Dayton, IA – Amidst an investigation surrounding the abduction of and still missing Iowa teenager, authorities have found their primary suspect, a local sex offender, dead.
Reports indicate 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard, a sophomore at Southeast Webster-Grand, apparently accepted a ride from a stranger along with a 12-year-old friend. They were abducted Monday afternoon while walking home from school. Shepard has been missing ever since, but the unidentified 12-year-old managed to escape shortly after.
She provided authorities with details of their kidnapping, explaining they'd been taken to an agricultural facility after being picked up. Thereafter, the unnamed girl somehow evaded their captor and fled to a nearby residence for help.
Police believe the ride was with registered sex offender Michael James Klunder, 42. He was found dead Monday evening from an apparent suicide, several hours after the girls were taken. No other details surrounding the man's death have been released. Klunder spent several years in prison, stemming from a 1991 abduction and assault.
A massive hunt – incorporating federal, state, and local law enforcement – is still underway in hopes of finding the girl.
Investigators didn't openly speculate as to whether or not they feel the girl is still alive, but time is never a good indicator in these circumstances. They've narrowed their search within 20 miles of Klunder's residence.
The abduction of the two girls comes less than a year after the disappearance of two cousins in Evansdale, about 90 miles east of Dayton. Lyric Cook, 10, and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins disappeared while riding their bikes last July. Their bodies were discovered by hunters in a remote wooded area that December. Investigators are looking into whether Klunder may have been involved in cousins' kidnappings and deaths.