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FBI will split reward four waysPosted on Sept. 14
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FBI will split reward four waysPosted on Sept. 14

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Kidnap victim Shasta Groene might still be missing, and sexual predator Joseph Edward Duncan III still on the run, if not for the early morning heroism of four people at a Denny's restaurant here.

Those four will split a $100,000 reward on Thursday for their help in the rescue of 8-year-old Shasta, who was abducted and missing for seven weeks before they spotted her at the restaurant shortly before 2 a.m. on July 2.

Although the initial praise for the rescue focused on waitress Amber Deahn and restaurant manager Linda Olson, the FBI decided that customers Nicholas Chapman and Chris Donlan also should be rewarded for spotting the girl and calling authorities, a source at the FBI who did not want to be identified told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The four were not immediately available for comment, but were expected at a news conference scheduled Thursday in Coeur d'Alene.

Shasta and her 9-year-old brother Dylan were abducted from their home just outside Coeur d'Alene on either May 15 or 16 after an intruder killed their mother, her boyfriend, and their 13-year-old brother.

Despite an Amber Alert and a nationwide search by the FBI, no sign of the children was found until July 2, when Duncan and Shasta walked into the restaurant along Interstate 90.

Police documents and interviews with officers describe what happened:

Chapman, 21, and Donlan, 18, were outside the restaurant, smoking cigarettes. They immediately recognized Shasta from the numerous posters that had been plastered across the region. The two tried to get the attention of their two female companions inside.

At 1:41 a.m., Donlan text-messaged "that little girl looks line (sic) that Shasta girl" to his girlfriend.

The pair wrote down the license number of Duncan's vehicle and went inside. They grabbed a newspaper that had a picture of the missing girl, and showed the photo to an employee. Then they sat at a table with their girlfriends and tried to keep an eye on Duncan without being obvious.

Deahn, 24, six months pregnant, consulted with Olson, and decided that Deahn would try to keep Duncan and Shasta inside while Olson called police. The manager called at 1:51 a.m., while Deahn went to the table to offer the girl crayons and a promotional mask from the film "Madagascar."

Meanwhile, Chapman became worried when no police cars arrived, and called 911 at 1:55 a.m. He was told that officers were already on the way.

Deahn was taking steps to keep Duncan and Shasta inside the restaurant. She offered Shasta a milk shake as a dessert, and then named all the flavors the girl could order.

Deahn took her time making an adult size shake, which she figured the girl would take longer to finish.

Chapman said three police cruisers arrived, with lights and sirens off, about 10 minutes after his call. When the first pulled into the parking lot, Duncan abruptly took Shasta and went to the restrooms while calling for the check.

Denny's cooks moved to block the back entrance, and Chapman and Donlan braced themselves to tackle Duncan should he break for the door.

But when the officers came in, Duncan was arrested without incident.

While Duncan was taken away, Deahn comforted Shasta and sat in a police car with her.

Deahn, who makes the minimum wage of $3.35 an hour plus tips, has said she wants to devote her life to finding lost children.

The arrest of Duncan sparked nationwide interest in the story, and Deahn and Olson were hailed as heroes. They split an $8,600 local reward, and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, gave each the Spirit Of Idaho award for their quick thinking.

But Steve Groene, father of Shasta, has criticized authorities for not giving Chapman some of the smaller reward. Steve Groene said Chapman's call to authorities actually had more detail and was more definitive.

Deahn, who has an 18-month-old daughter, recently gave birth to a second child and is on maternity leave. Olson continues to work at Denny's, and did not return telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

Donlan and Carpenter do not have telephone listings.

As details of Duncan's violent past emerged, the actions of the four people became even more remarkable.

Duncan had jumped bail and was on the run from a child molestation charge when he was arrested. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for binding and using a hammer to bludgeon Brenda Groene; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie; and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, to death at their home.

Duncan has pleaded innocent. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Duncan also is expected to face federal charges in the abduction of Shasta and Dylan and in the subsequent death of Dylan, whose remains were found at a remote U.S. Forest Service campsite in western Montana.

He also is being investigated for the killings of at least three other children over the years.

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