Sexual predator Joseph Edward Duncan III was trying to return 8-year-old kidnap victim Shasta Groene when he was captured with the girl in a restaurant, Duncan's brother told a newspaper.

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COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Sexual predator Joseph Edward Duncan III was trying to return 8-year-old kidnap victim Shasta Groene when he was captured with the girl in a restaurant, Duncan’s brother told a newspaper.

In a story in Thursday’s edition of the Coeur d’Alene Press, Bruce Duncan said his brother was planning to turn himself in to authorities when he and Shasta entered a Denny’s restaurant in the early morning hours of July 2.

That information came in one of several letters he has received from Joseph Duncan, Bruce Duncan told the newspaper in the first comments from a Duncan family member since the case broke.

“I knew from day one he didn’t get caught by accident,” Bruce Duncan, who lives in the Tacoma area, said. “He was in another state. He could have gone 500 different directions. Yet, he took (Shasta) back.”

Joseph Duncan faces three counts of first-degree murder for the May slayings of Brenda Groene, her 13-year-old son Slade, and her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie. Authorities contend Duncan killed the three in their home so he could kidnap Shasta and Dylan Groene, 9, for sex.

Authorities contend Duncan held the children captive for seven weeks while he sexually abused them, and that he eventually killed Dylan.

Bruce Duncan, 40, said that even though his brother is a Level III sex offender who spent most of his adult life in prison, he is not a monster.

“He’s a human being and he does have feelings,” Bruce Duncan said. “But he has this problem, apparently, that he does not value life.”

“I have no pity for my brother for what he did,” Bruce Duncan added. “I feel sorry for that family. That family, he destroyed it.”

He said it is appropriate that Duncan faces the death penalty for his crimes.

“If he’s convicted and it’s cut and dry, there’s no way around it and there’s no question about it,” he said. “He may be my brother, but there is no excuse. If somebody were to do something like that to me or my family members, I’d want to see him dead. The law is the law. We all live under it.”

Joseph Duncan, 42, of Fargo, N.D., has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a Jan. 17 trial on charges he bound and bludgeoned the three to death on May 16 at their home near Coeur d’Alene.

Federal prosecutors have said they will charge Duncan later with kidnapping the two children and killing Dylan, whose remains were found at a remote Montana camp site.

Bruce Duncan said he and his brother were normal children of an Army family while growing up.

“We moved every year or two,” he said, “We traveled quite a bit, until dad retired in Tacoma.”

“We went to school, we went to church, we were members of the Boy Scouts,” he added. “We were typical teenagers.”

After his parents divorced when he was 16, Joseph Duncan was convicted for raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint and sent to prison.

Joseph Duncan told prison therapists that he suffered incest and other abuse at home, and had molested numerous children before he was caught. Bruce Duncan disputes that, saying the stories were fabrications.

“I grew up in that household,” Bruce Duncan said. “I was not abused and I never saw any abuse going on.

“Of all the allegations from the childhood, I’d say 99 percent of them are false,” he said.

Bruce said he saw his brother a few times in prison.

“Then when he got out, I met him in Seattle at his apartment. We hung out a few times, saw each other on the holidays,” Bruce Duncan said.

He believes the nearly two decades his brother spent in prison changed him.

“You take a teenager who is confused about his sexuality, commits a horrific crime that was inexcusable even for a child, and you throw him in prison with a bunch of murderers and rapists,” he said. “He’s 100 pounds soaking wet” and became the target of other prisoners looking for sex.

Bruce Duncan said he didn’t pay much attention to the May killings, or the urgent requests for any information seeking the return of the two Groene children.

“I didn’t even know my brother was on the run. He didn’t tell anyone in the family about the charges on the playground,” he said.

At the time of the killings, Joseph Duncan was a fugitive for failing to appear in a Minnesota court on charges he molested two boys in July 2004 at a playground in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Weeks before he fled, he was released from jail on $15,000 bail.

Joseph Duncan’s arrest has made his family targets, Bruce Duncan said.

“I know that society can’t get at him and we’re afraid they are going to do the best they can to strike out at the family, so that’s pretty much why the family is laying low,” he said.

Bruce Duncan said he’s changed his phone number twice.

Joseph Duncan’s arrest has split the family, he said.

“Certain people in the family (are) in denial,” he said. “Other people (are) angry and other people just wanting to ignore this like it never happened.”

Bruce Duncan said only he and their mother, Lillian, have been in contact with Joseph Duncan since his arrest.

“I’d like to sit down with him and talk to him without the FBI listening in, because I’m sure he would tell me more than he is going to tell anybody else,” Bruce Duncan said. “Needless to say, anything I’d find out, I would turn over to the authorities.

“If he’s going to tell anybody, he’s going to tell me,” he said.