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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
BREAKING NEWS: MISSING GIRL FOUND
Aired July 2, 2005 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Idaho police plan an update this hour on the Groene children. One found alive, Shasta Groene; the other one, Dylan Groene, still missing. Well, workers apparently discovered the girl, some restaurant workers found her early this morning not far from her home, just about two miles from their home. The man she was with, Joseph Duncan, has been charged with kidnapping. He is a registered sex offender. Shasta's brother, Dylan, who also disappeared after their family members were murdered six weeks ago, again, still remains missing.
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We're continuing a look at our developing story. In moments, we're expecting a press conference to take place in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Right there, folks are getting ready. In fact, that's Captain Ben Wolfinger right there stepping up to the mike to update us on the ongoing search for 9-year-old Dylan and now 8-year-old -- his 8-year- old sister, found alive earlier this morning.
CAPT. BEN WOLFINGER, KOOTENAI COUNTY POLICE: With me right now, Tim Fuhrman from the FBI out of Salt Lake City came up for today, and of course you know Captain Wayne Longo from the state police. Sheriff's department continues to do this investigation. Right now, we've obtained a search warrant for the vehicle. The vehicle that was driven by Mr. Duncan was a stolen red 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had been stolen from St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 4th of this year. It had stolen plates on it. The plates were stolen out of Newton County, Missouri, on April 27th, actually a few days before the vehicle itself was stolen. Investigators are continuing to speak with Shasta and gain information, following the leads.
I'm available for questions at this point.
QUESTION: Have you found Dylan yet?
QUESTION: Do you have any leads?
WOLFINGER: We have some ideas. But, you know, the investigators are going to have to follow those up at this point.
WOLFINGER: Unfortunately we don't think so. That's something we have to confirm, though.
WOLFINGER: Well, our initial information is that he may be deceased. But until we can get that confirmed absolutely, you know, we're just still out there looking for him.
WOLFINGER: I can't disclose our sources at this point.
QUESTION: What has Shasta told you, if anything, about what has happened the last six weeks?
WOLFINGER: Well, that's something -- investigators are still with her, and it's a slow process. You have to understand, she's a little girl, and she's obviously been through a pretty traumatic time, and it's a slow process to interview a victim like that.
QUESTION: Any more information on where they've been the last six weeks?
WOLFINGER: No, not at this point. You know, and that's something that will come out as we get through this, through the first day or two.
WOLFINGER: No, not at this point.
QUESTION: Ben, besides stopping for breakfast or coffee at a Denny's this morning, what were they doing back here in Coeur d'Alene?
WOLFINGER: Well, that's something we hope to gain either from Mr. Duncan or from Shasta as the day goes on and the interviews go on. So it's just going to take some time to get through all that and get that information back out to me and the command staff.
QUESTION: Has he been questioned, Mr. Duncan?
WOLFINGER: I know investigators talked to him real briefly this morning before he was booked at the jail, but they were focusing initially on Shasta.
QUESTION: And he's been cooperative?
WOLFINGER: I couldn't tell you if he's been cooperative or uncooperative. I know he was taken into custody without any incidents.
WOLFINGER: I don't know that.
QUESTION: Has Steve Groene been reunited with his daughter at this point?
WOLFINGER: I understand he's back in town, and he's been with investigators as well. So I couldn't answer that for certain.
QUESTION: Ben, initially, you said this was not a random crime. Have you changed your mind now?
WOLFINGER: Well, I think random or nonrandom is something we'll learn as we gather the information. Where Mr. Duncan came from, what his relationship may have been or may not have been with the family, it's just going to take time to put all that together right now, Eric.
WOLFINGER: I really don't at this point.
QUESTION: Ben, if you feel like that Dylan may be dead, do you know -- can you tell us how long he may be dead?
WOLFINGER: I don't know that. I don't know that. That something the investigators are going to have to follow up on and really verify everything at this point.
QUESTION: Ben, has that taken any of the euphoria off that we saw a couple of hours ago, that it may not come to a totally successful conclusion?
WOLFINGER: Oh, I don't know about that. I think we're just happy right now that we've got Shasta here and, you know, there's still that unknown out there. You know, until we get totally confirmed, you know, we're not going to go anywhere with that.
QUESTION: Do you have a motive you can talk about yet?
WOLFINGER: Yeah, we don't have a motive at this point. That's something -- motive sometimes is the last thing you develop in a crime like this. It just takes all the investigation -- like I said, motive's just sometimes the last item.
QUESTION: Has Shasta confirmed that she was in the house when the murders occurred?
WOLFINGER: I don't know exactly what she's told the investigators at this time. They haven't been available to me to ask the investigators themselves.
QUESTION: Was she taken to the Kootenai County Medical Center?
QUESTION: Can you say anything about here medical...
WOLFINGER: What's that?
QUESTION: ...her medical condition. Do you have information on...
WOLFINGER: I understand that she was in good health -- generally good health when they first found her. She was at the Denny's having a meal. So, I mean, that tells you something about her status.
QUESTION: Was she taken to the medical center for a checkup?
WOLFINGER: Yes, she was taken to Kootenai Medical Center for a checkup.
QUESTION: Do you know if she's been released yet?
WOLFINGER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Do you know what she was eating?
WOLFINGER: I have no idea.
QUESTION: Ben, any indication yet whether Mr. Duncan may be involved in the homicides themselves and whether you're looking at that?
WOLFINGER: Yeah, we're going to look at that, obviously. That's just part of the whole package here is that here we have a suspect with one of the missing children. He's certainly going to be looked at in that package of this heinous combination of crimes. But we haven't determined exactly what his role is or where he comes to fit in this thing.
QUESTION: Does he have a violent criminal background?
WOLFINGER: He's a registered sex offender out of Minnesota, but I don't know about all his background. He does have a rape conviction, so I would consider that pretty violent, Jack.
QUESTION: Do you have any addresses (INAUDIBLE)
WOLFINGER: Just in Fargo.
QUESTION: No street addresses?
WOLFINGER: I don't have it here with me right now, Susan.
QUESTION: Has he ever lived here?
WOLFINGER: Not that I'm aware of. QUESTION: Ben, there's been some speculation that perhaps Duncan may have ripped off some of the wanted or the missing signs from the Denny's when he went in. Is that true?
WOLFINGER: That's the first I'd heard that one. That's purely speculation. You might have to talk to the Denny's people about that.
QUESTION: Ben, any indication of whether Shasta's going to remain at the hospital all day and then overnight or be...
WOLFINGER: No indication at this point, Toby.
QUESTION: Ben, did you say you knew where he was -- where the boy was right now?
WOLFINGER: No, we didn't say. We've got some possible leads, and the investigators are going to follow those leads.
QUESTION: How many officers responded this morning when they got the call? I imagine that the waitress or --
WOLFINGER: Well, there were three city officers initially on the scene of the Denny's call. And then once they confirmed it was Shasta, then obviously all the investigators were called in bright and early this morning.
QUESTION: Did they go inside and confirm, or the waitress came out? How did that work?
WOLFINGER: The officers went inside and confirmed.
QUESTION: And did they take her right then?
QUESTION: How long will it be before you'll secure those search warrants, come up with something inside the vehicle and then be able to come back and tell us all the neat and wonderful stuff?
WOLFINGER: Well, the state forensics team is processing the vehicle. Remember, it took four and a half days to process the house. I'm sure it won't take four and a half days to process the vehicle, but it's going to take some time. Forensic evidence has to go to the lab. It's going to take time to get that information back. So, you know, we just don't know what the time frame's going to be at this point, Toby.
QUESTION: Is there any indication this morning that you might have to actually go back out to the house and reprocess that in any way today?
WOLFINGER: Well, we don't know at this point yet, Toby. It's just too early in today's investigation. We still have maintained an active search warrant on that house, and it's under guard and has been since we got the initial -- well, since we got the initial call on the 16th of May. QUESTION: Has your fingerprint evidence returned yet? And does any of it match anything?
WOLFINGER: I couldn't tell you -- speak to exactly what the fingerprint evidence has come back and hasn't. I know that initially, some of the fingerprints came back as people who lived in the house. But I don't know if anything has come back to anyone else that is involved.
WOLFINGER: I don't know at this point. We're going to let the investigators follow those leads.
QUESTION: Is the waitress going to get a reward?
WOLFINGER: I don't know. That's a good question. And I'll leave -- maybe Mr. Fuhrman would like to speak to that.
TIM FUHRMAN, FBI: We will take a look at the facts and circumstances and determine whether or not there are individuals who are potentially going to get a reward.
While I'm up here, I would like to note that I think all of you realize the tremendous efforts that have been made by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, the Idaho State Police, and the FBI, and the men and women of all of those organizations in the last six weeks. I was up here six weeks ago. We committed to the family that we would continue our extensive investigative efforts to locate Dylan and Shasta. We also committed to trying to determine the perpetrators of these particular acts against them. We will remain with that commitment.
We are looking at a number of investigative leads, which I can't get into right now and tell you what those investigative leads are, to determine the situation involving Dylan.
I think you have to also, in addition to recognizing the efforts of law enforcement, you have to recognize the efforts of the community, here in this particular area, that have given us a number of tips, a number of leads. The people of northern Idaho have provided a tremendous support to the law enforcement, you know, all the investigators that have been involved in this investigation, because of the care and the concern that they have shown.
The volunteers that came in to the Kootenai County sheriff's office, I think that speaks very highly of the people here in northern Idaho. We are going to continue with the FBI's commitment. We will put all of our investigative resources, as we've had.
Over the course of this investigation, more than 100 people have been involved in it, from not only here in Idaho, but throughout the country. Our lab in Quantico, I think, did a fantastic job in processing the crime scene. The Idaho State Police and the Kootenai County sheriff's office have done a great job in gathering evidence along with the FBI investigators. We will continue down that same path. The cooperation that we've had in this particular investigation has been outstanding and I have no doubt that it will continue, as we move into this next phase of the investigation.
QUESTION: Obviously, Mr. Duncan has had several state felonies and convictions. Is there anything on a federal level? Was this guy on your radar screen at all?
FUHRMAN: There was an unauthorized-flight-to-avoid-prosecution warrant filed against him out of North Dakota in connection with the state charges.
QUESTION: Was this --
QUESTION: Was that a federal charge?
FUHRMAN: Unauthorized flight to avoid prosecution is a federal charge.
FUHRMAN: I'm not going to get into that [inaudible] whose name or may or may not have come up in this investigation.
QUESTION: So, his name wasn't necessarily a tip that came in, you can't get into that?
FUHRMAN: I'm not going to get into that at all.
QUESTION: What about -- how many FBI officers have been working on this case within the last week?
FUHRMAN: I would suspect we've had -- most of the personnel from the Coeur d'Alene field office have been involved. We've had support employees --when you say FBI officers, we have -- we don't really have FBI officers, we have FBI agents, we have FBI support employees, we have evidence technicians, we have investigative analysts. Within the last week, I know we have rotated some people in and out, but we have retained a fairly strong commitment to this particular case.
QUESTION: Would anybody like to comment on the fact that it was sort of almost a random sighting in Coeur d'Alene that found Shasta, is that something --
FUHRMAN: I think -- what I would comment on is that's one of the reasons why we put the wanted -- the posters out there, missing kids, we put the Amber Alerts out there. Many times these cases are only solved through random sightings. And when individuals see those pictures, those posters, those alerts, those TV reports often enough, for whatever reason, it may become ingrained in their memory.
And this is not, for sure, the first time the situation has happened where there was a random sighting of either a wanted person or a missing person and there's no question, in my mind, that the intense publicity would have probably contributed to the safe find -- you know, the safe apprehension, or not really apprehension, the safe recovery of Shasta. I think with respect to Shasta, you have to remember, this is a young girl, who has obviously been through a lot. And with respect to Groene family, they have been through a lot and respecting their privacy is probably a good idea. We will not comment beyond that, with regard to Shasta's current medical condition. That's not for us to comment on.
QUESTION: From the federal standpoint, how disappointed or surprised are you that just across the border in Washington state the Amber Alert was not put into effect?
FUHRMAN: I'm not going to comment on anything that happened at the state level. The decisions that are made at the state level are -- you have to ask the state officials about that.
QUESTION: The way the investigation was going, I know you don't want to get into specifics, but do you think you would have found her without a random sighting I mean, the way things were going?
FUHRMAN: I'm not going to speculate on whether we would have or would not have found her. I can tell you that the men and women in law enforcement, the people in FBI are quite happy that she has been found, no matter how the circumstances that she was found.
QUESTION: Ben, do you know if your -- your current efforts, is that taking you out of state, when you said you're looking at following up leads as far as Dylan's location.
WOLFINGER: I'm not going to discuss where we're going with the leads, where investigators are working. That's just -- that'd be inappropriate at this time. We're going to let investigators follow those leads and when they get something solid, then we'll be back to report it.
QUESTION: And are you looking at anybody else? Has anybody else besides Duncan been charged?
WOLFINGER: Well, that's still part of the investigative leads they've got to follow up on. So, if we get a name of somebody that's a solid suspect and we need to get his picture our there -- you guys will be the first ones to hear it.
QUESTION: When Duncan was taken into custody, did they find any methamphetamine on him?
WOLFINGER: I have no idea if they found any drugs on him or not. He wasn't charged with any procession charges.
QUESTION: Ben, was has the Groene family been told about Dylan's whereabouts?
WOLFINGER: They've told the -- our preliminary investigation, our preliminary information is that he is deceased and that's all, at this point. See, I've been told the same thing you have.
QUESTION: The relatives said on TV this morning that foreign DNA was found on one of the victim's bodies. Can you comment on that?
WOLFINGER: I have no information on that, Mike.
QUESTION: Ben, we're being told the Fargo police is searching Duncan's house. Do you have any information on that?
WOLFINGER: No. I don't.
QUESTION: Ben, any evidence that the child was sexually assaulted?
WOLFINGER: I don't have any information on that stuff.
QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of how crowded the Denny's was when all this happened?
WOLFINGER: No idea. Ten minutes to 2:00 at Denny's is usually a pretty busy time, that's bar breakup. So, it's usually a pretty busy time.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Mr. Duncan was not living in Coeur d'Alene?
WOLFINGER: We don't believe he was living in Couer d'Alene. Our last known address for him was Fargo, North Dakota.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea when he was last there?
WOLFINGER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Was this red jeep seen at the Groene home...
WOLFINGER: I don't know that and that's something I'm sure that the investigators will be following up on.
QUESTION: If you don't believe he was living in Coeur d'Alene, whose apartment, house or whatever was he staying at? In other words, do you believe there's another person involved?
WOLFINGER: Well, we just don't know that yet. That's part of what they've got to follow up on today and gathering all that information.
You have to understand, we're really young into this investigation and you know, this is a huge break for us, but we'll throw all the resources back at it and you know, we've got a ton of new leads to follow.
QUESTION: Have you looked at his Web site?
WOLFINGER: I haven't. No. I understand he has one, but --
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Can you confirm the name of the Denny's waitress?
WOLFINGER: I don't have it. I don't have it. QUESTION: Can you spell out what his Web site is, please?
WOLFINGER: It's FifthNail.com. F-I-F-T-H-N-A-I-L.
QUESTION: And you guys are certain that's his Web site?
WOLFINGER: That's the information we have.
QUESTION: Do you know if the abduction of the children have anything to do with actively using the Web site?
WOLFINGER: I have no idea.
QUESTION: And how would you describe that Web site?
WOLFINGER: I don't know, I haven't looked at it so --
That it? Great. 2:00. Wayne, do you want to make a comment?
WAYNE LONG, IDAHO STATE POLICE: The only thing I would say, I would echo what Tim and Ben have both said, is that all the resources that we've had committed to this case are continuing, it's just a different lead that we have now, different focus.
I think we're at a point today, where the safe return of Shasta is just -- you know, we're ecstatic about it and are we would be hopeful that everything would end that way.
And I'd comment that nobody is letting up on this, even with the Fourth of July weekend, which is obviously a busy time for all of us, especially local law enforcement.
We're still committed to putting all the resources from the state police and the sheriff's department and the FBI into the leads as they develop. And like Ben just said, this is very early on and a new turn in this case. And we don't really know where it's going to go, but I can tell you from the state police and the FBI and the sheriff's department, from the resources that I've seen, having been involved with this case from the very beginning, the investigators are so enthused with this right now, there's no holding them back.
Until everybody has all the answers that, you know, you folks want and we want, there's nobody going to rest with this and so, I can assure you that, that's going to continue.
And I thank you guys, like Tim mentioned, sometimes these cases are made with the help of the media and those photos being out there could very well have been the thing that turned this. And you know, we're just thankful for you guys and the cooperation and all the assistance for that, because that's really helped make our job a lot easier and reunited a daughter with her family and that's what we all wanted to see happen.
So, thanks, folks.
QUESTION: Thanks. WOLFINGER: OK. A couple of housekeeping items: Next briefing, 2:00 p.m. and if this weather continues to blow like this and blows in a storm, we'll be in building 19 over here, OK? That will get us out of the weather.
All right. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right. No doubt about it, the community has certainly helped bringing a break in this case, another update coming from the Kootenai Sheriff's Department and possibly even another FBI agent, as we saw in that press conference about three hours from now.
Meantime, while Shasta Groene is now safe and apparently receiving some medical attention -- this is the 8-year-old who has been missing along with her brother, 9-year-old Dylan, for now, six weeks -- unfortunately Dylan has still not been located. And we heard from Captain Ben Wolfinger just moments ago that he said, quote, "Dylan may be deceased."
Let's bring in our Don Clark, who's a former FBI special agent in charge. And Don, we know that investigators like to use their words very carefully, especially in public forums like press conferences just like this. So when we hear that Captain Wolfinger would say that Dylan, quote, "May be deceased," they certainly must have some information leading them to the conclusion that it is likely that the little boy is deceased, would you say?
DON CLARK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, you don't want to really guess on these things, Fredricka. It's possible that they could very well have some information that might tell them one way or the other which way the things are leaning to. Trust me, this is really crunch time for the law enforcement community, because they got themselves -- they got their hands on an individual who could cause total solution to this case or certainly part of it. And right now, though, their primary objective has to be the little boy. And I don't think that they want to go out on a limb and make any guesses about it until they have conclusive evidence.
WHITFIELD: Yeah. Hope is that Dylan Groene is certainly still alive and out there. It's just alarming when you hear the captain say that he may be deceased. It kind of makes you take pause.
The man who was with, allegedly, Shasta Groene early this morning, just before 2:00 a.m., Pacific time, in that Denny's restaurant was Joseph Duncan. He's a 42-year-old who has an extensive criminal history in child molestation, sexual assaults, et cetera. Apparently, the captain described that they do now have a search warrant for Joseph Duncan's vehicle. It was a stolen red Jeep Cherokee, stolen from Minnesota. They'll be going through this vehicle, looking for all kinds of physical evidence, right, Don? And perhaps even comparing the evidence they may be able to obtain from this vehicle from evidence they were able to obtain from the murder crime scene, which was the Groene's household, and that took place six weeks ago.
CLARK: You're absolutely right, Fredricka. This vehicle is a gold mine for them in terms of being able to collect evidence. And they will take this vehicle all the way down to bare bones, strip it in every place to try to find every piece of anything that they can that may be evidence. They won't throw away anything. Bathroom cleaners will be used, toothpicks, whatever it takes to try to get the most-minute piece of evidence, because that could lead to the total conclusion to this case.
WHITFIELD: And while we know right now they've charged him with kidnapping, any kind of evidence they are able to glean, compare from the vehicle to the original -- to the murder crime scene, that will help them determine how far back his participation may go.
CLARK: Yeah, the evidence will link. And bear in mind now, they have significant evidence that's out there. They have information from the young lady that turns to evidence. And now having the vehicle, and the vehicle may lead them some other places as well, because he's lived in several places. It may lead them to motels. It may lead them to a number of places that he could have stayed. So it's not just looking for evidence for the kid, but it's looking evidence to connect him to any other place that may be involved in this crime.
WHITFIELD: And that seems to further complicates the case, doesn't it, that he doesn't have a known address there in Coeur d'Alene? They'll be trying to determine whether, like you said, he's been staying at hotels, at somebody else's residence. How in the world do they go about trying to locate that, if he's not a cooperative witness?
CLARK: You know, good, hard, hitting-the-streets police work is what its going to take. And this means not overlooking any small piece of evidence, any small piece of information. And it's all got to be computerized, it's all got to be tied together so that someone can connect and make a story out of these individual phrases.
WHITFIELD: And how far do you go to try to involve this traumatized little 8-year-old girl?
CLARK: Well, you know, you've got to involve this little girl. I mean, you've got to be concerned about her health and her welfare and her well-being, but she, too, could be a major key into solving it. So to the extent that medically they can, I think they've got to get the right experts in there that knows how to deal with these kids. And certainly I know that the FBI has some of those people, but there are also some people out there who are in the medical profession that absolutely try and do that. Law enforcement's not afraid or shouldn't be afraid to reach out to those people and see what's the best technique to use to try to garner as much information from this kid as possible.
WHITFIELD: And when you have a case of a kidnapping, always the FBI is involved. To what extent will the FBI be involved in the murder investigation end of this case?
CLARK: You know, the FBI would be involved in the totality of this investigation. And, you know, in my days in New York and (INAUDIBLE) we always joined with the police to try to help solve the case. And then you worry about, you concern yourself about who will prosecute the case which will be to the best advantage of the people who might be involved in it. (INAUDIBLE)
WHITFIELD: How encouraged do you believe the investigators must feel given that on one end, they have one-half of the equation, one of the children alive. They still don't have the other child, but how encouraged might they be that they're now piecing together a suspect, a vehicle, and one living child?
CLARK: Well, I know how encouraged they are, because I've been in those shoes. You're not encouraged to the point that you think that this is a victory celebration, but you are encouraged to the point that you've got one kid alive, and you've got a possibility of gathering evidence that may possibly find a second kid alive. So that gets the adrenaline pumping. And I don't care if it's 4th of July weekend or whenever it is. If they've got a lead (INAUDIBLE) it's going to be followed right through to the conclusion. (INAUDIBLE) I'm sure that's going to happen.
WHITFIELD: All right, Don Clark, thanks so much for being with us. Former FBI special agent in charge and hanging with us while we had a little precarious cell phone connection there. Thanks so much.
So once again, a bittersweet turn of events in the investigation of what was the case of two missing children in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Now it's a case of one missing child. Shasta Groene there on the left side of your screen, who is 8 years old, was found alive in a restaurant early this morning, and she was spotted by a very astute waitress and restaurant manager. She came into the restaurant with a man who's now being described as 42-year-old Joseph Duncan, who has an extensive criminal record involving child molestation and sexual assaults. But now the case continues to unfold looking for missing 9- year-old Dylan. We'll be right back right after this.
WHITFIELD: Well, more now on this developing story: An 8-year- old Idaho girl is found alive in Idaho, but the search continues now for her 9-year-old brother, Dylan Groene.
Shasta Groene was found early this morning in a restaurant and she was with the man that's now being charged with her kidnapping, Joseph Duncan, a man who has an extensive criminal history of child molestation and sexual assaults.
Investigators, however, are encouraged now by this break in the investigation; that they have a suspect and now they have obtained a search warrant for his vehicle, a stolen red Jeep Cherokee, it was stolen from Minnesota and apparently this is the vehicle that was in the parking lot of the Denny's restaurant where Joseph Duncan and Shasta Groene were spotted early this morning.
And thanks to the community's help; being very astute and aware of the ongoing search for this brother and sister, realizing that there were still photographs and flyers and buttons being disseminated around the community, two people in the restaurant recognized Shasta Groene as she came into the restaurant and then called authorities, held her there by engaging themselves in conversation with Shasta Groene, along with Joseph Duncan, until authorities then were able to arrive at the restaurant and apprehend Joseph Duncan, where they have since charged him with kidnapping.
And as I say, now have a search warrant for his vehicle that they also were able to obtain there at the restaurant. The little girl, Shasta Groene, is now being treated as a medical center and she told the waitress, apparently, a pregnant waitress, who had developed quite a relationship with this little girl, Shasta Groene, giving her a milkshake at the restaurant and the little girl apparently told her, "All I want to do now is see my dad."
Now, her mother and another brother and her mother's boyfriend had been killed six weeks prior, in their home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, six weeks ago. That murder investigation is still ongoing and it had then evolved into a missing child -- persons case, as well. Looking for the two Groene children and now police feel they have this bittersweet break in the case, they have Shasta, but they're still looking for Dylan.
Now, six weeks ago, when this case was mostly a murder investigation, our Alina Cho was covering that case from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and she's on the phone with us now, joining us from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she has been covering the Live 8 concert.
But Alina, we really appreciate you being able to join us to talk more about this investigation as it has been evolving. We heard some release -- relief coming from the local investigators during that press conference just moments ago, saying they feel somewhat encouraged that this might help them find the whereabouts of Dylan.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They called it a huge break in the case, they said they were -- it is very early in a new turn of this case, Fredricka, but interestingly, and you raised a very good point, why would Captain Ben Wolfinger, of the Kootenai County sheriff's office, say that preliminary information showed that brother Dylan may be deceased, if that indeed was not the case.
Usually, as you said earlier, law enforcement officials are very careful with their words. So, of course, that's a little distressing to hear, but as all of the other officials had said, the investigation does move forward, they will proceed as though Dylan is alive and they are still searching for him.
One FBI official I know, said that they are looking into a number of interesting leads right now. So, that is an encouraging point that he made earlier, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Describe for us, perhaps, if you could, Alina, the geography of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The area that we're talking about, a close-knit community. We have heard that throughout the day now.
But describe for us why this is a remarkable uncovering in this investigation, taking place in what seems to be the backyard of this little girl's home.
CHO: It really is extraordinary when you think about it. This little girl and her brother missing for six, nearly seven weeks and as you mentioned, found, really, in her own backyard; not far from her home, at a Denny's restaurant.
This area is some of the most beautiful area of the country, Fredricka, lots of woods, forests and of course, Lake Coeur d'Alene, which is just picturesque. Many people go there to vacation, but it provided a big obstacle in terms of the search. There were hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers searching, literally shoulder-to-shoulder, on foot.
Of course, there was an aerial search and there were several streams and ponds. And of course the perimeter and I believe it's an 80-mile perimeter of Lake Coeur d'Alene that had been to be searched as well. And so, this was an extensive search, an exhaustive search that was carried on for a little more than a week, I know, in earnest, before they called off the Amber Alert and they really called off the search.
Of course, no one ever, in the community, gave up hope that these two children would be found alive and certainly officials, including the Kootenai County sheriff's office, didn't either.
WHITFIELD: And officials there really engaged the community right away, didn't they? They knew that they would need the community in order to do their job here. But no one would have anticipated that the case would evolve like this, meaning some members in the community would recognize this little girl in the restaurant and with her alleged abductor.
CHO: Well, certainly those photos went out with lightning speed I mean, these two photos of Dylan and Shasta, we saw them everywhere as you know, Fredricka. In the national media, certainly, for one to two weeks, and Captain Wolfinger, I think, said it best when he said that this provides renewed hope and certainly, there is renewed interest in the case on the part of the national media. And in fact, one official, I believe it was the FBI official, who said the intense publicity probably contributed to Shasta returning home.
WHITFIELD: Wow. But still, you know, we caution how this case is going forward in that we heard from Captain Ben Wolfinger, who used these words which were alarming to many of us, where he said, you know, "Dylan may be deceased."
They don't know his whereabouts and we heard from Don Clark, who said, you know, it really is premature, probably, to jump to that conclusion that this little boy has been killed, but when you hear a leading investigator say he may be deceased, even though they've not alluded to knowing where the body of this little boy is or whether they've gleaned any information from Joseph Duncan, these are sobering thoughts, aren't they?
CHO: Well, they certainly are. I think at the very least, you can say that it is interesting that he would even make a statement like this at a time like this, especially when the nation is watching.
But I suppose everyone will just have to wait and see what happens in the coming hours and certainly the coming days. I believe that they had set a -- there would be another impromptu news conference, maybe, about 5:00 p.m. Eastern; 2:00 Pacific.
But this is an investigation that has been sort of been ongoing quietly, Fredricka, as you know. I mean, the national spotlight has sort of been off of this case for several weeks now, but certainly local officials, local authorities have been diligently pursuing what has been a missing persons case and also a triple-murder investigation.
Don't forget that the bodies of the mother and the 13-year-old brother and the mother's boyfriend, were found in the home. And you can only imagine what these two children may have witnessed. Local officials strongly believed at the time, and indeed said this, that they believed that the children witnessed the murders.
These three people were bludgeoned to death. It was a brutal murder. And many relatives at the time, believed that these two children may have fled, may have been scared, may have thought that they were in trouble and these are two kids very, very close. And so, it was thought these two children, dead or alive, would be found together. So, startling, in some sense, that Shasta was found without her brother Dylan, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Alina Cho, thanks so much for keeping us updating on where the investigation is going, as they continue to look for Dylan Groene.
Now, Toby Hatley is with our affiliate KHQ. He's in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, right now and we heard the press conference from the captain, as well as an FBI official, just under 40 minutes ago, Toby.
It doesn't sound as though the captain is very encouraged that Dylan will be found alive. When he made that remark, did that take many of you aback?
TOBY HATLEY, CNN AFFILIATE CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't really think so. You know, throughout these entire six weeks, I think the optimism has always been there and that's certainly what kept law enforcement moving out throughout this whole thing.
And certainly, there was some euphoria some hours ago, when Shasta Groene was found alive and well. But I've known Ben Wolfinger several years now, going on 12 years and you know, that's Ben, he's very forthright about what's going on and that's why he gives that information, because it's the appropriate thing to do. But they did ask him the question specifically, whether that took any of the shine off earlier today and he said absolutely not, everybody is still very, very dedicated, working extremely hard, now, with all of these new leads. They got one. They are unfortunately not probably going to find Dylan Groene alive, but now it's just find out what's going on and track down at least if there are any other perpetrators in this crime and solve the homicides that we've been looking at for the last six weeks.
WHITFIELD: Now one development that did come out of that press conference, that they have now a search warrant for this vehicle that was taken from the parking lot of that Denny's restaurant, that vehicle belonging to Joseph Duncan. However, it was a stolen vehicle, reportedly, correct?
HATLEY: Yeah, correct. It's a 2005 red Jeep Grand Cherokee, what we're told. It was stolen out of Minneapolis probably about six weeks ago. It also had stolen license plates that came out of Missouri. We're told those were reported stolen around May 27th.
Now how he got here or why he got here or what his route was taking, when that car was stolen, when he actually arrived in Coeur d'Alene, those are all questions that everybody has today. But we don't know the answers to those yet.
As far as taking a look through the search warrants and finding out any forensic evidence that might be in that Grand Cherokee, that will take several hours if not days before they'll find that out. Everything's got to go to the lab. But whatever that comes out of there, rest assured, they will certainly use to try to pinpoint exactly where Dylan Groene's body, if that's the case -- and it apparently looks like that might be -- whether Duncan had anything to do with the homicides, how he came by having Shasta Groene in his custody as it were. Those are the answers that everybody is still looking for, and we're hopeful to have those throughout as the days continue.
WHITFIELD: Now, Toby, what about the place of residence for Joseph Duncan? Apparently his last listed address was in Fargo, North Dakota. However, it's believed that he...
HATLEY: The last known address that we have on him was probably somewhere in Fargo, North Dakota.
HATLEY: At least that's what law enforcement is telling us. We know he had been a resident of the state of Washington for 20 years in the state prison out of 1980 conviction from the Tacoma, Washington, area, which is near Seattle, for rape. No we're told he served about 20 years, so he hasn't been out of prison for very long. Has several other assault convictions throughout other parts of the United States. But his last known residence, we're told, after he left the state of Washington, was Fargo, North Dakota. Why he ended up there, we don't know.
We were told that his mother still lives in the Tacoma area, about 300 miles west of here, by the way. And we are told also that police in Fargo, North Dakota, are searching Duncan's house as we speak. And also Minneapolis police have been reported as well as other law enforcement throughout the rest of the country, trying to track down his movements, trying to find out exactly who he may have known. We also asked the FBI just a few minutes ago whether there was any -- they knew about him, and he had been given an unlawful -- or an unlawful flight warrant had been issued. I believe that was out of Minnesota or out of North Dakota, regards some of these other charges that are facing him, because he does have other charges facing him in other state. But the FBI would not comment, however, whether he was on the FBI's radar screen anytime prior to this. But they said they will certainly start looking at that and see where the investigation leads.
WHITFIELD: Toby Hatley of KHAQ in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, thanks so much for that update.
Well, authorities are continuing to investigate this case, but already there are many folks who are starting to think about how this case might be prosecuted. Our legal experts right after this break.
WHITFIELD: More now on the case of an 8-year-old Idaho girl who's been missing for six weeks found alive early this morning. And now in custody, her alleged abductor, Joseph Duncan. He is a man with an extensive history in child molestation and sexual assault. But still missing, Shasta Groene's 9-year-old brother, Dylan. Both of them had been reported missing six weeks ago when their mother, brother, and their mother's boyfriend were found bludgeoned to death in their Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, home. The two had been missing, these two right here on your screen had been missing for six weeks, and then early this morning at a Denny's restaurant, a waitress and a manager at that restaurant spotted the little girl entering the restaurant with the man I described as Joseph Duncan.
They engaged themselves in conversation with the little girl. Once they determined that that is indeed the little girl that the whole town had been looking for for six weeks, they called police. Police arrived, and they now have Joseph Duncan in custody.
They have only charged him right now with kidnapping, but they have just recently, within the past hour, explained that they received a search warrant for Joseph Duncan's vehicle. It turned out to be a stolen vehicle, stolen from Minnesota. But that was the vehicle that he and this little girl apparently pulled into the Denny's restaurant with, and so it was in the parking lot. Police have since taken custody of that vehicle and will be searching it for physical evidence and hoping that some of that evidence might point them in the direction of the 9-year-old boy, Dylan Groene.
Let's talk about how this case may be prosecuted. It's a little early. The investigation is still unfolding, and they don't have all the parts, but some of our legal eagles are already starting to think about how this case might be prosecuted, how it also would be defended.
As usual, Richard Herman and Avery Friedman are joining us at this hour. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us. Not our usual meeting up, talking of cases and how they're being prosecuted especially since this one is far from that stage. Still in the investigative phase. But if I could ask you guys to kind of put on your prosecutorial hats as well as defense attorney hats. As we talk about this case, we'll try to go forward.
Avery, if you were the prosecutor in this case, how would you start to line up what evidence you believe might be available? Would you feel like already it would be a slam dunk, given the fact this alleged abductor was with one of the missing children?
AVERY FRIEDMAN, LAW PROFESSOR: Well, there are a lot of things I'm going to be doing as a prosecutor. The first thing I'm going to do, Fredricka, is tell my officers, don't treat this guy like a dumb street thug. This is a hardened, experienced guy who knows the system. At the same time, the message from my officers is going to be to the suspect, look it, all fingers point to you right now -- not only the triple homicide but also the missing child. And we are actually doing you a favor right now, if you come clean with what's going on.
At the same time, I'm coordinating efforts, as the district attorney, with the U.S. Attorney's Office there as well as the state attorney general in coordinating things between the bureau, the FBI, Minnesota, Washington and of course Idaho. And also I'm working closely with the forensics guys, because that is the key.
Remember, all this happened, Fredricka, in less than 10 hours. We're about nine, nine and a half hours ago since we grabbed Duncan. And so the search warrant has been obtained for the vehicle. They're going to go back to the residence. They're going to hit Duncan's residence also --
WHITFIELD: Once they find it, because that's part of the mystery. They're still not quite sure where he lived.
FRIEDMAN: That's exactly right. But also, and the last thing I want to say is that despite the sensitive condition of Shasta, law enforcement has to deal with her right now, because she has critical evidence, and time is of the essence.
WHITFIELD: Huh. So they really would, even though this is a very fragile situation for her right now, they would need to have some kind of dialogue with her sooner rather than later?
FRIEDMAN: To a certainly, absolutely.
WHITFIELD: Yeah. All right. Richard.
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: You know, you're the defense attorney in this case. I mean, this has to be a defense attorney's worst nightmare, especially when you're talking about a defendant who has a extensive criminal background in sexual assault and child molestation.
HERMAN: Well, because he does have that background, he is a veteran criminal, he knows to keep his mouth shut now. He knows not to take any bluffs from the investigators coming in trying to shake him down. He's not going to say anything. He's going to want an attorney and keep his mouth shut.
But I must tell you, Fredricka, we listened to these interviews, and you heard how both the FBI and the local law enforcement praised the media and the community. And that's exactly what the Holloway family in Aruba is hoping for, spreading the word. Look, some bystander at Denny's pictured her. You know, this is what the Holloway people hope for. Elizabeth Smart came out of nowhere one day, you know. There is hope.
But I heard what you said earlier, and I heard the investigators, the head individual's remarks with respect to the brother, and I heard earlier remarks how close the brother and sister were. I think it's not going to be -- I don't think we're going to see the brother here.
WHITFIELD: Wow. You know, as the investigation continues here, a search warrant has been obtained by law enforcement authorities to look into Joseph Duncan's vehicle. What kind of forensic evidence do they need. Particularly, you know, Avery, if you're the prosecution, what kind of forensic evidence are you hoping to glean after obtaining this kind of search warrant?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you've got to understand that the forensic process is not something that we're going to know about and be resolved within a day or two. This is going to the lab. They're looking for hair. They're looking for fabric. They're looking for any kind of indication, we're going to have DNA. This is an extensive scientific undertaking, a massive complicated effort. And so the forensic guys know what to do. And from my perspective as a prosecutor, I want that information as quickly as I possibly can, follow up on all the leads. But I'm counting on that forensic report as a key part of getting this conviction.
HERMAN: Fredricka? Yeah, they're going to take that car, probably bring it to Quantico, and they're going to dismember that car. They're going to take it apart piece by piece. They're going to hope to find some blood evidence in there, maybe some DNA evidence relating to the family, to the brother. I mean, they're going to -- they're going to search this, comb it, vacuum it, I understand, search with toothpicks. They're going to do everything they can to try to find any evidence. And truly, the car and Shasta hold the key now for the prosecution in this case. And they must, as -- as tough as it sounds right now, they must sit down with her. They must debrief her. They must get as much information out of her as they can right now.
Well, thankfully, this man was bold enough to bring this little girl into a public place, into a community that had been looking for her. But at the same time, Avery...
FRIEDMAN: Or stupid enough.
WHITFIELD: ... does this not boggle the mind? FRIEDMAN: Yes. This guy, I don't know what planet he's on. I mean, he had to understand that you had a whole community -- by the way, what's going on in Coeur d'Alene this weekend is there's a memorial service for the mother. They have her ashes. And family is gathering. So what on Earth is this guy -- you know, as bright as these criminals think they are, look at how stupid this move was. And you know what, give credit to the Denny's manager and the waitress and the community for getting that picture up there because without it, without that random chance, they'd have never gotten this guy, never.
WHITFIELD: But Richard, thank goodness he made that move.
HERMAN: Well, the guy's a moron, but you know, he's a registered sex offender, and this is exactly what Mark Lunsford, the father of Jesse Lunsford, is asking for, and Mark Klaas. They want bracelets on these sex offenders. They want to be able to track them throughout the United States. Look, I don't know care if this guy's registered in North Dakota or South Dakota. He's not in that state. He's outside that states. If he had that bracelet on, and someone saw him travelling with a young girl they'd arrest him on the spot.
FRIEDMAN: Well, wait a minute. What about a bank? For example, the sharing of information. The big hole in this case in my judgment is that Minnesota officials, law enforcement had him; Washington state had him; Idaho was utterly clueless. And that suggests that there's a time and a need for appropriate legislation to create that bank and make that information available so that all law enforcement can get a handle on people like this.
WHITFIELD: So I wonder, do you gentlemen see that this might be the case that may be the impetus to try and put some sort of a national bank or whether it's a bracelet as you mentioned, you know, Richard, in place so that all of these states can coordinate so there can be a more wide-scale lookout for people who are likely to be repeat offenders or those who are already showing that they are repeat offenders?
HERMAN: These are convicted sex offenders, Fredricka. I know you've spoken with Mark Klaas, and I was on with him and Mark Lunsford a week ago with Nancy Grace, and, I mean, you can imagine -- I mean, I needed a drink after that show. I couldn't breathe. These guys are coming from the heart. They're begging legislators to do this, to open the bank like Avery just said, to put bracelets on these offenders. The recurrence, the repeat crimes committed by these guys, the percentages are through the roof.
FRIEDMAN: Surprised to hear that from a defense lawyer. Richard's absolutely right on that.
WHITFIELD: All right. Richard Herman, Avery Freeman, thank you so much, gentlemen, for being with us and helping to look at this from all perspectives. Appreciate it.
FRIEDMAN: Of course. HERMAN: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So once again, just to update you, if you're just joining us, a 42-year-old man by the name of Joseph Duncan has been arrested and charged with kidnapping in the case of the missing girl, 8-year-old Shasta Groene. She was with this man early this morning at a Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, just two miles away from her home. Unfortunately, police say, they're still on the lookout for her brother, who you saw in that picture next to her, 9-year-old Dylan Groene. He has not been located. But for six weeks now, that entire community has been looking for these two because six weeks ago, nearly their entire family, their mother, a 13-year-old brother, and a boyfriend of the mother, were found bludgeoned to death in their Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, home, a very remote area. Everyone had been looking for these two. And then at 2:00 a.m. this morning, a waitress and a manager in a restaurant noticed this little girl who looked like the little girl who had been in the flyers. Noticed it was her. Called police. Police came in, arrested Joseph Duncan, and now came to the rescue of Shasta Groene, who is soon to be reunited with her father.
So the investigation continues. Still on the lookout for Dylan Groene, a wide-scale search. And now investigators are hoping that with a search warrant, they'll be able to get some kind of information, glean some physical evidence from the vehicle of Joseph Duncan.
That's been our continuing coverage of this developing story. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. When we get more information, we'll be bringing that to you. "CNN PRESENTS" begins right now.
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