Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Huge search underway for missing Iowa teen

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ? A massive search was underway Tuesday for a 15-year-old girl abducted near an Iowa bus stop, after authorities said a man who is suspected of taking her and another girl was found dead.

Dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement are searching by air, land and water for Kathlynn Shepard. She and a 12-year-old girl were taken near a Dayton bus stop Monday afternoon after accepting a ride from a stranger. The younger girl was able to escape.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said at a Tuesday news conference that the body of 42-year-old Michael Klunder was found Monday night with a red Toyota Tundra pickup at a rural property northeast of Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines. His cause of death is under investigation.

Klunder is listed on the state's sex offender registry, and he spent several years in prison on kidnapping charges, prison records show. He was released from a work release program in February 2011.

Kathlynn's name and photo are being released in an effort to find the teenager alive, said Jessica Lown with the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

"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 was suspected of abducting the girls on Monday. The 12-year-old girl, who has not been identified, told investigators she and Kathlynn had accepted a ride from a stranger who took them to an agricultural facility. She was able to escape and run to a nearby rural residence for help, DCI Director Chari Paulson said during the news conference.

The girl was taken to a Fort Dodge hospital and released. Authorities haven't said what relationship the girls have to one another.

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

Poor weather and darkness delayed an extensive search Monday night for Kathlynn that covers up to 100 square miles of mostly rural lands, according to Lown.

With the onset of daylight, authorities scoured fields and wooded areas with the help of K-9s and volunteers. Airplanes equipped with heat-activation technology have been deployed.

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

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 9-year-old Elizabeth Collins disappeared while riding their bikes last July. Hunters found their bodies in a remote, wooded area in December.

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.

Klunder's convictions on kidnapping and assault charges include 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.

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.


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