Missing teen’s dad asks for help

The father of missing Dayton teenager Kathlynn Shepard asked U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley on Wednesday to work on implementing tough mandatory sentences for people convicted of sexual assault.

”Nobody else should have to suffer what we’ve gone through,” Mike Shepard told the senator during a town hall meeting in the Fort Dodge Public Library.

”If you can help with that, we’d be eternally grateful,” he added.

The mandatory sentencing issue is important to the Shepard family because Michael J. Klunder, the man investigators say abducted Kathlynn Shepard and a 12-year-old girl who escaped from him, had been sentenced to 41 years in prison in 1992 for a third-degree kidnapping conviction, but was released from prison in 2011.

Grassley, a Republican, said he’s in favor of mandatory sentences. But he added that Congress will only work on sentencing laws that affect federal crimes. He added that 95 to 99 percent of criminal cases are tried in state courts under state laws.

Klunder was sentenced to prison after being convicted in a state court.

”I’m glad that you would feel strongly enough about this to come to my town meeting,” Grassley told Shepard, ”I thank you for that, and I hope that we’re able to get a finality on this issue for you.”

About 100 people, many wearing purple ribbons or purple shirts in honor of Kathlynn Shepard, attended the meeting. Purple is the teen’s favorite color.

Following the meeting, Grassley allowed a woman to pin a purple ribbon on his jacket.

Before Mike Shepard addressed the senator, a group of Dayton residents told Grassley that they are writing a proposed bill to protect people from violent offenders by keeping them in prison longer.

Grassley said he would pass the information on to his grandson, state Rep. Patrick Grassley, R-New Hartford.

Mike Shepard said he believes anyone convicted of a sexual assault should serve a mandatory sentence.

”We want it nationwide, and we’ll start here in Iowa,” he said.

According to investigators, Klunder, 42, of Stratford, hanged himself in a hog confinement hours after abducting the girls on May 20.

Despite being sentenced to 41 years in prison, he was released after serving 19 years in accordance with Iowa law, Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said last week.

”The law states that when somebody walks into the prison system, for every day here they get 1.2 days off their sentence,” Scaletta said. ”That can reduce the sentence by more than half.”

He said there was no mandatory sentence for third-degree kidnapping when Klunder was convicted.

Although Shepard spoke specifically of sexual assault, Klunder was never convicted of a sex crime.