Searching for Kathlynn
DAYTON – As the search for a Dayton teenager continued, the man alleged to have abducted her – Michael J. Klunder, 42, of Stratford – was confirmed dead Tuesday.
Kathlynn Shepard, 15, and an unidentified 12-year-old girl were taken shortly before 4 p.m. Monday in Dayton.
Special Agent Bill Kietzman of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said they were abducted Monday afternoon near the intersection of First Avenue Northwest and First Street Northwest after getting off a school bus.
According to DCI Director Charis Paulson, the two were taken to a rural agriculture facility. The 12-year-old was able to escape and was found near 3023 400th St. in rural Pilot Mound. She was taken to Trinity Regional Medical Center, where she was treated and released.
Paulson said the investigation led authorities to a red Toyota Tundra, whose driver she identified as Klunder.
Klunder was found dead Monday night at 3319 Taylor Ave. in Dayton.
Kietzman confirmed Klunder’s death was a suicide, though he didn’t reveal exactly how it happened.
Klunder was a registered sex offender with multiple convictions.
Authorities continue to investigate leads into the case.
At a press conference Tuesday at 4 p.m., Kietzman said the focus is now on bringing Shepard home.
“Our plan is to find Kathlynn alive,” said Kietzman, who added authorities are “very optimistic” that she is still alive.
The search area has been extensive and is being expanded, Kietzman said.
“We are searching many, many areas,” he said.
The FBI is now involved, and Shepard’s photo has been distributed statewide.
“We are following every lead in this case,” Kietzman said.
Regarding the 12-year-old, Kietzman described her as “very lucky” and said officials are “very thankful she is OK.”
Anyone who wishes to volunteer to join the search should contact the office at 571-6483, leaving a message with name, resources and contact number.
On Tuesday, more than 100 volunteers showed up at the Dayton Rescue Squad building.
“It’s a member of our community,” Michelle Pearson, of Dayton, said. “I would think that’s a very significant reason to come to help.”
Tiffany Gramblin, of Dayton, also showed up at the ambulance shed.
“I got kids, and I’d want someone working to find mine,” she said.
Don Nixon, who works for McClure Engineering, came up from Ankeny to help in the search.
“It’s always something you see but you never think about,” he said regarding the abduction. “I was able to talk to some other guys at work to get our shifts switched around so I could come up here and help.”
Heather King, of Dayton, watched the searchers from her home. She said the thought of an abduction happening in Dayton was a “terrible thing.”
“It’s one of those things you don’t think would happen, especially in a little town like Dayton,” she said. “My kids now play in the yard.”
She added that she received a phone call from school officials asking parents to pick up their children.
Katara Jondle, 12, of Dayton, is friends with Shepard and described their friendship as “really strong.”
“Even though she’s in high school and I’m in middle school, we’re still friends,” she said.
Jondle said the teenager is “really nice.”
“A lot of times we’d walk home from school together,” she said. “She’s always happy, smiling and friendly.”
Jondle’s mother, Beverly Jondle, agreed with her daughter.
“She’s a real sweet kid,” Beverly Jondle said. “We’ve just got to find her.”
According to Kietzman, authorities also received help from more than 125 law enforcement agencies from across the state. In addition to the DCI, Iowa State Patrol, Webster County Sheriff’s Department, Dayton Police Department and Fort Dodge Police Department, officers with the Hamilton County sheriff’s office, Boone County sheriff’s office, Webster City Police Department and Washington Police Department all responded as well.
The DCI is expecting to release another update on the case at 10 a.m. today.