Massive Search Underway for Abducted Teen in Iowa

Dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officials are searching by air, land and water for Kathlynn Shepard, abducted on Monday



Barbara Rodriguez and Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press | Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Update as of 6:02 pm ET:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Investigators have discovered the blood of a missing 15-year-old Iowa girl on the truck of a registered sex offender suspected of kidnapping her Monday, diminishing the chances of finding her alive, a lead investigator said Thursday.

DNA testing confirmed that the blood found on the truck and in a hog confinement facility where authorities believe 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard was taken after she was abducted belonged to the girl, said Bill Kietzman, special agent in charge of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Kietzman said the amount of blood found was enough to show that she suffered some injuries, and with three days having passed since she disappeared, those developments "do not work in our favor."

"We are not giving up hope that we can find Kathlynn. Our intent is to find her and bring her home to her family. Clearly this evidence diminishes our hopes that we're going to find her in a safe manner," he said at a news conference, vowing that the search would continue.

Kathlynn and her 12-year-old friend were kidnapped while walking home from school in Dayton, a rural area about 60 miles north of Des Moines.

Authorities believe the suspect, Michael Klunder, lured the two girls into his truck by offering to give them a ride and to pay them for mowing lawns, and then took them to a hog confinement building where he worked, Kietzman said.

Klunder then tied the girls' hands with zip ties at an office inside the building. During the kidnapping, he displayed a gun that is used to euthanize livestock, Kietzman said.

The investigator said Klunder took Kathlynn to a different part of the building, and the 12-year-old girl was able to free her hands and escape. The younger girl grabbed the gun that Klunder had left behind and ran through the woods, eventually finding a farmer and called 911. Police then started looking for Kathlynn.

Klunder, 42, was found dead hours later at another rural property, where his truck was found. Authorities said he committed suicide; an autopsy completed Wednesday determined the cause of death was hanging.

Klunder was released from the state prison system after serving 20 years for two kidnapping convictions in Iowa dating back to 1991.

Police said he abducted a 21-year-old woman after luring her into his vehicle and trying to assault near Mason City. The next day, authorities said, he snatched two 3-year-old girls from a daycare at an apartment complex in Charles City, put them in a trunk, and dumped them in a garbage bin 50 miles away, where they were found alive hours later.

Now, police also are looking into whether Klunder had any connection to the slayings of two cousins who disappeared while riding their bikes last July in Evansdale, about 90 miles away from Dayton. The bodies of the girls, 10-year-old Lyric Cook and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins, were found in a wooded area in December.DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Investigators searching for a 15-year-old Iowa girl who was abducted this week have recovered her backpack along with one belonging to a 12-year-old who escaped from the kidnapper.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety said a search team of police and dogs found the backpacks Tuesday afternoon.

Kathlynn Shepard and the 12-year-old girl were abducted Monday by 42-year-old Michael Klunder while walking home from school in Dayton. The backpacks were found in a rural area, several miles south of a hog confinement where the girls were taken.

Police say Klunder was found dead of self-inflicted injuries hours after the 12-year-old escaped. Police are searching for Kathlynn around Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines.

Investigators also released an image of Kathlynn exiting a school bus, shortly before her abduction.

Original story:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A 15-year-old central Iowa girl who was abducted after getting off her school bus was still missing Tuesday, and authorities said a massive search was underway. Meanwhile, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said the man who is suspected of taking her and another girl committed suicide.

Dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officials are searching by air, land and water for Kathlynn Shepard. She and a 12-year-old girl, who are friends, were taken Monday afternoon shortly after stepping off a school bus in Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines. The younger girl, who was later able to escape, told authorities the girls had accepted a ride from a stranger.

DCI Special Agent Bill Kietzman said Tuesday that the body of 42-year-old suspect Michael Klunder was found Monday night with a red Toyota Tundra pickup at a rural property northeast of Dayton.

Kietzman said authorities have begun focusing their search for Kathlynn to locations within 20 miles of Dayton, including Klunder's residence. Previously, the search covered up to 100 square miles of mostly rural areas.

Authorities have also coordinated with the FBI to update electronic billboards around the state with information about the search.

Kietzman would not elaborate on the likelihood of finding Kathlynn alive, though he remained optimistic.

"Time obviously is not your friend in these kinds of situations," he said at a news conference. "Our plan is that we're going to find her alive. That's our hope."

The 12-year-old girl, who has not been identified, told investigators she and Kathlynn were taken to an agricultural facility. But she was able to escape a short time later and ran to a rural residence for help, Kietzman said. She was then taken to a Fort Dodge hospital and released.

The abduction spanned several hours, officials said, with Klunder's body being discovered nearly four hours after the girls were taken.

Kathlynn is described as being 5-feet-6-inches and 160 pounds. She has blond hair, blue eyes and braces. She was last seen wearing jeans, a gray hooded sweatshirt and a Minnesota Vikings baseball cap.

"The response by volunteers has been outstanding," said DCI Director Charis Paulson.

Jessica Lown with the Iowa Department of Public Safety said authorities have been in contact with Kathlynn's family and they have declined to comment.

"They're continuing to search for the girl under the assumption that she is still alive because right at this point in time we don't have information indicating otherwise," Lown said. "That's the way these things work for all missing children and missing person cases. We search until we find them."

Klunder is listed on the state's sex offender registry, prison records show. He spent several years in prison after being convicted on kidnapping and assault charges, including the 1991 abduction and assault of a Rudd woman and the kidnapping of two toddlers from an apartment complex in Charles City, according to the Mason City Globe Gazette. The girls, both 3, were found alive inside a dumpster.

He was released from a work release program in February 2011.

The abduction comes less than a year after the high-profile disappearance of two cousins in Evansdale, about 90 miles east of Dayton. Lyric Cook, 10, and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins disappeared while riding their bikes last July. Hunters found their bodies in a remote, wooded area in December.

Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said investigators were looking into whether Klunder was involved in Lyric and Elizabeth's kidnappings and deaths. DCI and FBI agents who have been involved in the search for the Evansdale girls have been dispatched to help search for Kathlynn.

Smock said investigators were trying to determine whether Klunder had any ties to the area.

"There's a multitude of things we're looking at to determine whether he may be a person of interest or not a person of interest," he said. "It's much too early in their investigation to be able to say with any degree of accuracy one way or another whether it's related to our case at all."

Authorities are asking the public for information about any interactions with Klunder, as well of any sighting of his pickup between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday.


Associated Press Writer Ryan J. Foley contributed to this report from Iowa City, Iowa.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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