A man who admitted to killing children across the U.S. died in prison after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
Joseph Edward Duncan III died on March 28, according to multiple law enforcement groups and federal officials. He was in custody on federal death row in Terra Haute, Indiana.
In May 2005, Duncan murdered a 9-year-old boy’s mom in Idaho. He then kidnapped the child and her sister, according to federal prosecutors in Idaho. He took the children to a forest in Montana, where he tortured both, killing the boy.
The girl was found months later at a Denny’s and Duncan was arrested.
“This crime was horrendous and its impact on the families, the community, the jurors, court staff, our litigation team, and law enforcement were far reaching,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. “While his death will not bring back the lives cut so tragically short or remove the indelible memories of his unspeakable acts, perhaps death will now allow space for some degree of healing, peace, and closure.”
While in custody, Duncan confessed to his crime and sought to plead guilty, federal prosecutors say. He admitted to the murder of other children as well.
He pleaded guilty in 2011 in California for the 1997 murder of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez and was given two life sentences. Martinez was playing in a yard with friends when Duncan tried to grab Martinez’s brother. Martinez intervened and Duncan held a knife to his head, force the child into a car and drove away.
“The sun is brighter today, and my soul is lighter,” Anthony’s mother, Diana, said in a release announcing Duncan’s death. “The world is a more beautiful place without the evil that is Joseph Duncan. God chose to make his end a long suffering and I believe that is fitting. The horror of his thoughts consumed him.”
Duncan was also accused of killing two sisters, aged 11 and 9 years old, in Washington. He was not prosecuted for those crimes because of the sentences he had already received.
Duncan was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer while on death row.