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Frustrated dad says Shasta 'doing well'

Police believe kidnapping suspect also responsible for murders

Suspect Joseph E. Duncan appears before First District Magistrate Judge Scott Wayman via video.


Sex Crimes
Justice and Rights
Capital Punishment

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (CNN) -- The father of an 8-year-old girl who police believe spent seven weeks with a convicted sex offender said Wednesday she is "doing well" and is glad to be home.

But the fate of her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, was unknown. Remains believed to be his were found in the Lolo National Forest in western Montana, and are being analyzed by the FBI.

But Steve Groene told reporters he still has hope that his son is alive.

"Until someone tells us 100 percent sure that that's Dylan, we still feel that he's out there and he's safe and is going to come home," Groene told reporters.

He was reunited with his daughter, Shasta, on Saturday after workers and a patron at a Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene spotted her in the company of Joseph Edward Duncan III, 42.

"Shasta is doing well," her father said. "It's certainly more than we could have hoped for. She's very upbeat, seems to be pretty healthy. She's really glad to be home."

He expressed gratitude to the community for its support and to those at Denny's who called police.

"Those people are heroes," he said. "Shasta wanted me to thank them."

Groene voiced frustration that Duncan and other sex offenders are "allowed out in public" despite their criminal records.

"People need to get on their congressmen, their senators and even the president," he said. "This needs to change now."

Police: 'Right now, it's just Duncan'

Shasta and her brother were reported missing May 16, when their mother, older brother and mother's boyfriend were found bound and beaten to death in the mother's Coeur d'Alene home.

A police spokesman said Wednesday that investigators believe Duncan is also responsible for the murders.

"The investigative team has stated that at this time, and according to the evidence they have at hand, they believe that Joseph Duncan is the only person responsible for these crimes," said Kootenai County Sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger.

Wolfinger told reporters that additional charges against Duncan are being prepared. A preliminary hearing for Duncan is scheduled for July 19, he said.

Duncan was charged Tuesday with two counts of kidnapping with the intent to rape, commit an unnatural act or perform a lewd and lascivious act upon a child under the age of 16.

Wolfinger said Duncan's attorney is expected to seek a change of venue in the case, fearing a fair trial would be difficult after the release of a criminal complaint containing lurid details obtained from the little girl.

Wolfinger said Lynn Nelson, Duncan's public defender, had sought to have the criminal complaint sealed, but Judge Scott Wayman found no reason to do so.

Nelson had no comment Tuesday about the document.

An investigative report released Tuesday for the first time placed Duncan at the home on the day her family was killed in May. (Full story)

"It's really given investigators a huge leap forward on the entire investigation, not just the children, but the triple homicide," Wolfinger said.

How Duncan came to be at the family's house remains "the great mystery," he said, noting that while investigators are not closing the door on anyone else's involvement, "right now, it's just Duncan."

Aunt: 'She's smiling'

Shasta is speaking with only one investigator, who is trained to deal with child victims, Wolfinger said.

While she never used the term rape with investigators, according to the complaint, she provided graphic details about what allegedly happened to her and her brother.

"The investigator and Shasta certainly have a rapport, and they're able to discuss these gruesome details at a level you and I couldn't imagine," Wolfinger said.

Meanwhile, Shasta continues to recover at a local hospital.

"She's smiling; she's playing with her cousins," Shasta's aunt, Misty Cooper, told CNN.

"She's a real strong little girl," added her grandmother, Darlene Marie Torres.

Torres and Cooper, along with Shasta's father, Steve, have all said they had never heard of Duncan.

Duncan's first court appearance

Duncan made his first court appearance Tuesday by video link with Kootenai County District Court, where Wayman read the charges against him.

In addition to the charges in Idaho, Duncan also was charged in Minnesota with being a fugitive from child molestation and attempted molestation charges filed earlier this year.

He had already been charged in Washington with failure to file a change of address with the state sex offender registry. When he was 16, he was convicted in Washington of raping a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to 20 years.

Wayman set a $2 million bail on the fugitive charge, and no bail for the kidnapping charges, which could result in life in prison or the death penalty for Duncan, if convicted.

CNN's Rusty Dornin and Sean Callebs contributed to this report

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