Body found in river is abducted Iowa teen’s

DES MOINES, Iowa — Authorities confirmed Sunday that a body found in the Des Moines River was that of a 15-year-old Iowa girl who was abducted along with a younger friend after getting off a school bus last month.

An autopsy confirmed the body found Friday night under a bridge near Boone is Kathlynn Shepard’s. Her kidnapping on May 20 in the small city of Dayton led to a massive search involving federal, state and local authorities.

Chief State Medical Examiner Dr. Julia Goodin said Sunday that Kathlynn’s death was a homicide and that she died of “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries.” The autopsy was completed a day earlier.

Residents of Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines, had braced for the news. Investigators had expressed confidence the body — concealed by debris when discovered by a fisherman — was Kathlynn’s. Clothes on it matched what the high school freshman was wearing when a man lured her and a 12-year-old friend into a pickup truck.

Authorities also found zip ties matching ones used to restrain the younger girl, who managed to escape and call 911.

“Today our family has lost part of its soul — not just the Shepard family but the families of Dayton and all of Iowa,” the Shepards said in a statement. “An innocent, caring, fun-loving child was taken from this world long before her time.”

Authorities said Kathlynn and her friend were lured into a pickup that police believe was driven by registered sex offender Michael Klunder. They said Klunder took the girls to a hog confinement facility where he worked, and the 12-year-old girl was able to get away.

Klunder, 42, was found dead hours later at another rural property. Authorities said he hanged himself.

Gerard Meyers, assistant director of field operators for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said Sunday that authorities believe Klunder acted alone.

“We have no indications of any co-conspirators,” he said.

Meyers has said a positive identification would be “the final trigger for not only the family but the community, our investigative personnel, our partner agencies … to move into that next phase, which is really the closure phase of this very unfortunate circumstance.”

Hundreds of officers and volunteers had searched for Kathlynn, but hopes of finding her alive were dampened when testing confirmed that blood found on Klunder’s truck and at the hog building was Kathlynn’s.

“We were robbed of some innocence in this whole thing,” said Webster County Sheriff James Stubbs after the body was discovered. “We’ll never quite be the same. Hopefully time will heal some of those wounds, but the awareness is a lot higher than it was before.”

Klunder had been released from prison in 2011, after serving 20 years for convictions in two separate Iowa kidnappings that occurred on back-to-back days in December 1991.

Police also are investigating whether Klunder is responsible for kidnapping and slaying two young cousins who vanished while riding bikes in Evansdale, about 90 miles from Dayton. The bodies of the girls, who were ages 10 and 8 when they vanished, were found in December in a wooded area in Bremer County, where Klunder once lived in a home for emotionally troubled youth.

More in Local News

Child porn found in forest treehouse and Mill Creek home

Daniel Wood, 56, has been charged with two counts of possession of child pornography.

The rules: You can’t put just anything on your vanity plate

The state keeps a “banned list” of character combinations that will automatically be denied.

Man arrested after robbery reported at Lynnwood Walgreens

He matched the description of a suspect in an earlier robbery reported about three miles away.

Driver killed in crash identified as Monroe man

Anthony Ray Vannelli Jr. died of blunt force injuries. He was 37.

Edmonds man gets nearly 14 years for murder of roommate

Derrick Crawford, 22, admitted that he shot and intended to kill 27-year-old Joshua Werner.

Motorcyclist seriously hurt in Everett hit-and-run

Police are searching for the driver and a gray Dodge Stratus with extensive front-end damage.

As expected, 92 to be laid off by Stanwood’s Twin City Foods

The frozen-vegetables processor announced last year it was moving all operations to Pasco.

Demolition begins on buildings acquired for courthouse remodel

The start date for major construction has been pushed back, but is still projected to wrap up in 2021.

Developer denied more time to submit plans for Woodway project

BSRE Point Wells wants to refine its plans for more than 3,000 units in towers of up to 17 stories.

Most Read