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Idaho Police Hold News Conference

Aired July 3, 2005 - 14:03   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: On now to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho for that press conference. Here is Captain Ben Wolfinger.
CAPT. BEN WOLFINGER, KOOTENAI COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: ... see if he wants to talk about anything else.


WOLFINGER: Some of our information came from Shasta, some of it came from physical evidence and other leads that they have been following.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: I can just tell you that based on the information the investigators were able to put together yesterday, in totality led them to believe that Dylan is dead. And that's why we're working so diligently right now to try to verify that, or find it's not true. Because, quite frankly, I'd be more than happy to stand up here and tell you it was the biggest mistake that we've ever made, but, unfortunately, we don't think it's going to be there.


WOLFINGER: We have investigators following those leads right now.

QUESTION: Were you able to place Mr. Duncan at that get- together, that barbecue that Sunday night before the bodies have been found?

WOLFINGER: I don't know if they've been able to do that or not, Sean (ph). Right now, they are just following all those leads. There is just a lot of information out there. About 40 investigators following the whole gamut of leads right now.

QUESTION: How much can officers depend on what an 8-year-old tells them?

WOLFINGER: Well, I think you have to weigh -- weigh anybody's testimony, anybody's witness statement with all the circumstances, and, on a case-by-case basis, and based on the information they provide. I think it's hard to say at this point. Only investigators who are actually doing the interview know what they can give them.

QUESTION: Do investigators expect now a physical, searchable location based on information Shasta could provide?

WOLFINGER: Well, I think based on all the evidence, that eventually they will have a physical location to check. You bet. It's just going to take some time to put that together.


WOLFINGER: She visited for quite a while with investigators yesterday, but understand, it's a slow process. She's a little girl who has been through who knows what over the last six weeks. They have to take it very slow and meticulously, but she did spend quite a bit of time with investigators yesterday.

QUESTION: Ben, can you talk about a report that he was camping with her and the children somewhere nearby?

WOLFINGER: I can't verify that at this point. So I really can't speak to that.


WOLFINGER: Like I said, the investigators talked to Shasta. They've got a lot of different avenues of evidence. We are not going to specify what source they've used to identify this, or what sources at this point.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) out of the hospital?

WOLFINGER: That's a medical decision. We don't have that information.

QUESTION: Do you have other search warrants other than the Jeep?

WOLFINGER: I'm not aware of any other search warrants activity at this point, other than the Jeep, or that they're working on. We still have an active search warrant at the residence. That's why it's still under guard.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the phone calls from people in the last 24 hours who have been seen with Mr. Duncan, in the recent weeks, saying, hey, I think I've seen this guy around here?

WOLFINGER: They are getting some phone calls based on the information that you guys put out for us yesterday on the description of the Jeep, the picture and the description of Duncan. They've been a little bit slow coming in, but they are starting to come in at a little better pace. I don't know if any of those have been, you know, substantiated, that there is nothing we can really wave as a flag right now, but it's certainly something we are following up, on every one of those.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) medical examinations Shasta is going through, including any psychological examination?

WOLFINGER: I really can't, Tom. The medical stuff is all protected at this point. She's a confidential patient. QUESTION: Do you have any indication that Duncan and the Groenes knew each other or had any relationship over the years?

WOLFINGER: That's a great question. That's one we are certainly trying to look in, to see what kind of a tie we've had. We've heard rumors, but nothing has been substantiated.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) children right next to Coeur D'Alene or in the general area, or did he ever take them out?

WOLFINGER: Well, we don't believe he was outside the Pacific Northwest, and I think that's where we're looking right now. We'd had possible sightings as far away as the Florida Keys in the past six weeks. But we think it's a little narrower than that, and we're going to work on that over the next day or so. I know the investigators are working on it right now.


WOLFINGER: We don't know at this point. That's, like I said, one of the key questions we're trying to answer.

QUESTION: Things have changed so rapidly over the last 24 hours, and now you're (INAUDIBLE). Is that an indication, you think, that it's (ph) going to slow down a bit?

WOLFINGER: Well, I think that it has to slow down a bit. I think there's so much information the detectives have to work through that it's just going to take time. We've got 40 investigators working it, more than we could ever do by ourselves, thanks to the FBI and the state police. And it is just going to take time to dig through all the information, sort it out. I don't want to have to come out here and give you half information if I can wait a few more hours and give you good information.

QUESTION: I think a lot of people felt like once the children were found, and that they were alive, a lot (INAUDIBLE) current circumstances more questions (INAUDIBLE).

WOLFINGER: I think that, unfortunately, is part of any real serious investigation, is that sometimes when you get one of the biggest clues, it creates more questions. It just takes time to really work through those questions and get the answers. We don't want to go into this with just one mind-set. We're going to explore all those avenues and make sure we get the right answer, not the easy answer.

QUESTION: Are you privy to the first phone call the investigators made to Steve Groene to contact him, to tell him that his daughter had been found? His reaction (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: Well, I know that Detective Maskle (ph) made that phone call. He's been the lead investigator from the sheriff's office throughout this case. I wasn't privy, I wasn't part of that call. Reference to Steve addressing the media today, we had the family liaison contact Steve this morning, and Steve said, no, he had no plans of doing that and doesn't intend to at this time.

QUESTION: How is he doing?

WOLFINGER: He's very happy his daughter is back. She's safe. He's, obviously, saddened by what we believe to be the death of Dylan.

QUESTION: Have you examined Duncan's own writing on his Web site (INAUDIBLE) more frank discussion (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: I couldn't tell you what they've done at Fargo at this point. I know that Fargo, according to the Fargo police, they did a search warrant on his house yesterday, in a news conference I saw on several of the networks here. So I couldn't tell you what they've gotten from his house. As far as studying his writings, I don't know exactly what the investigators are doing with the information that came from Mr. Duncan.

QUESTION: Do you believe that Duncan...

QUESTION: Have investigators said when Duncan first came in contact with these kids?

WOLFINGER: No, they haven't.

QUESTION: You said that Duncan -- you said that Dylan has been dead. Do you think it was early or late in the abduction?

WOLFINGER: We don't know at this point.

QUESTION: Talk about the investigation in Fargo. You say investigators are out there. Which investigators, who is running that investigation? What are you looking for out of Fargo? What kind of investigation is going to be conducted?

WOLFINGER: Well, we've (INAUDIBLE) here. And I couldn't tell you exactly who. And quite frankly, I probably wouldn't tell you exactly who, Tom, just because of security reasons.

We're looking for clues to these crimes here. Now, what investigation Fargo Police Department has, I don't know. But we're looking for something that's related to this crime here.

QUESTION: Has Shasta been able to pinpoint any other adults involved in this thing?

WOLFINGER: I don't know that. She talked to the investigators. They gave us a lot of leads, but they're still working those.

QUESTION: I know you said they're following up on leads as to where Dylan's body may be located, but today, physically, is anyone actually searching, or do you have enough information to pinpoint any (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: I really couldn't tell you what they're doing right this minute. I know -- I've got 40 investigators out there following these leads. The goal is to find Dylan one way or another. And what they're doing this moment, I really couldn't tell you.

QUESTION: Has the FBI brought in any kind of a specialized search team to look for Dylan?

WOLFINGER: Well, we don't -- the FBI -- when we need search teams, as in search and rescue or dog search, we actually use local search and rescue teams. They have the equipment, the personnel right here locally. We rely on the FBI for manpower, investigative power. We've relied on for evidence recovery when we did the landfill search and other resources, particularly their laboratory resources. That's where we really have leaned on the FBI for.

QUESTION: Is Duncan facing charges at this point that would relate to (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: At this point, the only charges filed against Duncan are the kidnapping charge and the fugitive from justice charges. Other charges could be pending. That would be a decision by the prosecutors and the investigators as they bring more information together.

QUESTION: Has Duncan...

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) what is the status of Duncan in conversations with him? We've heard stories about, you know...

WOLFINGER: Duncan invoked his rights yesterday, and his right to an attorney. He was very cooperative through the booking process. He's being held in the jail. He will not be questioned after that, unless one or two things happens. We talk to his attorney, or he changes his mind.

QUESTION: Has he been appointed an attorney yet?

WOLFINGER: He won't be appointed an attorney until he has first appearance on Tuesday.

QUESTION: So, excuse me, what do you mean by he's very cooperative (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: He answered the questions they needed for the booking process. He wasn't combative during the fingerprinting process or anything of that nature. He was cooperative through that.

QUESTION: You're not going to say what Shasta has told investigators but can you say that she was at the home during the time of the murders?

WOLFINGER: I couldn't tell you that. We always believed right from the beginning of this case that the children were home at the time this started. We have no reason to believe anything else.

QUESTION: Do you have any more suspects or any more (INAUDIBLE)?

WOLFINGER: We just don't know at this point, Eric (ph). It's just moving too fast right now to say we're going to have more suspects, who they are. Like I said in the statement, you know, that's one of the key questions here. Who else was involved? Is there somebody else involved? Who else was it and where are they?


WOLFINGER: We never discuss housing of our inmates. That's just a security issue in this facility.

QUESTION: Ben, is (INAUDIBLE) eligible for (INAUDIBLE).

WOLFINGER: I'm going to have to defer to Mr. Fuhrman from the FBI on that, because that's really their front, so Mr. Fuhrman?

TIM FUHRMAN, FBI: What I would say about the FBI is, as you know, we did announce a reward early in the investigation, and what we will do is take the information -- and that was leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. We, obviously, are appreciative of the efforts of the employees of Denny's, the waitress, the customers of Denny's, and we will evaluate that and make some determinations with respect to a reward at the appropriate time.

I am heartened by the fact that the media reports indicate that the people who contacted authorities were not motivated by a reward, but were motivated by the recovery of this individual.

QUESTION: Do you expect other customers in the store at the time to be filing claims for that reward as well?

FUHRMAN: I am not going to -- I don't know what people are going to do, who were there. No one has filed any claim or anything like that with us at this point in time.

QUESTION: Mr. Fuhrman, given the past record of Mr. Duncan, could the kids have been the target of the entire crime?

FUHRMAN: I'm not sure. I think you're speculating as to what may have been the motive in this crime, and I'm not sure that we've established what any motive -- what the motive is yet with this particular crime.

QUESTION: Do you have any outstanding cases now pointing in Duncan's direction?

FUHRMAN: You do have the outstanding cases that have already been filed against him. There are no other charges.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) sexual assaults?

FUHRMAN: There are no other charges that I'm aware of, other than the ones that have been previously discussed and have already been filed against him.

Thank you.

WOLFINGER: Anything else? Great. We have a couple of housekeeping items. We'll clean this thing up. We've had some...

WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Captain Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, as well as the FBI's Tim Fuhrman, talking about the fact that they're still looking for 9-year- old Dylan Groene, even though preliminary evidence, according to the captain, is that it indicates that he is dead. Dylan Groene, along with his sister, Shasta, an 8-year-old, had been missing since mid- May, when the bodies of the majority of their family members were found in their home.

This widespread search has been taking place ever since yesterday. Shasta was found alive in a restaurant, and she was with an adult male. He has since been arrested and charged with kidnapping. Joseph Duncan, a 42-year-old.

Captain Wolfinger mentioned that they are going to continue to search Duncan's Jeep, which was confiscated yesterday, shortly after his arrest. And while one suspect, the captain said, is in custody, he's not quite sure yet if other adults may be involved.

So still early on in the investigation, but bittersweet news. Happy that the little girl has been recovered. But still, they're holding out hope that perhaps the little boy just might be found as well.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. We will continue to keep tabs on this story and its developments throughout the day here. Meantime, we want to go back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS now.


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