FBI agents are trying to verify whether convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III was prowling Missoula neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to the kidnappings and murders of an Idaho family.
Special Agent Brent Robbins, an FBI spokesman in Salt Lake City, would not confirm that Duncan was casing the residential areas, searching for potential victims.
Robbins said only that federal agents have reason to believe Duncan may have been in the area, although interviews with residents haven't confirmed he was stalking the neighborhoods.
"We are going out there and contacting various police departments, as well as certain people in the neighborhoods, trying to build a case on Duncan," Robbins said Thursday. "The investigation is to determine what Mr. Duncan was doing while he was unaccounted for."
So far, no additional victims have been identified.
Duncan was facing a charge of molesting a 6-year-old Minnesota boy when he disappeared from his home in Fargo, N.D., in May. Authorities believe he prowled the Northwest looking for children to kidnap for sex. He allegedly settled on the Brenda Groene family in Coeur d'Alene.
Robbins said the Missoula neighborhoods in which agents have conducted interviews are heavily trafficked, making it difficult for residents to spot a stranger and, ultimately, probably deterred Duncan.
"You haven't got anything boiling in your backyard," Robbins said. "It's not like that at all."
Robbins would not confirm reports that Duncan used a Global Positioning System to track potential victims.
However, it has been widely reported that Duncan kept a GPS device in his vehicle and used it to map geographical way points, keeping a database of potential victims. The system would also have tracked Duncan's own movements, showing agents what areas he may have staked out.
Duncan, 42, is charged with the abductions of Shasta Groene, 8, and Dylan Groene, 9, from their Coeur d'Alene home.
Authorities say Duncan watched the Groene home along Interstate 90 for days in a plot devised to abduct the two children for sex.
Duncan is accused of binding and killing the children's mother, Brenda Groene, 40; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37; and her 13-year-old son, Slade.
Authorities contend Duncan entered the home the night of May 15-16, tied up the victims and beat them to death with a hammer.
Court documents state he then abducted Shasta and her brother, held them for weeks at a remote campsite in Montana, molested them and eventually killed Dylan.
Shasta was rescued early July 2 while eating with Duncan at a Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene.
Dylan's body was found a few days later in a forested area outside St. Regis.
The names of registered sexual offenders are available to the public on the Montana Department of Justice Web site, www.doj.mt.gov.
Currently, there are 213 registered sex offenders in Missoula County. In Montana, there are 1,452 registered sex offenders.