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Body found in river identified as missing north central Iowa teen

(Radio Iowa) – The search for a missing north central Iowa teenager is over. A fisherman found her body Friday near Boone and an autopsy this past weekend confirmed Kathlynn Shepherd died of blunt force trauma.

“We brought Kathlynn home, unfortunately not under the circumstances we had hoped,” says Gerard Meyers of the Iowa Department of Public Safety.  “…We’re in the closure phase. We’re in the phase of trying to support the family and the community of Dayton after they move forward after these circumstances.”

Fifteen-year-old Kathlynn Shephard and a 12-year-old girl were kidnapped in Dayton on May 20 after they got off a school bus. The 12-year-old escaped. The suspect — 42-year-old Michael Klunder of Stratford — hanged himself.

“I would emphasize that we don’t have any information that would indicate any co-conspirators,” Meyers says. “We’re pretty certain, without question, that Mr. Klunder was the responsible party, so we’re kind of nearing a close, at least from that perspective.”

Extensive ground searches were conducted in the area where the girls were taken and Klunder’s body was found, but Meyers says river searches were complicated by flooding.

“The body was found hung up on some debris just under the Kate Shelley Bridge, which as I understand it is in the northern portion of Boone County,” he says. “If you look at it on a map, there’s a lot of twists and turns in the river.”

A dentist confirmed the identification early Sunday morning.

“We certainly recognized the clothing and some of the other elements with the body were consistent with that of Kathlynn, so we didn’t have any hesitation that it was Kathlynn,” Meyer says, “but to make sure that positive identification was proper and justified, we went ahead with a dental comparison.”

The teenager’s family issued a statement, calling Kathlynn an “innocent, caring, fun-loving child” who was “taken from this world long before her time.”

In 1992 Klunder was sentenced to 41 years in prison on a kidnapping charge, but he was released after serving a little less than half that term because Klunder got time off for good behavior behind bars. Authorities are investigating whether Klunder may have been behind last July’s abduction of two girls from Evansdale. The bodies of the cousins were found in December in a wooded area in Bremer County.