Before 2005, visitors knew Wolf Lodge Bay as a place to eat a famous steak, watch ospreys launch after fish in Lake Coeur d'Alene or find an easy campsite.

Now it's known for the empty house where a killer and child rapist came searching for prey on May 16, 2005. Along with the sexual assaults and four murders , Joseph Edward Duncan III also ripped the soul out of the community's sense of place.

"The impact is so far-reaching. We thought we had a quiet community," Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson said. "Now it's not unusual to drive through this community and see a 'Kill Duncan' bumper sticker on a nice car. I can never even guess the reach of the effect on this community by this killer."

Amber Deahn, 28, was working the late shift at Denny's Restaurant on July 2, 2005, when Duncan and Shasta Groene re-emerged after a six-week hideout in Montana where 9-year-old Dylan Groene was tortured and killed. As Coeur d'Alene police officers led Duncan away, Deahn asked Shasta her name before lifting the girl into a teary embrace.

"Our children are our most precious gift on this planet," said Deahn, a mother of three, on Wednesday. "To have that innocence ripped away from a child is unacceptable. Every child should be allowed to be a child."

Deahn, whose Army Reserve husband is waiting to be re-deployed to the Middle East, said she hopes to travel to California to follow Duncan's case in the killing of Anthony Martinez.

The verdict "is a little bit of relief. Shasta will have some closure and justice will be done for her family when he receives the death penalty," she said. "Ms. Martinez deserves that closure just as much as any other mother. Until there is closure for those families, for me it's not over yet."

Deahn wants the publicity from Duncan's case to become the genesis for stronger sentences for convicted child predators.

"We know he was stalking this family. He was hanging out at playgrounds," she said. "All you can do is take that information and protect your children and the children of neighbors."

Relatives of Duncan's victims said they hoped the death sentence would begin to provide relief to the pain and grief that has marked their lives since May 16, 2005.

Lee McKenzie-Wood, 66, the mother of murder victim Mark McKenzie, said she was ecstatic when she received news of the verdict.

"I haven't been this jacked up in a long time," she said. "It's like I've been locked up in a prison and my heart and mind have been locked up. When this verdict was released, it flowed out of me. Tears flowed of me."

McKenzie-Wood said her 37-year-old son and Brenda Groene, 40, had called for advice about canning the Thursday before Duncan bound them and bludgeoned them, and 13-year-old Slade Groene, to death with a FatMax claw hammer.

"They were going to get married in a few months," she said. "The healing will never come for me or the (rest of the) McKenzie family."

"This trial has been awful rough on all of us," said Ralph McKenzie, Mark McKenzie's father.

Ralph McKenzie said he didn't attend the Boise trial because didn't think he could sit through the proceedings in the room with Duncan. He wasn't surprised by the verdict — he said he didn't see how jurors could've come back with any other — but he was relieved.

"That gives us some closure," he said. "Now we've just got to get on with our lives."

Asked if he thought that's what his son Mark would want, he replied: "Sure he would have."

Wendy Price, Steve Groene's sister and Shasta's aunt, said she's not sure there will ever be closure, but Duncan's death sentence will provide family members with some relief.

"Tragedy is not really an adequate word to describe this," she said. "It's taken an awful toll."

Among the effects, she said, are not eating, not sleeping and not looking at the world the same way she did before Duncan entered their lives. Price's first granddaughter was born about seven months ago, and she now worries constantly.

"I'm scared for her to go to public school. I'm scared for her to say 'Hi' to people in the supermarket," Price said.

Although she expected the jury to impose the death sentence, the reality of it was a bit overwhelming, she said Wednesday afternoon. She believes it will serve as a warning to sexual predators.

"You are not going to take our children and kill our families. We will hunt you down and find you," she said.

Federal prosecutors did a phenomenal job handling the case, she added.

"I know the justice system takes time," Price said. "The whole family, and especially Steve, has appreciated the prayers and wishes of the public."

The process took longer than anticipated by Bob Hollingsworth, a neighbor who found the crime scene after Duncan killed the elder Groenes and McKenzie then fled with Shasta and Dylan.

"I expected this whole thing to be settled some time in 2006," Hollingsworth said.

Execution is probably "the only solution to this situation," Hollingsworth added. It's not a matter of malice or vengeance, he said, "it's just a correct punishment."

Family members of Duncan, 45, had nothing to say.

"I'm sorry, I have no comment," said his mother, Lillian Duncan, who lives in a apartment in Tacoma.

"No thank you," said a woman who answered the phone at the Poulsbo home of Duncan's sister Tina Novotney.

In Las Vegas, an elderly man who answered the phone number listed for Duncan's father and stepmother said the couple no longer lived there.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas said the death sentence should give the families, and the whole community, a chance to begin a healing process.

"This has left deep scars in our community," he said. "I think this is a good first step. Hopefully he will never return."

Duncan won't be coming back to Coeur d'Alene on state charges. He already received three life sentences on state kidnapping convictions and Douglas will agree to three more life sentences on the murder convictions that were on hold while the federal charges went to trial.

Although he believed the death sentence was "a slam dunk" in the federal case, Douglas said he was "very, very surprised" when Duncan demanded to represent himself, rather than using an experienced team of competent death-penalty defenders, then offered almost no defense.

"By his just laying down, one wonders if this was the result (Duncan) wanted," Douglas said.

McKenzie-Wood said she spent the day hurriedly calling family with news of the verdict. She was planning to celebrate with friends at the Post Falls Denny's.

She hadn't thought that it was in a restaurant by the same name where Shasta was saved and Duncan began his twisted legal march to death row.

"It's just pure relief. I'm sure Mark is looking down and cheering just like we are," McKenzie-Wood said. "If he had the chance, he'd drink a beer. Both he and Brenda would."


Reporter Richard Roesler contributed to this report.