Dylan’s death.

Authorities have also said Shasta and Dylan were sexually assaulted.

While it is The Associated Press’ policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault in most cases, the search for Shasta and her brother was so heavily publicized that their names are widely known.

History of violence
Duncan was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Tacoma, Wash., in 1980. The term was suspended and he was put into sex offender treatment at a state hospital, but 22 months later officials said the treatment wasn’t working. He was resentenced in 1982 and served 14 years.

At the time of his arrest, Duncan was a fugitive charged with molesting a 6-year-old boy in Minnesota.

Duncan reportedly has admitted committing his first act of sexual assault 30 years ago, preying on a 5-year-old boy when he was just 12.

Duncan’s records reveal a history of inflicting violence and sexual torture upon others, particularly young boys, with his crimes escalating in their seriousness. His past shows a series of failed treatments and refusal to comply with therapists and law enforcement officials who tried to correct his behavior, which mental health evaluators diagnosed in 1980 as consistent with an antisocial personality and a sexual deviant, the Seattle Times reported.