Investigator: Missing Iowa girl’s blood found

IOWA CITY – 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 tailgate of the truck and in a hog confinement facility where 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.

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. The two had just stepped off their school bus when the suspect, Michael Klunder, lured them into his truck by offering to pay them for mowing lawns and to give them a ride home so they could ask their parents, Kietzman said.

Instead, he took them to a hog confinement building where he worked and tied the girls’ hands with zip ties at an office inside the building. During the kidnapping, Klunder displayed what appeared to be a gun but was actually a “lethal weapon” 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 weapon that Klunder had left behind and ran through the woods, eventually finding a farmer and calling 911. Police then started looking for Kathlynn, a high school freshman.

Klunder, 42, was found dead hours later at another rural property, where his truck was also 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 in 2011 after serving 20 years for two kidnapping convictions in Iowa dating back to 1991.

Police said he persuaded a 21-year-old woman to pull over on the side of a highway near Mason City by flashing his lights and telling her one of her taillights was broken. When she got out, he used force to get her inside his vehicle, drove down a rural road and tried to assault her.

The next day, authorities said, he snatched two 3-year-old girls from a day care 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. Klunder was arrested after fleeing to Texas.