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Idaho Police Hold News Conference

Aired July 2, 2005 - 17:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I want to take you straight out to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for the latest update from Captain Ben Wolfinger on the case of the missing children.
CAPT. BEN WOLFINGER, KOOTENAI COUNTY, IDAHO POLICE: ... or something like that. It does not look like Mr. Duncan does today. There's a mug shot out there. It's available. It was e-mailed to all the local stations. If you still need it, please see Jesse. We'll e- mail it to you.

Here's a drastic difference in his appearance from what we've just seen on some of the television stations. So please use that mug shot.

Investigators are continuing to process the cars. The state forensic team is continuing to process that car. They're taking their time, doing it right, making sure we're not going to miss anything. I think that's the key here, is we've done this thing very diligently right from the get-go, we're not going to change the way we're doing things now.

We will have some vehicle pictures for you later this afternoon. Once those are available, we'll be opening up the tip lines again with more staff. We've always had them open, but we've reduced the staff over the last few weeks. We're going to be adding some more staff to those tip lines, and we're going to ask you to help us get that picture of Mr. Duncan out there, and the picture of the vehicle. So if somebody saw those two in this region in the last six weeks, we want to hear from them. And we'll have those tip lines. You know tip lines numbers, are 446-2292 and 2293.

As soon as those pictures become available, we will e-mail those digital pictures to all of the newspapers and electronic media that can use that. If we don't have your e-mail, if you're not on our list, please see Jesse and make sure we've got that. That's going to be very important for us.

As you know, Mr. Duncan has to see a judge within 48 hours. Even though it's a holiday weekend, that will occur. Probable cause hearings are a regular part of our daily business. And that will happen sometime in the 48 hours after his arrest. He will appear in court on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 5th, at 2:00 p.m. That will be his official first appearance in front of a magistrate.

So if you are wishing, you're desirous of seeing that, possibly taping that, we will set that up for you. Try to give us as much time notice as possible here, and we'll take care of that. We'd like -- and then we have got some housekeeping issues, so let's go to some Q&A and then we'll go to housekeeping.

QUESTION: This tip line you're opening up, this (INAUDIBLE) trying to locate the children?

WOLFINGER: Yeah, absolutely. It's really kind of looking back now, saying, OK, we've got a vehicle, we've got a suspect. Gee, have you seen these people? And maybe we can help -- that will help us piece together what's been going on for the last six weeks.

QUESTION: Ben, a couple of hours ago, you said it appeared that Dylan Groene is probably dead. Have you changed your mind and can you confirm that?

WOLFINGER: Unfortunately, we haven't changed our mind on it, Toby (ph). And we can't confirm anymore than that. Investigators are still following those leads. But, you know, we're meeting out here pretty regular. And they've got a lot of work to do.

QUESTION: What is Shasta saying about where she was these past six weeks with him?

WOLFINGER: Well, she's met with the investigators, but they haven't shared that information yet with us, and so that will come out, we're sure, the next few days.

QUESTION: Is she still in the hospital?

QUESTION: Who exactly is talking to her?

WOLFINGER: Well, we don't -- I couldn't tell you if she's in the hospital or not. I know the investigators have been meeting with her. I couldn't tell you if she's still there or not.


WOLFINGER: Couldn't tell you at this point.

QUESTION: In the broadest sense, could you give us why you believe what you believe about this?

WOLFINGER: As I said in the last briefing, the information we had preliminarily through the investigation, leads us to believe that Dylan is deceased.

QUESTION: Now, let me follow up on that, and this must be for everyone involved, a day of terribly mixed emotions.

WOLFINGER: Well, yeah. Mixed emotions is a good way to put it. We're very happy that Shasta's here. It just reemphasizes the beliefs we had all along. And we're going to continue to work through this thing. I think that Mr. Courtman (ph) said earlier, everybody's fired up. It's just pretty fired everybody up. They're going to get to the bottom of this thing and get us to a final resolution.

QUESTION: When you believe he was killed?

WOLFINGER: Well, we don't know that at this point. That's part of the investigation. And that's just going to take some time to determine.

QUESTION: Are you able to narrow down when the murder occurred?

WOLFINGER: I don't have that information, Susan, exactly.

QUESTION: There are a lot of people saying that it wasn't just the one (INAUDIBLE), a few waitresses at Denny's, that the cook saw them come in and called. There were people in the parking lot that say now they've called 911. Can you confirm any of those reports?

WOLFINGER: I have no idea. 911 isn't a part of the sheriff's office. I just know that the call went to the city police. The city police responded. And we were able to confirm her being Shasta, and took the appropriate action at that time.

QUESTION: And do you think that Dylan left the house alive? Do you guys have any indication that he left the house with his sister and whoever abducted them, and he was alive?

WOLFINGER: Well, we always believed that when the children left the house, they were alive. We've always believed that. We've always stuck to that. And we didn't see any reason why if they had killed anybody else in the house, they would have taken their bodies away from the residence. We have nothing to lead us to believe any different at this point.

QUESTION: Is there any more information about whether this was or was not a random crime?

WOLFINGER: We don't have any more information at this point. Like I said, the investigators are following all those leads. They haven't been back to the office. They're out there, following everything up as fast as they can.

QUESTION: Any information about whether Duncan is responsible for the murders?

WOLFINGER: Well, we really don't know yet. That's obviously part of the package we're trying to put together, is child abduction and the murder investigation. It certainly is a great lead for us. But that's going to take the investigators some time, and some interviews and some physical evidence to put it all together.

QUESTION: Can other people who were at that house place Duncan at the house during that barbecue on...?

WOLFINGER: I don't know if they can or not at this point.

QUESTION: Captain, on a personal note, can you tell me about the call that came early in the morning, and what your initial reaction was, on a personal note? WOLFINGER: It was disbelief for a lot of us. Because we'd had so many possible sightings that were false. But once it was confirmed, we were all very happy

QUESTION: Ben, what is it about a criminal mind that would make them hang out in the same town where the crimes occurred?

WOLFINGER: Well, I'd have to speculate on that, and not having a criminal mind, Stefan (ph), I really can't say.

QUESTION: Do you know whether he was in the Coeur d'Alene area all this time?

WOLFINGER: We don't know exactly. So like I said, we're real early in this investigation. You know, we're really basically just 12 hours, less than 12 hours into the real (ph) part of the investigation. A lot of things have happened in the last 12 hours. We've got a long way to go with this.

QUESTION: Is Duncan cooperating?

WOLFINGER: I couldn't tell you. I know the investigators are tied up right now, mostly with Shasta. And he's not going anywhere.


WOLFINGER: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many investigators are actually talking with her at the hospital and what their agency affiliation is?

WOLFINGER: Well, there are investigators -- the thing when you do an interview, I mean, you keep it as minimal number of people as possible. There are a lot of leads to follow at this time. And all the state police, the FBI, the sheriff's office, all have investigators involved in this, at all different levels. And they're all been working as a team for the last six weeks, and they are continuing to do so.

QUESTION: Were you still getting tips that they were being seen around here? Any of the tips local?

WOLFINGER: We hadn't had a tip locally here in -- help me out some of the local folks -- quite a while, right? Yeah. Several weeks.

QUESTION: And when did you contact the prosecutor's office, and what involvement do they have right now?

WOLFINGER: Well, they were contacted early this morning, shortly after I was. And we needed the prosecutor to help us get the search warrant for the vehicle. And they're our legal adviser on this. So they've been involved since early on this morning.

QUESTION: And are you working with the Fargo Police Department now? WOLFINGER: I've spoken with my counterpart at the Fargo Police Department. They did a press conference back there about a half an hour ago. And talking about that yes, Mr. Duncan had lived there. They have a residence there. And talked a little bit about his criminal history in the Fargo area.


WOLFINGER: I don't know. That's between the investigators and the Fargo investigators. Like I said, I only talked to their media representative.

QUESTION: Has Steve Groene been reunited with his daughter yet?

WOLFINGER: Boyd (ph), you know, I don't know that. I know he's been at the hospital, so -- and he's here in town. I couldn't tell you what the reunited status us is at this point.

QUESTION: You said he was out of state this morning when he found out?


QUESTION: Do you know what state he was in?

WOLFINGER: I do, but I'm not going to release that information.

QUESTION: How many states are you dealing with that Duncan may have been?

WOLFINGER: Well, we don't know at this point. You know, that's the thing, and that's why we're going to need your help in getting the vehicle description and Duncan's mug shot, that current mug shot out there, to see where we can actually place Duncan in the past six weeks.

QUESTION: I know you're not saying that Duncan was responsible for the murder, but if he were, how unusual would it be, as someone who's been in law enforcement as long as you have, to see a sexual predator kill to get his prey?

WOLFINGER: Well, I've never seen that in this county, but I'm rather limited in my exposure, other than just this county. So you'd have to look back at some of the case histories, I guess, around the country.

QUESTION: Duncan was charged with assaulting a 14-year-old boy last year, is that correct? Could you clarify that?

WOLFINGER: He was charged with a sexual assault at a middle school in Minnesota, I believe it is. And so -- maybe even in Fargo. Minnesota, yeah, Minnesota. And so you're going to have to contact those people back there. I really don't know the details of that case.

QUESTION: He wasn't prosecuted? WOLFINGER: I don't know. He was on -- he's under a warrant, an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant on that case. So that tells me he was going to be prosecuted, but he had fled.

QUESTION: Do you know where Dylan's remains are? Do you have to track them down, or do you have any idea?

WOLFINGER: Well, I know the investigators are working on some possibilities. They're going to continue to follow those up. But until we get something solved, we're not going to say, we're not going to speculate until we have something solid.

QUESTION: Captain, is there the possibility that (INAUDIBLE) still out there alive?

WOLFINGER: Well, I think there's a remote one. There is always a remote one. But right now, with all the information we have, we don't believe that's true.

QUESTION: You mentioned that Duncan is cooperative. But can you say anything more about his demeanor, his behavior at the time that he was apprehended?

WOLFINGER: I really can't. I wasn't there, and I really don't know.

QUESTION: Do we know how Shasta was treated when she was in...

WOLFINGER: We don't know.


WOLFINGER: Oh, whose that was?

All right. You guys ready go do some housekeeping? OK. All right. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Kootenai County, Idaho sheriff's captain, Bill Wolfinger there. The headline coming out of this: 42-year-old Joseph Duncan, who was in the company of 8-year-old Shasta Groene early this morning at a Denny's restaurant, will appear before a magistrate on Tuesday for his first hearing. He is charged now with kidnapping, and Shasta apparently is getting some medical attention, continuing to get medical attention right now, and soon to be reunited with her father.

Meantime, the search continues for Shasta's 9-year-old brother, Dylan. That investigation still taking place. And you heard from the captain there saying they're hoping to glean some information from the vehicle that they're now searching, and hopefully, as the photograph of Joseph Duncan is disseminated, people will be able to step forward and say they know him, they know where he lived, et cetera, because those are some of the details they're still trying to uncover. We'll continue to follow more on this story. The 8-year-old girl found alive, the 9-year-old boy still missing in Idaho. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Now we go to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, already in progress, where they're profiling Tom Cruise.


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