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Stolen in the Night: The True Story of a Family's Murder, a Kidnapping and the Child Who Survived

Stolen in the Night: The True Story of a Family's Murder, a Kidnapping and the Child Who Survived

by Gary C. King

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Gary C. King's Stolen in the Night is the horrific, grisly true crime account of a child abuser and kidnapper

Joseph Duncan had been convicted of raping and torturing a 14-year-old boy in Tacoma, Washington. On the Internet he proudly boasted of his perversions. But the system turned Duncan loose, and no one would stop him from committing an even more horrifying act...

This time, he prepared meticulously. He chose his getaway car. He chose his murder weapon and loaded a video camera. Then, when he saw young Shasta and Dylan Groene playing outside their Idaho home, he struck—killing their mother and her boyfriend, and their older brother…and vanishing into the night with Shasta and Dylan.

Detectives pored over the bloody murder scene. The FBI scrambled to find the children and the abductor. And even when Duncan was finally located, the story was not yet over: Dylan was still missing…and the depth of one man's evil was still coming horribly to light….

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429997973
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/06/2007
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 152,643
File size: 254 KB

About the Author

Gary C. King is one of America's foremost crime writers. Over 400 of his stories have appeared in crime magazines across the United States, Canada, and England, including True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, and Master Detective. His books Web of Deceit, Driven to Kill (which was nominated for an Anthony Award in the Best True Crime Book category at Bouchercon 25) and Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer were chosen as a featured selection of the True Crime Book Club. He is also the author of Blind Rage, Savage Vengeance, co-written with Don Lasseter, An Early Grave, The Texas 7, and Murder in Hollywood. A full-time writer, Mr. King is an active member of The Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and two daughters.

For the last twenty years, Gary C. King has been one of America's foremost crime writers. Over 400 of his stories have appeared in crime magazines across the United States, Canada, and England, including True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, and Master Detective. His books Web of Deceit, Driven to Kill (which was nominated for an Anthony Award in the Best True Crime Book category at Bouchercon 25) and Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer were chosen as a featured selection of the True Crime Book Club. He is also the author of Blind Rage, Savage Vengeance, co-written with Don Lasseter, An Early Grave, The Texas 7, and Murder in Hollywood. A full-time writer, Mr. King is an active member of The Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and two daughters.

Read an Excerpt

Stolen in the Night

By Gary C. King

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2007 Gary C. King
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9797-3


IDAHO — A STATE PERHAPS BEST KNOWN FOR ITS NATURAL beauty, with a topography that consists of mountains reaching elevations of eight thousand feet or more and areas, like that of Hells Canyon, where the terrain plummets to fifteen hundred feet, or Snake River Canyon, which Evil Knievel tried and failed to jump on his motorcycle. Idaho's scenery is often breathtaking, and recreational opportunities include world-class skiing, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, fishing, whitewater rafting, snowmobiling and snowboarding, to name a few. Noted outdoorsman Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of For Whom the Bell Tolls in Idaho, and in 1961 put a shotgun in his mouth and committed suicide there.

Idaho's motto is Esto perpetua, which means It is forever. The principal white settlements were established by the Jesuits in the early 1840s, and nowadays Idaho's family and religious values are heavily influenced by the Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1992, U.S. Marshals, the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents stormed the home of Randy Weaver because of firearms charges against him, and his purported affiliation with the Idaho-based white supremacy group, Aryan Nations. His wife, Vicki Weaver, and their son, Sammy, were killed in the assault, as was the family dog; when Weaver had his day in court he was acquitted of all the major charges against him, and his case is one that many Idahoans won't let the federal government forget to this day. Even though it cost the Weavers dearly, the people of Idaho generally feel that Randy Weaver and his family were heroic for exercising their individual rights in standing up to the feds.

Liberty and freedom are very important to many of Idaho's citizens, and the state's lawmakers rarely create laws that infringe upon individual or property rights. It is also common for residents to own firearms. When all is said and done, it doesn't make much sense that a convicted child molester would make a conscious decision to travel hundreds of miles from the Midwest to a state where his past deeds, if discovered, were not likely to be readily accepted, a region whose conservative residents were not likely to put out the welcome mat and allow him to assimilate into their society. On the other hand, people there tend to mind their own business and are mistrustful of government in general. Joseph Edward Duncan III had no intention of making his past sex crimes known to the state or any of its citizens, so Idaho seemed like the perfect place for him to go to carry out his mission. That is exactly what he did, and in the process his alleged criminal actions would shock and horrify the state, stun the nation and ultimately destroy an entire family.

COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO, LOCATED IN KOOTENAI COUNTY in the northern panhandle of the state, is an area blessed with natural beauty and a true four-season climate, with each season bringing its own unique splendor. Coeur d'Alene Lake is nearby, as is Lake Pend Oreille, and mountains add to the scenery. Early French fur traders named the lake Coeur d'Alene because they believed the local Indians were clever traders whose hearts were as sharp as a bradawl, a tool with a beveled tip used to make holes in wood for brads or screws.

It wasn't until Fort Sherman was established in 1878 that Coeur d'Alene began to grow and flourish, building its fortunes on logging, mining, fur trading and lake steamers. The town later became an important link on the transportation network linking the mining operations in the east, in Silver Valley, with the smelters that processed the mined ore. A major timber boom caused the population to increase dramatically in the early 1900s, and the small frontier town expanded into a political, business and recreational center. The expansion brought with it recognition, festivals, fairs and, later, unique restaurants and shopping malls.

The crime rate also grew, but was comparatively low when viewed alongside the rest of the nation. In 2003, the FBI recorded only 203 violent crimes, and only one of those was a homicide. The violent crime rate was 5.5 per 1,000 people; the area has an estimated population of 37,262.

Parents were not afraid to leave their children alone while they went into town to run errands. Children played outside without parental supervision, rode their bicycles wherever they wanted, and built forts in the nearby woods — kids there simply did all of the things that kids would normally do where they felt safe.

Two years later, the story of Joseph Edward Duncan III would change the way people thought about Coeur d'Alene.

DUNCAN ARRIVED IN KOOTENAI COUNTY SOMETIME DURING the second week of May 2005. It is not known precisely why he stopped in the Wolf Lodge Bay area, a quiet escape for nature lovers, lightly populated and located about 8 miles east of Coeur d'Alene, just off Interstate 90. Perhaps he had merely wanted to grab a bite to eat, or to rest for a while. At some point, however, he allegedly ended up on Frontage Road and drove past a small white house with green trim, the lower portion of which appeared to have been coated with stucco on one side. This was where the Groene and McKenzie family lived.

Witnesses later told the police that the Groene — McKenzie home was sometimes visited by strangers whose vehicles had broken down on the freeway — their house was the first home anyone looking for help would see after getting off Interstate 90 and onto Frontage Road. People said that the family was always happy to help a stranger in need.

The house, somewhat secluded and surrounded by trees, brush and low-lying hills, was approximately 150 yards down a dirt driveway from Frontage Road and made an easy target for someone bent on wrongdoing. Many have speculated that Duncan likely saw his next victims, Shasta Groene, 8, and her brother, Dylan, 9, playing outside the house in the unseasonably warm May weather, frolicking in the yard, or walking or riding their bikes along Frontage Road, perhaps waving at a passing motorist, or motioning to passing truckers to honk the air horns on their semis. Shasta had been wearing her bathing suit on at least one of the days that weekend, and it has been suggested that it was the sight of two young children playing in their swimming suits that brought Duncan's depraved sexual madness to the surface.

It is believed that he reconnoitered the area for at least a day or two until he found the perfect vantage point where he could watch the kids and their family from a distance without being easily seen, using a night-vision apparatus during the evening hours. While the exact timeframe isn't known, police believed that Duncan may have stalked the family for a few days after becoming comfortable with his surroundings. Perhaps he even followed them to town when they shopped or ran errands.

Throughout the weekend of May 13 — 15, Shasta and Dylan's mother, Brenda Kay Groene (pronounced "grow-knee"), 40, came and went, as did Brenda's resident boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37, and Shasta and Dylan's older brother, Slade, 13. On Sunday, May 15, 2005, the family drove into Coeur d'Alene to run errands, and then returned home, where they enjoyed a barbecue with some friends. The gathering went into the early evening hours before it broke up. Their friends went home, and the residents prepared to go to bed. It was the last time that anyone would remember seeing Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie alive.

The crime that Duncan was allegedly about to commit was out of character for him. His prior victims had been children, victims who were unable to defend themselves against an adult who, though standing 6-feet, 2-inches, weighed a mere 150 pounds. Tall and lanky, he should have been an easy match for another adult, particularly one trying to defend himself.

But he had come prepared.


PRIOR TO THE BARBECUE THAT SUNDAY, A NEIGHBOR, Robert Hollingsworth, had hired 13-year-old Slade Groene to mow the grass by his driveway. However, Hollingsworth had not had the correct change to pay Slade the agreed-upon $10 for the work. He promised to stop by the boy's house the following day and pay him.

When Hollingsworth showed up with the money early Monday evening, May 16, the house appeared eerily quiet. Only a dog barked from inside. Hollingsworth honked his horn but did not immediately get out of his vehicle. Nobody came outside as they normally did when someone pulled into their driveway. When he got out of his car, Hollingsworth walked toward the small covered porch, but stopped suddenly when he saw the dark red stains near the entrance. Upon closer examination, Hollingsworth could see a significant amount of blood on the doorway and the steps, which faced west. There were no lights visible inside the house. Hollingsworth noticed that both of the family's cars were parked in their usual places, but the car doors had been left open. Suspicious and growing very concerned, Hollingsworth rushed home and called 911. It was the second time in roughly twenty-four hours that the sheriff's department had heard from him. The first time he had called to report a suspicious, apparently abandoned white pickup truck parked near his barn.

When a team of deputies from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department arrived at 12725 East Frontage Road at 6:15 P.M., everything was just as Hollingsworth had reported. There was a considerable amount of blood on the doorway and the steps, much of it spattered. Very concerned, the deputies knocked on the door, but did not get a response. The deputies yelled for the occupants to respond, to come to the door. They walked around the house — it was built in a small clearing with one side abutting a small mountain covered with evergreen trees — and peered into windows as they checked the home's perimeter. Despite their efforts, they were unable to raise anyone inside. Based on the blood that they had seen, the deputies feared that the home's occupants might be injured and decided to enter the dwelling. Noticing that a door on the east side of the house was unlocked, they went in. The deputies were aghast at the carnage they found.

There was blood everywhere, much of it in puddles around two bodies that were sprawled on the floor. Both victims had been bound with duct tape and zip ties. The injuries appeared to be centered about the head and face of each victim. One of the victims was obviously an adolescent boy, perhaps 12 or 13 years of age, lying face down in a pool of blood. It appeared at first that he had sustained a gunshot wound to his head. A great deal of duct tape had been wrapped around his head, and was also used to bind his hands behind his back.

Next to the boy was an adult woman who appeared to be in her early forties. She, too, was lying face down in an area between the kitchen and the living room, with a severe injury to her head. She was also lying in a large pool of blood that had apparently run out of her head. Her hands were bound behind her back with duct tape, as well as with plastic zip ties, which had also been used to bind her feet.

As the deputies made their way through the house they encountered a third victim, a bald male with facial hair who appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties, lying on the living room floor with a significant amount of blood around him. Like the victims in the kitchen, his hands and feet had been bound with duct tape and zip ties, and it appeared that he, too, had died as a result of either a gunshot wound or blunt trauma to the head.

Blood spatters were everywhere, and it would take a careful crime-scene analysis to determine conclusively whether they were consistent with beating, shooting or both. The acrid smell of congealed blood was strong, and that, along with the sight of violent death, had nauseated the deputies.

They conducted a sweep of the house to determine whether there were any more injured or deceased people in the other rooms. They noted a great deal of evidence in the form of bloody footprints, bloody handprints, blood smears and droplets of blood spatter patterns in various locations, but they did not find any other people, dead or alive. They noted the presence of several firearms stored in various locations throughout the dwelling, but none in close proximity to the victims.

Mail addressed to Brenda Groene and Mark McKenzie was found outside in the mailbox next to the road, and that, as well as information found inside the house and gathered from the neighbor who had called them to the scene, suggested that the victims were Brenda Groene and her 13-year-old son, Slade, and Brenda's boyfriend, Mark McKenzie. They were told that there were two other people who lived there, both of them children: 8-year-old Shasta Groene and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan. However, there was no sign of either of them.

DETECTIVE SERGEANT BRAD MASKELL, A SIXTEEN-YEAR veteran of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, was off duty and relaxing at home when he received the call at 7:20 P.M. Lieutenant Neal Robertson and another officer, Lieutenant Kim Edmondson, told him about the crime and instructed him to respond to the scene and initiate an investigation. Maskell arrived at 8 P.M., finding Sergeant Lisa Carrington, Deputy Kevin Smart, and a number of other deputies, who briefed him on what they had found. Maskell looked around the house, taking detailed notes of what he saw and what he was told by the deputies.

Maskell and the deputies sealed off the house and left the bodies as they had found them, without making any positive identification of the victims. They closed off Frontage Road in the vicinity of the house and designated it as a crime scene. Sentries were posted to stand guard throughout the night. Maskell, as well as additional homicide investigators, would return at first light with crime-scene technicians and a representative from the coroner's office.

"We're treating this as an obvious homicide," Captain Ben Wolfinger told reporters, who had begun to show up shortly after the police activity began. Deputies kept them from getting any closer to the house, and provided them with few details.

ON MONDAY, MAY 16, 2005, LEE MCKENZIE WOOD, MARK McKenzie's mother, was at home watching the news on television when the report of a murder at Wolf Lodge flashed across the screen, along with a shot of the small white house where her son lived. Knowing that there were only two families in that area, Lee was horrified. She quickly drove to her son's home and found that Kootenai County Sheriff's Department deputies had blocked the road and cordoned off the property. She approached one of the deputies.

"There are five people in there," she said.

"No, ma'am," replied the deputy. "There are only three."

"There are five," she retorted. "Three children and two adults."

Lee and her husband, Ralph, didn't realize it yet, but the news report she saw that day would forever change both of their lives.

A few hours later, law enforcement officers arrived at her home to inform her that her son was one of the victims.

AT DAYBREAK ON TUESDAY, MAY 17, INVESTIGATORS, along with crime lab personnel, returned to the Frontage Road home. Assigned to lead the investigation, Detective Maskell and his partner, Detective Sergeant Daniel Mattos, were among the first to arrive, and they quickly made official what Maskell and the responding deputies had reported the prior evening: Three homicides of a most violent kind had occurred there.

Before the end of the first day, the dead had been positively identified as the same residents of the house tentatively identified by the deputies. Following lengthy examinations at the scene by the sheriff's department detectives and crime-lab technicians, the bodies of Brenda Kay Groene, 40, Slade Groene, 13, and Mark McKenzie, 37, were removed from the house and transported to the county morgue, where definitive autopsies would be performed. From interviews, witness statements and body temperatures of the deceased, the detectives surmised that the victims had been killed sometime either late Sunday evening, or during the morning hours of Monday.

But what had become of Shasta and Dylan? they wondered. Had they met a similar fate at another location? The investigators' first priority was finding the two missing children, hopefully alive, and then finding the person or persons responsible for committing the brutal murders.


Excerpted from Stolen in the Night by Gary C. King. Copyright © 2007 Gary C. King. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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