Every Parent's Worst Nightmare: Joseph Edward Duncan | Serial killer

 (Right: Joseph Duncan in court. Picture credit: oregonlive)

I've written about some pretty heavy cases on this blog but I have to admit that this one was one of the most difficult stories that I have ever had to cover. I don't think that even the strongest of people would be able to sit down and look at the details of this case without feeling sheer horror, absolute disgust and anger. I've felt anger all the way through my research. This case started off horrific and just continued and continued, getting even more horrendous as it went on. Before I go into any more details I have to warn you that this is going to be a very difficult post which includes disturbing details (I always try to be as sensitive as possible) and includes sexual assault, torture and murder of children and adults. 

This week I have had the unfortunate opportunity of looking into this sick and depraved monster known as Joseph Duncan Edward III. I don't think that evil is enough to describe this individual, he is beyond evil. He's that vile that I can't come up with the words to properly describe him. 

I titled this post 'Every Parent's Worst Nightmare' but to tell the truth, Joseph Duncan was everyone's worst nightmare and I say 'was' because he's no longer breathing and wasting American tax payers money. 

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So let's begin this horrendous journey and as I mentioned at the beginning, please be aware that disturbing details are included in this post. 

Well, where do I start with Joseph Edward Duncan? It was like he was born evil and was never going to be any good for this world. He was born on the 25th of February 1963 in Tacoma, Washington and even at the age of just 15 years old he had already shown the pure evil which lay within him. Joseph sexually assaulted a 9 year old boy and a year after this horrific incident he was in trouble again for being caught stealing a car. 

He was sent to a rehabilitation home and assigned a therapist who he proceeded to tell that he had ''raped 13 boys''. Joseph was later diagnosed as a sexual psychopath and it seemed that his reign of terror had begun at an early age. 

In Joseph's case (which I have seen with many others) he was another dangerous predator who would continue to see the easy side of the law with being released and getting off lightly for things which were screaming red flags. 

In 1980 he sexually assaulted a young boy and was sent to prison for 20 years. He was released on parole in 1994 and between that time and 1997, he was considered a suspect in an number of unsolved cases. The two that we know he was involved in was the rape and murder of 10 year old Anthony Martinez in 1997 and the two young girls, SammieJo White who was 11 and her half sister Carmen who was 9. Anthony had been outside playing with his friends when Joseph Duncan approached the group of boys and asked them if they would help him look for his cat. Anthony and the boys didn't feel comfortable and knew better than to talk to a stranger. The boys politely refused and suddenly Joseph grabbed Anthony threatening him with a knife before forcing the frightened child into his car. The little boy's nude body was later found partially decomposed and it appeared that he had been bound with duct tape during his ordeal. All the police had to go on was a partial fingerprint on a piece of the tape obtained from Anthony's body. 

Joseph didn't confess to these crimes until many years later. He also admitted to murdering the two girls. At the time in the 90s these two cases had gone cold. He was returned back to prison in 1997 for violating his parole and released again in 2000 for ''good behaviour''. Joseph Duncan was classed as a level 3 sex offender which meant that he was more than likely to commit another offence against children but for some reason he wasn't monitored closely as he should have been. I'm sure a lot of us would have preferred him to have stayed in prison or at least a psychiatric hospital giving the fact that he was a sexual psychopath and known offender. 

It wasn't long until Joseph was on the prowl looking for another poor child and from what we know he sexually assaulted two young boys at a playground in 2004. Knowing his history it wouldn't surprise me if he had committed other sickening crimes against children that were not reported from the period that he was released from prison in 2000 until 2004 when he attacked the two boys. 

(Joseph Edward Duncan. Picture credit: pe.com)

Having been caught for putting yet more innocent children through a horrendous ordeal you would think that this time they would lock him up and throw away the key but for some ridiculous reason the judge decided to set bail at just $15,000. The judge would later say that he was unaware of Joseph's past history when coming to his decision, Whatever the case, Joseph paid up the $15,000 without blinking an eye and had plans to disappear. 

So here we have a dangerous predatory peadophile with a horrendous track record for abusing children (unknown to police at the time, was also a child killer), is a level 3 sex offender, in and put of prison his whole life up to that point and he gets $15,000 bail. Suddenly Joseph Duncan was back on the streets to try and destroy more innocent lives. 

He took off and was now on the run and he wanted to get his revenge on the system for what he saw as an injustice that they put him in prison. 

More horror at his evil hands was to come when a neighbour in an area just outside of Coeur d'Alene in Idaho spotted that the house near to them had blood on the front door so they contacted the police. When the police arrived on the scene they noticed the uncomfortable feeling about the place and proceeded to enter the house slowly where they found blood everywhere and three deceased members of the Groene family. Brenda (40), along with long-term partner Mark (37) and son Slade (13) were found on the floor, all three had been bludgeoned to death. 

It was a horrific sight and one that affected the officers deeply as would be understandable. Who would do a thing like this? The officers noted that there was blood in every room of the house and that two of the younger children, Shasta (8) and Dylan (9) were missing. What the officers and the shocked community didn't know was that Joseph Duncan had been driving in that area previously and spotted Shasta and Dylan playing on the front lawn. He decided that he wanted to kidnap the two children for his own sickening needs and tried to figure a way to get them away from the house. 

Joseph decided that he would get into the house at night, bound and gag everyone and pretend to Brenda and Mark that he was there just to steal valuable items when infact he just wanted the children.  He carried out his sickening plan and Shasta would later tell the police that she had been woken by her mother and both she and Dylan were told to go into the livingroom. One wonders what must have gone through those little innocent minds when they saw their mother, Mark and Slade all bound with Joseph Duncan standing over them. Dylan and Shasta were bound, taken outside and put on the grass whilst Joseph murdered Brenda, Mark and Slade. The children could hear the desperate cries of their loved ones as they laid there, unable to get up and get away, it was the stuff of nightmares. 

As soon as Joseph was finished creating horror at the family home, he put the two frightened children into his car and drove to a remote cabin where he spent hours sexually assaulting and torturing both of them. 

(Left large pic, Joseph Duncan. Left small pic, Michael Martinez. Top right middle, Dylan, top far right, Slade. Bottom left middle, Mark. bottom far right, Brenda. Picture credit: dailymail)

The police didn't know if some of the blood found around the Groene household was Shasta and Dylan's, after further investigation it was determined that most of the blood was Slade's and that there was no trace of blood from the younger children. Where were they? Were they even alive?. The children's biological father was contacted and naturally he was beside himself with panic but like a lot of these situations, the police had to investigate him. It was no secret that the children's biological parents did not get on and some of his behaviour rang a few alarm bells but after further investigation the police could see no link with him and the murders. The next possible suspects was Brenda's older sons who had been in a spot of trouble themselves in the past with drugs and petty crime. It turned out that they had no connection to the murders. The police were looking at every option and even interviewed everyone who had a attended a barbecue at the family home the day before the murders.

An Amber Alert was sent out across America and the news reports were everywhere. The local community were terrified and did what they could to help. As the weeks went on they wondered if they would ever see the children again as in a lot of these cases, children are often murdered not that long after being abducted. 

Whilst people were praying and investigators were searching high and low for the children, both Dylan and Shasta were living in hell with this dangerous predator. Subjected to constant rapes, being tortured and forced to pose for indecent photographs had become an every day occurrence. One wonders how these two children were able to get through what must have been a sheer living hell. Weeks went on and the children had been with Joseph Duncan for seven weeks. 

(Shasta and Dylan. Picture credit: nbcnews)

At one point the sick and depraved naked Joseph took 9 year old Dylan into an abandoned shed, tied him up, tortured and sexually assaulted him whilst filming the whole ordeal. Members of the jury were later forced to watch this video (one of many) and had to have counselling because of this and the other horrific evidence that was presented at the trial. As the poor child screamed in pain, Joseph shouted back at him ''The devil is here boy, the devil himself....The devil likes to watch children suffer and cry''.

Shasta said that not long after this Joseph murdered Dylan and burnt his remains. Apparently he cried and said it was an accident. He tried to kill her too and gave her the option to either die by gunshot or strangulation, she chose strangulation but as his hands grasped her throat she shouted out ''Jet'' (his nickname) and he stopped. He told her that he didn't want to kill her because she taught him how to love. 

In a strange turn of events, Joseph took Shasta to a diner in the early hours of the 2nd of July 2005 and it was there that a waitress recognised her and called the police. Thankfully the police arrived and took the monster known as Joseph Duncan into custody. Everyone was relieved to see Shasta but they wondered where little Dylan was too, they were horrified and devastated when they later found out the truth. 

Dylan's remains were found a few days later and Joseph confessed to the murders of the Groene family as well as the murders of Anthony Martinez, SammieJo White and Carmen Cubias. 

It was also revealed that during his time out of jail he had an online blog called ''The Fifth Nail'' which detailed his life as a sex offender and his struggles with the law. He was in denial about being a peadophile. When he returned to prison a new blog mysteriously appeared which was owned by him. The blog was called ''Joseph E Duncan III Returns To The Web From Federal Death Row To Expose The Meaning Of The Fifth Nail'' There was no way for Joseph to have access to the internet behind bars so he had someone, an individual by the name of 'Silenced' have him update the site whilst he would post out letters and materials to put on it. 

Joseph Edward Duncan pleaded guilty to all charges put before him and received 6 life sentences with 3 more added on a few years later. The families of his victims breathed a sigh of relief that he pleaded guilty to everything because after all they had been through they could not face having to go through everything again. He also received 3 death penalties and was sent to Death Row. 

Shasta spent some time in hospital after her ordeal and once the time was right she was reunited with her biological father. Despite all that the little girl had been through she was a tough cookie and impressed all of the adults around her with her strength. She was able to help the police enormously with the investigation and her father later reported that she was returning to doing her usual favourite things again whilst receiving regular counselling. 

(Shasta. Picture credit: khq.com)

As for Joseph Duncan, instead of being executed he was struck down with brain cancer in 2020 and refused to have any treatment. He died in march of this year (2021) at the age of 58. Shasta was said to have been relieved that he was no longer alive. 

Shasta's life after the hell she went though was not an easy one, she made mistakes, got into trouble but she was able to find her way again. She said in a statement after the news of Joseph Duncan's death was reported:

''One thing is for sure, he does not exist anymore. Now, we can live our lives knowing that. For so long I have been struggling with hate towards that man. Today, I woke up feeling like my soul was finally free. I hope other people affected by Joseph Duncan were able to wake up feeling the same way. For some reason I can't stop thinking about the Anthony Martinez family the last couple of days. They were victims as well as my family. As were Carmen Cubias and SammieJo White's family. I just want to reach out to them. If I could, I would hug them all. If I could I would take all their pain away.'' - Shasta Groene. 

In 2016, Shasta created a petition in tribute to her two brothers, Dylan and Slade. The petition was aimed at keeping convicted sex offenders in prison for life, The petition was supported by 51,820 people. She wanted to created a new law called 'Slade and Dylan's Law'. As part of this new law she wanted the three strike rule for sex offenders to be reduced to just one strike. I completely agree with all of this as we all know that sex offenders cannot be cured. It's important that we protect our children and in this case, we had a very dangerous and very sick predator who was able to commit these crimes and had been committing these offences since he was a child himself, the signs and red flags were all there but nothing proper was done. We can only hope that the system both in America and here in the UK as well as elsewhere in the world, will improve and put the safety of children at the top of the list. 

RIP Michael, SammieJo, Carmen, Brenda, Mark, Slade, Dylan and all of the other unknown victims of Joseph Duncan. 

Prayers also for the survivors, for Shasta, the families of the victims and all who worked tirelessly on the case. 

Further Reading & Sources: 

Joseph Duncan Article | CNN

Joseph Duncan Article | People

Joseph Duncan Article | AP News

Joseph Duncan | Murderpedia

Joseph Duncan | Wikipedia

Joseph Duncan Article | NY Post

Joseph Duncan Article | Seattle Times

Stolen In The Night (Book) by Gary C King

Shasta Groene Article | Daily Mail

Reddit Discussion On The Case

Joseph Duncan (Documentary) | Investigation Discovery

Thank you for checking out my latest post, hope you will join me next Sunday for another case. Don't forget you can find me and more of my content here x


  1. There is no word to describe this monster. This is one of the most disturbing case I have ever read. I will not write his name down ! I’m absolutely in shock. I had to take a few breaks to read the entire case. My heart was racing and I had to paused and catch my breath several times through my reading. RIP to all the victims. My thoughts are with all the family members and the survivors. Heartbreaking and this is really difficult to believe that there is sick individual like this monster in our world. Thank you Jo for covering the case. I don’t know how you did it !

    1. Thank you for your comments and for taking the time to read the post. I really do appreciate it x

  2. This was frighteningly disturbing. 🙊
    This monster is truly every parents worst nightmare. The fact that he kept getting released from prison blows my mind. The legal system failed every single one of those families whose children were subjected to his actions. 💔
    Truly a brilliantly written and horrifying story. 🙏🏼❤🔥

    1. Thank you for your comments and for taking the time to read the post. I really do appreciate it x