Woman feared Iowa kidnapping suspect’s release

IOWA CITY – The ex-girlfriend of a man suspected of kidnapping two Iowa girls this week worried that he would harm her and her family before his impending release from prison in 2011, citing prior sexual and physical abuse and threats, according to court records released Friday.

The woman once lived with Michael J. Klunder, who police believe abducted 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and her 12-year-old friend Monday as they walked home from school. Klunder committed suicide after the younger girl escaped, but Kathlynn is still missing.

His ex-girlfriend had a child with Klunder and they lived together in 1991, when he was arrested for two kidnappings and later sentenced to 41 years in prison. When seeking a no-contact order a month before his release from a work-release facility in February 2011, she alleged that Klunder had subjected her to “sexual trauma” and physical abuse during their relationship. He had pushed her into a wall, grabbed her by the throat, threatened her with a raised fist, punched a hole in the wall behind her head and threw her across a room, she said.

The documents also show that Klunder admitted having “a violent history,” but he denied abusing her and said he’d been rehabilitated.

The documents add more detail to Klunder’s violent past and show that corrections officials were aware of the woman’s concerns before he was released without supervision in 2011. Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said Friday that officials helped the woman obtain a no-contact order but that there was little more they could do to protect the public when Klunder’s term expired.

Police said Klunder, 42, abducted Kathlynn and her friend in Dayton, a small town about 60 miles north of Des Moines, after asking if they wanted to make money mowing lawns. Investigators said he took them to a hog confinement building where he worked, but the 12-year-old girl was able to escape when Klunder took Kathlynn to another part of the property.

The search for Kathlynn on Friday included an area north of another rural Dayton property where Klunder hanged himself Monday. Investigators said they had new information suggesting he was driving in the area after the abduction.

Authorities will scale back their search on Saturday between the hog confinement and a location where the girls’ backpacks were found. They’re focusing on terrain that’s difficult to navigate and requires specialized skills and equipment, according to authorities.

Their hopes of finding Kathlynn alive were dampened Thursday, when authorities said her blood was found on Klunder’s truck and at the hog confinement site. Still, some 150 law enforcement officials and 200 volunteers searched Friday throughout parts of three rural counties, a spokeswoman said. Authorities said they do not need citizen volunteers for the search on Saturday.

In the documents obtained Friday, Klunder admitted he was addicted to cocaine and had a violent temper when he lived with his ex-girlfriend, but claimed his past did not reflect who he was today because he had received Christian-based treatment for offenders and surrounded himself with “positive people.”

He also said he had “no interest whatsoever to see, talk to, or have anything to do with” the former girlfriend, but that he wanted to mend his relationship with their son. In April 2011, Klunder agreed to an injunction that permanently barred him from contacting the woman but allowed him to see his son out of her presence.