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A 58-year-old man who was facing execution for terrorizing an Idaho family — torturing and murdering a 9-year-old boy after also killing his brother, mom, and his mom’s boyfriend — has died of brain cancer, officials said.
Joseph Edward Duncan III, who was sentenced to death in 2008, died Sunday on death row at the Terra Haute Federal Correctional Institution, according to a statement from the US Justice Department.
He had been diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer.
On May 16, 2005, Duncan murdered Dylan Groene’s mother, Brenda, his 13-year-old brother Slade and his mom’s boyfriend Mark McKenzie at their home just outside of Coeur d’Alene.
Duncan then kidnapped Dylan and his 8-year-old sister and took them into the Lolo National Forest in Montana, where he tortured both of them and murdered the boy.
He was collared after the girl was recovered July 3, 2005, at a Denny’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene, officials said.
In 2006, Duncan pleaded guilty in state court to the murders of the family, but his sentencing was stayed pending the federal prosecution for his crimes against the two younger children.
Duncan later pleaded guilty to the crimes against the kids in December 2007.
In 2011, he also pled guilty in a California state court for the 1997 murder of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez and was sentenced to two life sentences.
Duncan also admitted to allegedly killing two sisters, aged 11 and 9 years old, in 1996 in Bothell, Washington — but was never prosecuted due to the sentences he had already received.
US District Court Judge Edward Lodge imposed the death sentence after the jury returned a verdict of death on all three counts for which Duncan was eligible.
“The sun is brighter today, and my soul is lighter,” Anthony’s mother, Diana, said, according to a statement by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
“The world is a more beautiful place without the evil that is Joseph Duncan. God chose to make his end a long suffering and I believe that is fitting. The horror of his thoughts consumed him,” she added.
Anthony’s father Ernesto said: “While I would’ve liked to witness his execution, knowing he is now standing before God being held accountable for what he has done, what he did to my son, and the horrible crimes he committed to others, that’s the real justice.”
Anthony was playing in a neighbor’s yard with his younger brother and some pals when he was abducted by Duncan on April 4, 1997, officials said.
“Duncan first tried to grab Anthony’s brother, but he freed himself. As Anthony intervened, Duncan grabbed him, held a knife to his head, and forced him into a car and drove away,” the statement said.
After his arrest in the Idaho case, DNA linked him to Anthony’s murder, which occurred while Duncan was on parole for a rape charge in Washington state, KXLY reported.
He hatched a scheme to kidnap the children in Idaho, buying night vision goggles and stalking the family. He recorded many of his horrific crimes against the Groene kids.
One veteran investigator said the chilling video “shook him to his core,” KXLY reported.
“This crime was horrendous and its impact on the families, the community, the jurors, court staff, our litigation team, and law enforcement were far reaching,” said Acting US Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr.
“While his death will not bring back the lives cut so tragically short or remove the indelible memories of his unspeakable acts, perhaps death will now allow space for some degree of healing, peace, and closure,” he added.
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