Still looking for Kathlynn

DAYTON – As the search for missing 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard entered its fifth day Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Safety announced that volunteers from the community are no longer needed.

According to a press release from the DPS, “law enforcement is scaling back and narrowing their focus on terrain that is more difficult to navigate,” and “future search efforts will require specialized skills and equipment.”

Shepard was abducted along with a 12-year-old girl Monday afternoon as they were walking home from school. The other girl was able to escape, but Shepard remains missing.

The alleged abductor, Michael Klunder, 42, of Stratford, committed suicide by hanging in rural Dayton Monday night.

The searches today will be conducted by trained law enforcement officers and will focus on the area between the hog confinement near 3023 400th St. in rural Pilot Mound and the 400 block of Kale Avenue in Boone County, where the girls’ backpacks were found.

“The Department of Public Safety, Webster County Sheriff’s Office and the Dayton Police Department extend their thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who helped search roughly 220 square miles of rural Webster, Boone and Hamilton counties,” the press release stated. “For each of the last four days, more than 125 law enforcement, firefighter, first responder and correction personnel, working with nearly 200 citizen volunteers walked fields and timber completely covering the designated search area.”

Friday’s search expanded to cover areas that had not yet been combed. This included the area around Gowrie, Harcourt, Callender and the Brushy Creek State Recreation Area.

More than 400 volunteers signed up to help, whether it was searching on foot or on an all terrain vehicle, or by lending equipment and supplies.

The announcement Thursday evening that Shepard’s blood was found at the hog confinement at 3023 400th St. in rural Pilot Mound where she was taken, as well as in the tailgate of Klunder’s pickup truck, didn’t change anything for the volunteers.

“I’m just here to get her home to her family,” Amy Hawcott, of Dayton, said. “I’m here to help in any way I can.”

Bob Thacker, of Fort Dodge, who was volunteering for the first time Friday, agreed.

“Her family needs to get her back,” Thacker said. “It’s time to find this girl.”

Searchers on the ground were helped in the air by the Air Wing, a fixed-wing airplane operated by the Iowa State Patrol.

Lt. Kelly Hindman, ISP District 7 commander, said the Air Wing is used for a variety of purposes.

“Its primary purpose is for speed enforcement exercises,” he said. “It’s also used to haul personnel around the state.”

By using it to move staff around, Hindman said it saves on gas mileage and is faster than driving across the state for a brief meeting.

“More and more, we’re using it for investigations such as this,” he said regarding the Shepard search. “It’s also used for relaying critical-need items such as blood and organs for transplants and medical emergencies.”

Among the equipment included in the Air Wing is a heat-detecting tool known as FLIR, which stands for forward-looking infrared imaging systems.

“When we fly over different areas, it allows us to see if there’s anybody there giving off body heat,” Hindman said. “We can send people on the ground to check out that location.”

Although citizen volunteers are no longer required, the DPS still asked for help from the public.

“Area residents are still encouraged to help in the search for Kathlynn by checking their own land, homes and other buildings,” Friday afternoon’s press release stated.

If anything suspicious is found or if something related to Klunder or Shepard is found, the public is asked to contact law enforcement immediately.

Bill Kietzman, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent in charge, said Friday that investigators drained a pond at the hog confinement in rural Pilot Mound as part of its search, but didn’t find anything.