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ND home caught killer's interest

The Gadberry home next to Interstate 29 north of Hillsboro, N.D., is known for its holiday light displays.

But something dark paid a visit in 2005.

In April of that year, just before embarking on a cross-country journey that led to murder, kidnapping and sexual assault, Joseph Duncan made a stop on I-29 not far from the Gadberry residence.

Authorities know this because Duncan made a point of recording the location on a global positioning system the FBI recovered after Duncan was caught.

Officers went to the GPS coordinates and took pictures of the only structure in sight, a house now occupied by Jon and Jana Gadberry.

In early 2005, Jon Gadberry's parents, Carolyn and Ron, lived in the house.

When the FBI showed Carolyn Gadberry photos of her home taken from the GPS waypoint, she thought of Duncan's victims and her heart skipped a beat.

"That could have been our grandchildren. That could have been me," said Gadberry.

Visit from the FBI

Ron Gadberry taught school and coached wrestling in Moorhead for 19 years until 1982, when he and his wife moved to Hillsboro, where Gadberry continued to teach and coach until his retirement a few years ago.

The couple moved to Fargo in the fall of 2005, though Ron Gadberry continues to help with the family farm near Hillsboro.

According to Carolyn Gadberry, before the FBI contacted her at her Fargo home, it sent an agent to the house in Hillsboro, where her son and daughter-in-law live.

"Jana was home. She opened the door for him right away and he said, 'I wish you wouldn't do that,' " said Carolyn Gadberry, recalling her daughter-in-law's account of the encounter with the agent.

Carolyn Gadberry said an agent later showed up at her door.

The visit rattled her.

"They said he (Duncan) went often from Fargo to Grand Forks. He would have been able to see it (the house) right along the interstate," Carolyn Gadberry said.

"I used to have grandchildren out there quite often," she said. "He (Duncan) probably saw kids playing out there. We had a swing set."

Duncan was living in Fargo in April 2005 when he jumped bail while awaiting trial on child molestation charges filed in Becker County, Minn.

This past December, Duncan pleaded guilty to 10 federal charges relating to the May 2005 kidnapping of Dylan and Shasta Groene from their home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. As part of the pleas, Duncan admitted to sexually assaulting and killing Dylan Groene.

Prior to entering the guilty pleas in federal court, Duncan pleaded guilty in state court to killing the children's older brother, their mother and the mother's fiancé at the family's home in Coeur d'Alene.

In sentencing proceedings now under way in federal court, the government is hoping to persuade jurors that Duncan should receive the death penalty.

Plotting his crimes

During opening arguments, U.S. Attorney Thomas Moss provided details of what Duncan told investigators about the crimes.

They were planned to the smallest detail and Duncan stalked the Groene family before he struck, Moss said.

Duncan used a GPS device to mark "waypoints" as he traveled from the Fargo area to Idaho, Moss said.

"A lot of them were residences, mostly in rural areas," said Moss, according to a transcript of the sentencing proceedings available online.

"Now, I don't know what Mr. Duncan saw when he was there making that waypoint, but when the police go back and take pictures of those residences ... these are children-friendly places," Moss said.

"You will see swing sets. You will see trampolines and trikes and bicycles at those residences," Moss told jurors.

The waypoint near the Gadberry home was logged on Duncan's GPS unit on April 10, 2005, Moss said.

That was shortly before Duncan fled the Fargo-Moorhead area, according to entries made in a journal he kept.

Carolyn Gadberry, who has 11 grandchildren, said she is afraid to think about what was going through Duncan's mind as he paused outside her home.

"The kids used to go out to the ditch and catch frogs. That would have been right along the interstate," she said.

Locking doors

Duncan told investigators that on the night he attacked and killed members of the Groene family he told himself that if the back door to their home was locked he would abort his plan.

Instead, the door was not locked and he went inside.

He said the family's two dogs rushed him, but turned tail and ran when he pointed a shotgun at them.

Duncan said he planned for every contingency, loading the shotgun first with rounds filled with BBs, which were intended for the dogs, followed by rounds filled with slugs - for people.

Duncan told investigators he ended up using a hammer to commit the murders.

Carolyn Gadberry said she rarely locked her doors when she lived in Hillsboro.

"I used to take off and leave the door open for all day and be outside," she said.

Now, her home in Fargo is always locked, she said.

Gadberry said her house near Hillsboro had something going for it that might have given Duncan reason to hesitate.

"You can see it from the interstate, but it isn't easy to get to," she said.

"That's OK. That's maybe what saved us out there," she added.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555