DCI: Hopes ‘diminished’

DAYTON – Kathlynn Shepard’s blood was found inside a hog confinement where she and a 12-year-old girl were being held, authorities revealed Thursday.

Bill Kietzman, of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said DNA results also showed Shepard’s blood was inside the tailgate of Michael Klunder’s pickup truck.

“I’m not going to go into the quantity of blood that we found,” Kietzman said during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “But she probably sustained injuries.”

The DCI is also in the process of testing blood that was found on the body of Klunder, who has been identified as the suspect in the case.

“That blood has not yet been tested, but we’re going to make the logical assumption that it’s not him,” Kietzman said.

Shepard, 15, has been missing since Monday afternoon after she and the 12-year-old were abducted after being dropped off from their school bus in Dayton. Authorities have identified Klunder, 42, of Stratford, as the suspect.

Klunder, a registered sex offender who served 19 years in prison for kidnapping, was found dead in rural Dayton around 8 p.m. Monday, about four hours after the 12-year-old was recovered.

An autopsy concluded Klunder committed suicide by hanging.

Despite the revelation that her blood was found, Kietzman said the DCI is still committed to finding Shepard and bringing her home to her family.

“We are not giving up hope,” he said, but added that the new information means their hopes are “diminished.”

“Clearly the DNA results, plus the time element, are not in our favor,” he said. “But our intent is still to find Kathlynn and bring her home. That’s still our goal.”

Kietzman also revealed what the 12-year-old told investigators after she escaped.

“As they were walking home, she said Klunder approached them and asked them if they wanted to earn some money mowing a lawn,” he said. “The girls said they needed to talk to their parents first.”

The 12-year-old told police that Klunder promised to allow them to call their parents from his cell phone after he took them to look at the site.

Neither of the girls had cell phones of their own, according to Kietzman.

After Klunder drove Shepard and the other girl to the hog confinement he pulled out a gun. Kietzman said the gun he had is used to euthanize livestock.

“The girls were taken into an office area and their hands were zip-tied,” Kietzman said. “Klunder then took Kathlynn out of the building. The 12-year-old was able to free herself and escape.”

Kietzman said the 12-year-old grabbed the gun, which Klunder had left in the room, and took it with her. She left it in the woods, where it was later recovered by police.

From there, the child ran to a farmer, who called police.

Kietzman said the DCI has no plans to identify the 12-year-old.

“It would not be appropriate for us to do so,” he said.

Authorities are certain that Klunder acted alone in the abduction. Kietzman said Klunder’s wife has been “completely cooperative” with law enforcement during the course of the investigation and is not considered a suspect.

Even with the discovery of Shepard’s blood, Kietzman said there is still a need for volunteers to help with searching today. That’s due, in part, to an expansion of the search area to include 10 miles north and northwest of where Klunder’s body was found.

“We are also asking any farmers or residents to search their own outbuildings,” Kietzman said. “If you have any abandoned buildings, you can also search those or you can call us and we will search them for you.”

“We can’t cover every possible farm in a two-county area,” he added.

Authorities are also interested in learning more about Klunder’s travels between 4:50 p.m. and 8:26 p.m. Monday.

More descriptive information was released about Klunder’s red Toyota Tundra pickup truck Thursday.

“The truck is unique in that it has a silver ‘tommy-lift’ tailgate,” Kietzman said. “It had no license plates and it was dirty as a truck like that would be.”

Kietzman said he was unsure why specific information about the truck was not released earlier in the week.

Regarding Thursday’s search, he described it as “just as big” in terms of volunteers as it has been previously.

Thursday’s volunteers included several who had come up to Dayton for the first time.

“I grew up in Stratford and I’m familiar with the area,” David Repass, of Duncombe, said. “I thought I would give some of my time to help out the volunteers.”

Patrick Gunnink, of Milaca, Minn., was visiting friends and family in the area and decided to help look for Shepard as well.

“I’d hope the same for my kids as well,” he said.

Other searchers, like Christy Smithson and her husband, Josh Smithson, of Jefferson, returned to search Thursday after volunteering previous days.

“Anybody can help,” Christy Smithson said. “We were here yesterday and we’ll be here until she’s found.”

DCI Special Agent Terry Cowman told the crowd of volunteers that the area included “some of the toughest stuff we’ve been through.”

“Don’t feel bad if you don’t think you’re able to work in that environment and need to stay behind,” he said. “We will find other assignments for you.”

Josh Smithson, who said he and his wife have seven children, wasn’t concerned about the terrain.

“We’re really outdoorsy,” he said.

Webster County Sheriff Jim Stubbs said volunteers should meet at the Dayton Rescue Squad’s ambulance shed before 8 a.m. today if they are interested in searching.

Those who want to search need to be at least 18 years old, have a photo ID and wear appropriate clothing.

“Dress like you would when you go out hiking,” Stubbs said.

Dayton Mayor Richard Travis thanked the volunteers for all their work.

“It shows what type of people we have in the community that will drop what they’re doing and help with the search,” he said. “There are no words to describe it.”

He said everybody is committed to seeing everything through to the end.

“We will continue to search until we find Kathlynn,” Travis said. “Hopefully, that will be sooner than later.”