Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Body Found in River Identified as Abducted Teen Kathlynn Shepard

Kathlynn Shepard, Inset: Michael Klunder

Kathlynn Shepard, Inset: Michael Klunder. Sources: Police release, Sex Offender Registry

The coroner has confirmed that the body found in the Des Moines River on June 7, 2013, is that of missing teen Kathlynn Shepard, who was abducted in late May by a sex offender who her family does not think should have been granted early work release from prison.

Iowa police had already suspended the search for abducted teen Kathlynn Shepard, 15, on June 7 after a fisherman found a body in the Des Moines River. That body has now been identified as Kathlynn’s. Kathlynn was abducted with a younger friend, 12, on May 20, 2013, after accepting a ride from a stranger offering work cutting lawns. That stranger is believed to have been Michael J. Klunder, 42, a convicted sex offender. Klunder, who has since committed suicide by hanging, had been released from prison in 2011, after having served only 19 years out of a 41-year sentence for abducting a woman and two toddler girls, 3, in 1991.¬†Those children were found alive, but in a dumpster, and one of them showed signs of having been choked.

The body found last Friday under a bridge near Boone, was wearing the clothes in which Kathlynn had last been seen. Police had been forced temporarily to suspend the search for Kathlynn on May 30 due to dangerous flooding and lack of any leads.

The body was autopsied on June 8, and on June 9 Iowa Chief State Medical Examiner Dr. Julia Goodin confirmed that the body was Kathlynn’s and that she had been killed with “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries.” T. Gerard Meyers, assistant director of field operators for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, announced, “The positive identification will 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.”

Kathlynn’s family continues its work with legislators and other efforts to raise awareness about sex-offender laws that they view as lax and believe led to their daughter’s murder. The investigation is not complete, but police believe that Klunder may also¬†have been responsible for the summer 2012 abduction and murders of cousins Lyric Cook, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 9.

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