DAYTON, Iowa (AP) --- Iowa investigators say the discovery of blood of a missing 15-year-old girl has diminished hope of finding her alive.
Bill Kietzman of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Thursday that DNA tests confirm that blood found on the ground around a hog confinement facility where Kathlynn Shepard was taken after being kidnapped belonged to the girl.
He says her blood also was found on the tailgate of the suspect's truck.
Kietzman says the blood was enough to show "that she probably sustained some injuries." He said the search continues for the teen, but that hopes of finding her alive are now less promising.
Investigators say Kathlynn and her 12-year-old friend were kidnapped Monday by Michael Klunder, who later committed suicide.
The younger girl was able to escape.
DAYTON, Iowa (AP) --- When Michael Klunder enticed two girls to enter his pickup truck near a rural Iowa school bus stop Monday, it was at least his third kidnapping in a long criminal history in which he was ordered to receive sex offender treatment as a teenager, according to police.
Even as authorities searched Wednesday for the still missing 15-year-old, residents and some law enforcement officials questioned why the 42-year-old Klunder wasn't locked up in prison or for treatment. In 1991, Klunder kidnapped a 21-year-old woman, who escaped, and later two 3-year-old girls, who were found alive in a garbage bin.
“It's unfortunate, looking at this guy's history, that he was able to walk the streets,” said Bremer County Sheriff Dan Pickett.
Authorities say Klunder committed suicide Monday, hours after he took 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and a 12-year-old friend in Dayton, a town of about 850 that is 60 miles north of Des Moines. Police released a picture Wednesday showing Kathlynn exiting her school bus minutes before the abduction, wearing a Chicago Cubs hat.
Police say Klunder took the girls to a hog confinement building several miles away. The 12-year-old managed to escape, and police say she gave them crucial information to investigate Klunder. He was found dead of self-inflicted injuries at another rural property.
A search team recovered the girls’ backpacks Tuesday several miles south of the hog building, police said Wednesday, as investigators and volunteers continued searching for Kathlynn in farm fields and barns.
“To see so much love in our community and the surrounding areas is amazing. Thank you for all of your prayers and we hope to have Kathlynn home soon,” her family said in a statement.
Investigators say they are looking into whether Klunder could be linked to the slaying of two cousins, ages 8 and 10, who vanished last summer while riding bikes in Evansdale. In the 1980s, records show he lived at a residential treatment center for emotionally troubled children in Bremer County, where the cousins’ bodies were found in December.
“We know he's a creep. The only thing good about him being found dead is there is no more victims,” said Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals, in Mason City.
Klunder was released from the prison system in 2011, after serving less than half of a 41-year sentence he received in the two kidnapping cases in 1992. Iowa law gives inmates credit for an additional 1.2 days for every day they serve.
Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said officials declined to seek his confinement for treatment when his prison term expired because they didn't have enough evidence for a court to declare him a sexually violent predator. He said Klunder successfully completed a sex offender treatment program and did not show any “signs that there could potentially be further problems.”
Once released, Klunder attended a semester at a Des Moines community college, married 33-year-old Lisa Flygstad in Florida last year, and recently bought a house with her in Stratford, records show. Klunder, 6 feet 6 inches tall and 240 pounds, had to periodically check in with authorities as a registered sex offender.
After he turned 18 in 1989, Klunder was sentenced for attempted burglary and assault. A judge ordered him to receive sex offender treatment during a prison term of up to five years. He served just over two years before being released in August 1991.
On Dec. 15, 1991, Klunder flashed his lights to get a 22-year-old woman to pull over on a highway outside Mason City and told her that her taillights weren't working. When she got out, he threw her to the ground, got on top of her and threatened that he had a knife, police say. He wrestled her into his car and turned down a gravel road, where the woman waved out the window for help to an oncoming vehicle. Klunder pushed her out of the vehicle and fled.
The next day, Klunder snatched two 3-year-olds from an apartment complex in Charles City. Klunder was angry at one of the toddlers, who was the daughter of a female acquaintance.
Klunder put the girls into a trunk and drove them to a secluded area in Northwood, about 50 miles away, and left them in a trash bin. A county worker found the girls alive hours later. A doctor later found that one girl had been choked.
“My impression is that he was of somewhat limited capacity. He didn't like how the one little girl behaved. Beyond that, I have no idea what motivated him,” said Floyd County Attorney Norm Klemesrud, adding that Klunder was employed at a workshop for the disabled.
Klunder, arrested days later in Houston, pleaded guilty to third-degree kidnapping and one count of willful injury for abducting the toddlers and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. As part of the plea deal, the Iowa Attorney General's Office dropped first-degree kidnapping charges, which carry life in prison.
While the prosecutor who handled the case has retired, “we suspect (she) felt that there may have been a fighting issue as to whether there was a serious or permanent injury on the child, which was needed for a first-degree kidnapping conviction,” spokesman Geoff Greenwood said.
Separately, Klunder was sentenced to 11 more years for the kidnapping and assault of the 22-year-old woman and recommended for more sex offender treatment.
Earlier: Police recover backpacks of 2 kidnapped girls in Dayton
2:45 p.m. - DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --- Investigators have recovered the backpacks of the two Iowa girls who were kidnapped Monday while they continue to search for 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety said a search team of police and dogs found the backpacks belonging to Kathlynn and a 12-year-old girl, who were abducted by 42-year-old Michael Klunder while walking home from school in Dayton. The backpacks were found Tuesday afternoon in a rural area, several miles south of a hog confinement where the girls were taken.
Police say the 12-year-old escaped and Klunder was found dead of self-inflicted injuries hours later. Police continue to search for Kathlynn around Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines.
Investigators also released an image of Kathlynn exiting a school bus, shortly before she was abducted.
Earlier: Search for missing teen continues Wednesday in Dayton
10:45 a.m. - DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --- The search for a missing 15-year-old Iowa girl abducted Monday after getting off her school bus was continuing Wednesday morning near Dayton in northern Iowa.
A news release from the Iowa Department of Public Safety says the search is focusing on four areas, all within 20 miles of Dayton.
Searchers will focus on the area around the bus stop where Kathlynn Shepard and a 12-year-old girl were abducted, the area in rural Pilot Mound, Iowa, where the 12-year-old girl escaped and an area near Dayton where the body of 42-year-old suspect Michael Klunder was found Monday night. Searchers will also search the area near Klunder's Stratford, Iowa, home.
More than 300 people searched for Shepard on Tuesday. Authorities say more volunteers are not needed Wednesday, but could be later.
Earlier: Cops looking for connection between Dayton kidnapping suspect, missing cousins
5:15 p.m. (Tuesday) - EVANSDALE, Iowa --- Authorities investigating the July abduction of two girls from Evansdale are looking into possible connection with the convicted kidnapper who was found dead Monday after snatching two girls in Dayton.
Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said police don’t have any immediate indications that Michael James Klunder, 42, recently of Stratford, had any involvement in the disappearance and deaths of cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins.
But he said investigators are probing Klunder’s whereabouts at the time of the Evansdale abduction.
“We are working closely with local investigators over there, and we are in constant contact,” Smock said. “It’s something we are looking at.”
He said Klunder currently isn’t considered a person of interest, and the additional attention is standard anytime they hear of another abduction.
On Monday afternoon, Klunder abducted a 12-year-old girl and 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard after offering them a ride. The 12 year old fled around 4:30 p.m. and ran to a rural residence to request help.
Authorities found Klunder deceased at about 8 p.m. Monday at a rural property northeast of Dayton. They also located Klunder’s red Toyota Tundra pickup.
But Shepard remains missing, and authorities are conducting a search of a 100-square-mile area.
According to prison records, Klunder, who was listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, had been released from prison in recent years after serving about 19 years for kidnapping two toddlers and a woman in separate incidents in 1991.
Courier archives indicate Klunder kidnapped two 3-year-old girls who were playing outside a Charles City apartment complex Dec. 16, 1991. They were found alive in a Dumpster in Northwood.
He was accused of assaulting a 21-year-old Rudd woman near Nora Springs and forcing her into his car on Dec. 15, 1991.
He fled the state after he was questioned about the kidnappings. His car broke down in Florida, and he took a bus to Houston, Texas, and was later arrested.
According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, Klunder was sentenced to 41 years in prison, which were consecutive sentences for third-degree kidnapping and assault charges out of Cerro Gordo County connected with the toddlers and a two third-degree kidnapping and a willful injury charge out of Bremer County.
He remained behind bars until September 2010, when he was placed on work release, and then finished work release in February 2011, prison records show.
Earlier: Suspect in abduction of 2 girls found dead
3 p.m. (Tuesday) - DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --- A massive search was underway Tuesday for a 15-year-old girl abducted from an Iowa bus stop, after authorities said a man who is suspected of taking her and another girl was found dead.
Dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement are searching by air, land and water for Kathlynn Shepard. She and a 12-year-old girl were taken from a Dayton bus stop Monday afternoon after accepting a ride from a stranger. The younger girl was able to escape.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said at a Tuesday news conference that the body of 42-year-old Michael Klunder was found Monday night with a red Toyota Tundra pickup at a rural property northeast of Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines. His cause of death is under investigation.
Klunder is listed on the state's sex offender registry, and he spent several years in prison on kidnapping charges, prison records show. Authorities said he lived and worked in the area.
Kathlynn's name and photo are being released in an effort to find the teenager alive, said Jessica Lown with the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
"They're continuing to search for the girl under the assumption that she is still alive because right at this point in time we don't have information indicating otherwise," Lown said. "That's the way these things work for all missing children and missing person cases. We search until we find them."
Klunder was suspected of abducting the girls on Monday. The 12-year-old girl, who has not been identified, told investigators she and Kathlynn had accepted a ride from a stranger who took them to an agricultural facility. She was able to escape and run to a nearby rural residence for help, DCI Director Chari Paulson said during the news conference.
The girl was taken to a Fort Dodge hospital and released. Authorities haven't said what relationship the girls have to one another.
Authorities said the abduction spanned several hours, with Klunder's body being discovered nearly four hours after the girls were taken.
Poor weather and darkness delayed an extensive search Monday night for Kathlynn that covers up to 100 square miles of mostly rural lands, according to Lown.
With the onset of daylight, authorities scoured fields and wooded areas with the help of K-9s and volunteers. Airplanes equipped with heat-activation technology have been deployed.
"The response by volunteers has been outstanding," Paulson said.
The abduction comes less than a year after the high-profile case of two abducted cousins in Evansdale, about 110 miles east of Dayton. Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins disappeared while riding their bikes last July. Hunters found their bodies in a remote, wooded area in December.
Kathlynn is described as being 5-feet-6-inches and 160 pounds. She has blond hair, blue eyes and braces. She was last seen wearing jeans, a gray hooded sweatshirt and a Minnesota Vikings baseball cap.
Authorities are asking the public for information about any interactions with Klunder, as well of any sighting of his pickup between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday.