Long Road Ahead For Idaho Girl

In this photo released by the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Steve Groene, left, is shown with his daughter 8-year-old Shasta Groene on Monday, July 4, 2005, at the Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.
AP/Kootenai County Sheriff Dept.
For 8-year-old Shasta Groene, the terror is behind her. What's ahead for the little girl with the shy smile is anyone's guess.

With her mother and one older brother slain, a second brother likely dead — and traumatized herself by nearly seven weeks of captivity with a convicted sex offender — Shasta faces a new life with different family members and the psychological fallout from her ordeal.

"Shasta's doing very well," her father, Steve Groene, said Wednesday. "Certainly more than we could hope for. She's very upbeat, she's pretty healthy, she's glad to be home."

When she leaves a hospital, Shasta will benefit from a large extended family on both her mother's and father's side, who have clustered around her now.

Her father, 48, is a blues musician. Older brother Jesse, 18, is serving at least the next six months in prison on a burglary charge. Brother Vance, 20, is so freaked out by all the activity swirling around his family that he left to stay with relatives in Tacoma, Wash.

"This is all so incomprehensible," said Steve Groene, who had a new tattoo on his arm saying "In Loving Memory Slade Vincent 13" in honor of son Slade, 13, who was killed at the rural home near here where Shasta lived with her mother, two of her brothers and her mother's boyfriend. "It will take quite a lot of time for us to even realize what happened here."

Mental health experts agree with that assessment, and caution that the savage ordeal that Shasta survived is bound to have lasting impacts.

"She has witnessed horrible things," said Dr. Paul Domitor, a Spokane, Wash., psychiatrist. "These things will stay with her."

Shasta is believed to be the sole survivor among the five people in her home the night Kootenai County sheriff's officers allege Joseph Edward Duncan III appeared and bound them all. Bludgeoned to death in addition to her brother Slade were her mother, Brenda, and her mother's boyfriend, Mark McKenzie. Their bodies were found May 16.

Brother Dylan Groene, 9, was abducted with Shasta, and is believed dead. Remains found at a Montana campsite are being analyzed for positive identification.

Kootenai County officials said they believe Duncan acted alone. Sheriff Rocky Watson said he believes the motive was to acquire the children for sex.

Duncan's public defender, Lynn Nelson, did not return repeated telephone messages left by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

While it is the AP's policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault in most cases, the search for the children and Shasta's recovery were so heavily publicized that their names were already widely known.

FBI agents in St. Regis, Mont., led reporters Wednesday to a remote camp site in the Lolo National Forest where the agents believe Duncan spent at least several weeks with the children.

The site is accessible only by an old dirt logging road. About an hour's drive from Interstate 90, the small campsite, nothing more than a dirt clearing, juts out from a steep cliff and is surrounded by towering ponderosa pines. Evidence of a campfire and burned metal cans could be seen to one side, but the site otherwise was barren.