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Originally published July 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 12, 2005 at 2:01 PM

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Fargo businessman helped Idaho suspect make bail

A businessman wrote registered sex offender Joseph Duncan a $15,000 personal check to help Duncan make bail after he was charged with child molestation in Minnesota, police say.

The Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — A businessman wrote registered sex offender Joseph Duncan a $15,000 personal check to help Duncan make bail after he was charged with child molestation in Minnesota, police say.

Joe Crary of Fargo wrote the check to Duncan on April 5, the same day a Becker County, Minn., judge set his bail at that amount, said Chad Jutz, a police investigator in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Duncan had moved to Fargo in 2000 after his release from a Washington state prison.

A couple of weeks after posting bail, Duncan disappeared.

He is now charged in Idaho with kidnapping siblings Shasta Groene, 8, and Dylan Groene, 9, and is suspected of killing their family in rural Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Idaho prosecutors said Monday they would charge Duncan with first-degree murder in at least three of the deaths.

Crary, 51, a former executive member of the Fargo-Cass County Economic Development Corp., explained his connection to Duncan in a statement he faxed last night to The Forum newspaper.

"We both enjoyed biking on the bike trails in Fargo and we became acquaintances," Crary wrote to the newspaper. "In my contact with him, I saw him like many others apparently did _ he was polite, soft spoken, and seemed sincere in turning his life around."

Duncan was also having financial problems, Crary wrote.

"I was trying to help him get things straightened out, just like I have tried to help many others over the years," he told The Forum.

Duncan mentions a "Joe" in a Jan. 30 post to his Web journal, Blogging the Fifth Nail:

"My friend Joe has agreed to take me by the hand financially and show me how to spend my money constructively. Now that is a good friend! I've been out of prison for almost five years now and I'm still living from paycheck to paycheck."

Jutz, the police investigator, said a subpoena of Duncan's bank records by the Detroit Lakes police revealed the connection with the Fargo businessman.

Crary said Duncan first posted a personal $15,000 check for bail on April 5, then called Crary on his way home for a loan to cover it.

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In his statement, Crary listed the reasons why he believed Duncan was not a flight risk. He said Duncan was working on a college degree and holding down two jobs, and that Duncan had returned from a trip to Kansas City after receiving his court summons.

"Furthermore, he assured me he was innocent of the charges in Becker County," Crary wrote in his statement.

Crary is known as a real estate developer, investor and part owner of Fargo's Braaten Cabinets. Forum records show he served on the executive committee of the Fargo-Cass County Economic Development Corp. from at least 1996 to 2001.

Crary is the second professional with ties to Fargo who is known to have helped Duncan in Becker County.

Dr. Richard Wacksman, a pediatrician who once lived in Fargo, told police he gave $6,500 to Duncan before his first court hearing in the Becker County case to help with attorney fees.

In 1997, Wacksman asked a prison board in Washington to allow Duncan to be released to live at Wacksman's home in Harwood, just north of Fargo. The board members, who were considering whether to send Duncan back to prison for parole violations, rejected the proposal, saying they would not expose Wacksman's children to that kind of risk, prison records show.

Duncan served 14 years in a Washington state prison for raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint in 1980.

Wacksman, now living in Florida, told the parole board he met Duncan at a San Francisco coffeehouse. It was not clear how long they were acquainted. He has not responded to several calls for comment.

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