INDIO – An Indio judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that a convicted child killer now accused in the 1997 kidnap-murder of a 10-year-old Beaumont boy is competent to stand trial.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing also appointed a clinical psychologist to help him determine if he should allow Joseph Edward Duncan III to represent himself.
“I’m not going to do it until I’m sure, without a reasonable doubt, he is competent,” Downing said.
Duncan could face the death penalty if convicted of abducting and killing Anthony Martinez, whose nude body was found April 19, 1997, on Berdoo Canyon Road, south of Joshua Tree National Monument, in Indio — 90 miles east of where he was taken 15 days earlier.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office announced last year that it will seek the death penalty for Duncan, who told the judge today that he doesn’t need a lawyer.
“I want to represent myself,” Duncan said.
The defendant, who sat with his eyes closed for most of the proceedings, until asked a direct question, told the judge he believes he is capable of doing so.
“I feel that I am competent to represent myself. However, I also feel it’s not about what I think,” Duncan said.
“I think the reasons why I wish to represent myself are complex and I am not prepared (to elaborate),” Duncan said. “If the questions are framed and given to me formally, I may be able to give some sort of response.”
Downing set a competency hearing for Feb. 20 and a tentative preliminary hearing date of May 12.
Duncan is being held without bail in the Indio Jail. A not guilty plea was entered last week on his behalf.
Duncan was tied to the 1997 abduction and murder when the victim’s name surfaced as the defendant was being questioned in Idaho, where he was convicted of killing two brothers ages 9 and 13, their mother and her fiance.
Partial fingerprints found where the Coachella Valley boy’s body was discovered were subsequently matched to Duncan, according to the prosecution.
Prosecutors allege Duncan left a print on the duct tape that was used to bind the Coachella Valley boy, who was abducted by a knife-wielding assailant while playing with friends in an alley behind his family’s apartment on April 4, 1997.
Duncan, who was charged with Anthony’s murder in 2007, was sentenced to death last August by a federal judge in Boise, Idaho.
In May 2005, Duncan killed 13-year-old Slade Groene, his mother and her fiance near Coeur d’Alene, Ida., and kidnapped 9-year-old Dylan Groene and his 8-year-old sister. He tortured and sexually abused the siblings over several weeks before shooting the boy in the head at a remote Montana campsite while his sister watched.
Duncan was arrested in July 2005 after a waitress at a Denny’s restaurant in Couer d’Alene recognized him and the kidnapped girl. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have been investigating whether the drifter and high school dropout, whose first sex offense was committed when he was 12, could be tied to other cases.