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Victim says Idaho suspect told her he scouted house before attack

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- During six weeks on the run with an 8-year-old girl, convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III told his young victim that he had driven around her neighborhood, scouting for children, new court documents say.

Shasta Groene said he told her that he spotted her playing in a bathing suit with her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, and that he stalked their home for days, using night-vision goggles to learn the layout of the house.

The disturbing new details of what investigators say was a carefully planned attack on a random family appear in records of a closed-door probable-cause hearing yesterday.

Duncan was also charged yesterday with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the bludgeoning deaths of the children's mother, Brenda Groene, her 13-year-old son, Slade, and her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie. If convicted, Duncan could face the death penalty.

''[Duncan] told her he watched her two or three days, and at night would peer inside the home," Detective Brad Maskell told the judge yesterday.

Shasta told detectives her ordeal began when she heard her mother call her into the living room early on the morning of May 16. There, she said, she saw Duncan wearing dark gloves and holding a shotgun.

Her brother, her mother, and her mother's boyfriend were bound with zip-ties and duct tape, she said.

Duncan then bound her and Dylan and left them on the ground outside, near a swing set. Shasta said she heard McKenzie yell out several times and at one point saw Slade stagger, bloody and incoherent, out of the home.

Shasta was insistent that Duncan was the only perpetrator, Maskell said. She said Duncan bragged to her about killing her family with a hammer and showed it to her.

Duncan was a known sex offender who had spent time in prison and was wanted in Minnesota for jumping bail on a molestation charge, but he didn't become a suspect in the Idaho slayings until six weeks later, when he walked into a restaurant with Shasta a few miles from her home. A waitress recognized the little girl and called police.

Shasta has since been reunited with her father. Investigators who interviewed her located Dylan's body at a remote Montana campsite where authorities believe Duncan took the two children.

Duncan had also been charged with kidnapping Shasta and Dylan, but those state charges will be dismissed and instead handled by the federal court system because the youngsters were taken across a state line, Douglas said.

Officials have alleged that the children were repeatedly sexually molested during their ordeal, and Sheriff Rocky Watson has said he believes the motive for the killings was to acquire the children for sex.

When Duncan was a teenager in Tacoma, he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint, a crime for which he spent more than a decade in prison.

After his release, he moved to Fargo, N.D. Last summer, he was charged with molesting a 6-year-old boy on a school playground in Minnesota. He was released on $15,000 bail.

Fargo police had been looking for him since he failed to check in with a probation agent in May.

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