Body Found in River Identified as Missing Iowa Girl Kathlynn Shepard's

Suspect accused of kidnapping Kathlynn Shepard was a registered sex offender.

ByDean Schabner and Russell Goldman
June 09, 2013, 12:41 PM

June 9, 2013— -- A body found by a fisherman in the Des Moines River has been identified as Kathlynn Shepard, a Dayton, Iowa, girl who was kidnapped along with a friend last month, allegedly by a convicted sex offender.

Iowa Chief State Medical Examiner Dr. Julia Goodin announced today that an autopsy on the body found Friday night in Boone, which is about 11 miles from where Kathlynn was kidnapped, confirmed that it is the 15-year-old girl.

Kathlynn died of "multiple sharp and blunt forced injuries," the medical examiner said.

From the time the body was found Friday evening, investigators said they believed it was her, because the clothes were the same as those Kathlynn was wearing when she was kidnapped.

"This is something that will devastate the community for forever," Dayton Mayor Richard Travis. "I personally feel that the community is scarred."

Natalie Williams, a Dayton resident who knew the girl, said the crime shattered the small town.

"It robbed us of our innocence, you know," she said. "It was a rude awakening that this can happen anywhere."

Kathlynn and a 12-year-old girl were kidnapped at around 4 p.m., May 20, as the two got off a school bus in Dayton.

Police identified Michael Klunder, a registered sex offender from Stratford, Iowa, as the sole suspect in the girls' abduction.

He was found dead four hours after he allegedly took them, Lt. Robert Hanson of the Iowa Department of Public Safety told ABC

Klunder had spent years in and out of prison, including time served for a 1991 conviction on charges that he kidnapped and assaulted a woman, and kidnapped two 3-year-olds. The children were later found alive.

Travis said the crime is more evidence of the need for tougher laws.

"There's no mandatory sentence and that's the problem and we need to change that so it doesn't happen to anybody else," he said.

Klunder allegedly drove the girls around in his truck for hours, crisscrossing large swaths of the rural areas near the town of Dayton, police said.

Around 5:30 p.m. the day of the abduction, just as authorities were about to issue an Amber Alert, police learned that the 12-year-old had escaped from the parked truck and hid out in the woods, and then made her way to a nearby house and called for help, Hanson said.

That girl, who has not been identified, was taken to a hospital and later discharged.

Around 8 p.m. police located Klunder's pickup truck and found him dead inside.

There were, however, no signs of Kathlynn.

Hundreds of police officers and volunteers scoured a network of rural roads and trails in the search for the 15-year-old, deploying aircraft and dogs as part of the effort.

The kidnapping came less than a year after two young cousins were abducted less than 90 miles from Dayton. Lyric Cook, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, went missing while riding their bikes in July. Their bodies were found found by hunters in a wooded area.

Investigators have been looking into whether Klunder might have been responsible for their abduction and murders.

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