Stubbs: ‘We never give up’

DAYTON – Investigators will continue their search for Kathlynn Shepard, more than a week after she was abducted from Dayton.

Shepard, 15, was abducted while walking home from school on May 20. Michael Klunder, 42, who has been identified as her abductor by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, committed suicide hours after the abduction.

Various law enforcement agencies that have been involved in the search for Shepard met Tuesday morning to figure out the next steps of the investigation. Sheriff Jim Stubbs said after the meeting that it was decided to continue the scaled-back search, which has been going on since Friday.

“This is what will be ongoing,” he said.

The search, which is being conducted by different law enforcement and public safety agencies, is focusing on areas that have already been examined.

“We’re basically going back where we’ve been and reassessing where we’ve searched,” Stubbs said. “We need to prioritize our efforts.”

Searchers are using a wide variety of tools to help them find Shepard.

“We have the canines out now, and we’re going to have the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) boats out as well,” he said Tuesday. “But the river’s not safe to have the boats searching now.”

The rain has caused problems for searchers, Stubbs said.

“Areas that were land are now underwater,” he said. “There’s also lots of debris in the river that’s been floating down. Obviously that doesn’t benefit us. More rain means less chance of us being able to navigate the river for the time being.”

The only area of the river searchers could concentrate on Tuesday was the southern portion, near the border of Boone and Webster counties.

“Hopefully, the river recedes,” Stubbs said.

The Emergency K-9 Operations group, based in Clinton, joined the search for Shepard Tuesday.

Canine handler Mary Heinrich said the team is made up of volunteers who use dogs to look for missing persons.

“We look for lost people and do body searches,” she said. “We can also do article searches, and the dogs are water trained so they can go out in the boats.”

Heinrich said the group was looking for Shepard for the first time Tuesday.

“We’re just searching different areas that the sheriff wants us to check,” she said.

One area the team searched was the hog confinement at 3023 400th St. in rural Pilot Mound, which is where the DCI said Shepard was taken after her abduction. They returned without learning anything new.

By midafternoon, Stubbs said other searchers had the same result.

“We’re still going and trying to find Kathlynn,” he said. “We receive information from the public and try to track what they’ve told us about, but so far we don’t have the outcome we’re looking for.”

Stubbs added the focus will remain on finding Shepard.

“We never give up,” he said. “Ultimately Kathlynn is our focus right now, and that won’t change unless there’s something that gives us cause to focus our attention elsewhere.”

He added that agencies including the DCI, FBI and Dayton Police Department are still following up on leads on the case.

Anybody with information on Shepard’s disappearance is asked to call the Webster County Sheriff’s Department at 573-1410.