Search area expands for missing Iowa girl, 15

DAYTON (AP) – Investigators looking for a missing 15-year-old Iowa girl expanded their search Friday to a new area where they believe the man suspected of kidnapping her may have driven afterward.

Teams of law enforcement officials and volunteers combed through fields and woods looking for Kathlynn Shepard in an area 10 miles north and northwest of the rural Dayton property where suspect Michael J. Klunder was found dead.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officials said new information leads them to believe Klunder may have driven in that area sometime after he kidnapped Kathlynn and her 12-year-old friend on Monday. The area is roughly 30 miles north of where the girls’ backpacks were found in rural Boone County, an area that has been searched “almost exhaustively,” according to special agent in charge Bill Kietzman.

“It’s time to expand. We have new information. We have the people,” he said.

Police allege that Klunder, a 42-year-old registered sex offender, lured the girls into his red pickup truck while they were walking home from school in Dayton, a small town about 60 miles north of Des Moines. Investigator said he took them to a hog confinement building where he worked about 10 miles away in Pilot Mound, tying their hands with zip ties. The 12-year-old girl managed to free her hands and escape when Klunder took Kathlynn to another part of the property, running through the woods to her safety.

Police found Klunder dead hours later at another rural agricultural property, where he had hanged himself.

Shepard was never found. Police announced Thursday that her blood was found on the ground of the hog building and on the tailgate of Klunder’s truck, dampening the hopes that she would be found alive.

But a huge search for her continued Friday and expanded beyond the roughly 20-square mile radius in and around Dayton where attention was focused previously.

Throughout the week, hundreds of local and state police officers, first responders and volunteers have used dogs, horses, boats and all-terrain vehicles to scour farms, woods and ditches looking for Kathlynn in the largely uninhabited area. Kietzman said areas that have already been searched would be covered again.

Iowa Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Jessica Lown said investigators have been reviewing Klunder’s cellphone records to try to track his movements after the abduction, and have been receiving tips from residents who may have seen his distinct red Toyota pickup truck. It’s not clear precisely how they developed the information that triggered the expanded search, she said.

Police released a photo of Klunder’s truck, which had a temporary paper license plate on the back window, a Tommy Lift tailgate and a silver toolbox located on the driver’s side. Investigators asked anyone who may have seen the truck Monday to come forward.