Bills in memory of slain Iowa teenager sail through Senate committee

Bills expand the definition and penalties for kidnapping

Mike Wiser
Published: February 13 2014 | 6:26 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:38 am in

DES MOINES — A pair of bills drafted in the memory of slain Dayton teenager Kathlynn Shepard sailed through a Senate committee Thursday.

Senate Study Bills 3079 and 3076 expand the definition and penalties for kidnapping and allow authorities to consider the content of sealed juvenile records when sentencing sexually violent predators, respectively.

“May 20 was the worst day of my life. It was the day my daughter was kidnapped with her friend,” Denise Shepard told lawmakers during a subcommittee hearing. “Reading the autopsy report of what he did to my daughter broke me.”

Michael Klunder, of rural Stratford, abducted Kathlynn Shepard and Dezi Hughes, then 15 and 12, and took them to a hog confinement facility where he worked. Klunder killed Shepard and tried to dispose of her body in a river. Klunder later killed himself. Hughes was able to escape when Klunder separated the girls after the kidnapping.

Klunder was released from the state prison system in 2011 after serving 20 years for two 1991 kidnapping convictions. The first involved a 21-year-old woman he tried to assault. The other involved a pair of 3-year-olds he snatched from a day-care center. The children were found hours later, alive, in a garbage bin.

Klunder also had a sealed juvenile conviction that the judge couldn’t consider during the sentencing in the 1991 cases.

“As a parent of three children, it is unimaginable for me to understand what you have gone through,” Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids and sponsor of the two bills told Denise Shepard, who attended the hearing with her husband and two others. Each wore purple T-shirts commemorating events held in Kathlynn’s honor.

She said the two bills are just a start.

“I personally would like to see a horrendous sex offender or kidnapper, you do it once, you’re put away forever,” she said. “But unfortunately, I don’t get to vote on making those rules. This is the first step in making sure we get something on the books as soon as possible and see if we can, down the road, get something that will make it harder for these sex offenders.”

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