Joseph Edward Duncan III pleaded guilty Monday to killing an Idaho family last year, just before his murder and kidnap trial was about to begin in Coeur d’Alene. The last-minute plea deal likely will keep him behind bars for the rest of his life, although the death penalty is a possibility. The deal also means 9-year-old Shasta Groene, the lone survivor of the killings, won’t have to testify.
“This agreement is possible because of a brave little 9-year-old girl who was willing to confront Duncan face-to-face in the courtroom,” said Prosecutor Bill Douglas. Duncan, 43, a lifelong itinerent sex offender who committed crimes in many states, said “guilty” six times as Judge Fred Gibler asked for his plea to three counts each of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. He killed Brenda Groene, 40, her boyfriend and an older son so he could kidnap the woman’s two younger children for sexual purposes.