Eight-year-old Shasta Groene made headlines in 2005 when she was rescued from the clutches of an infamous serial killer, making her the sole survivor of brutal Idaho murder and kidnapping case.
In the 17 intervening years, she has largely disappeared from the public eye, living in Boise. “With four sons under the age of 7 and a fifth due in August, the 25-year-old spends most of her days in no-fuss mom mode,” according to People Magazine.
She is now speaking out about her harrowing experience as the focus of the first episode of this season’s “People Magazine Investigates.” The two-hour premiere was set to air at 7 p.m. Monday on the Investigation Discovery channel and discovery+.
“Now Shasta is determined to set the record straight despite the pain that still haunts her,” a People Magazine article states. “She has vivid memories of the night Joseph Duncan III, a violent sexual predator out on parole, sneaked into her family’s home in rural Wolf Lodge, Idaho, and killed her mother, stepfather and one of her brothers ...”
With the TV special airing, here’s what viewers should know about the case.
Lawn mowing led to discovery
The Groene family lived about 8 miles west of Coeur d’Alene. One of their neighbors went to their house to discuss paying Shasta’s brother for mowing his lawn, according to The Spokesman-Review. He found blood on the porch.
“I went to the door and saw that door and that porch,” Bob Hollingsworth told The Spokesman-Review. “I butcher lambs and I know what real blood looks like. I knew somebody had been murdered here.”
Hollingsworth called police, who discovered the bodies of 40-year-old Brenda Groene, Mark McKenzie and 13-year-old Slade Groene inside.
Missing from the scene were Brenda’s youngest children, 9-year-old Dylan and Shasta.
Shasta was the only survivor
Forty-eight days after the killings, Shasta and a man named Joseph Edward Duncan were eating at a Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene. A waitress recognized Shasta and called the police, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Shasta gave police information about the Montana campsite where Duncan held her and her brother, according to a Seattle Times story. They found the burned remains of Dylan off a nearby Forest Service road.
Duncan later told investigators that he had seen Shasta and Dylan while driving by their home. He then stalked the family for weeks leading up to the murders and kidnapping.
Duncan died last year
While sitting on death row, the 58-year-old Duncan died on March 28, 2021, from brain cancer. He had declined treatment while in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan described Duncan’s case as “the only federal death penalty case in Idaho history,” according to The Associated Press.
Internet sleuths helped tie him to another
The Idaho family members weren’t his only victims. Duncan confessed to the 1997 killing and sexual assault of 10-year-old Anthony Michael Martinez in Beaumont, California.
Duncan asked a group of boys for help finding his lost cat, according to The Seattle Times, but when they refused, he forced Anthony Martinez into his vehicle. The boy’s body was found two weeks later.
The confession came in 2005 after true crime bloggers noticed the composite sketch of Martinez’s killer looked strikingly similar to Duncan, according to The Seattle Times. Police were alerted and matched Duncan’s fingerprints with prints found on the boy.
More victims could be out there
Shasta Groene told police that Duncan had told her about other killings he had committed, including the 1996 slayings of 11-year-old Sammiejo White and her 9-year-old half-sister, Carmen Cubias, in Seattle, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Duncan never was charged in those killings but he confessed to beating two unnamed girls to death.