Woman feared Iowa kidnapping suspect's release

AP News
Posted: May 24, 2013 8:07 PM
Woman feared Iowa kidnapping suspect's release

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The ex-girlfriend of a man suspected of kidnapping two Iowa girls this week worried that he would harm her and her family before his impending release from prison in 2011, citing prior sexual and physical abuse and threats, according to court records released Friday.

The woman once lived with Michael J. Klunder, who police believe abducted 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and her 12-year-old friend Monday as they walked home from school. Klunder committed suicide after the younger girl escaped, but Kathlynn is still missing.

His ex-girlfriend had a child with Klunder and they lived together in 1991, when he was arrested for two kidnappings and later sentenced to 41 years in prison. When seeking a no-contact order a month before his release from a work-release facility in February 2011, she alleged that Klunder had subjected her to "sexual trauma" and physical abuse during their relationship. He had pushed her into a wall, grabbed her by the throat, threatened her with a raised fist, punched a hole in the wall behind her head and threw her across a room, she said.

The documents also show that Klunder admitted having "a violent history," but he denied abusing her and said he'd been rehabilitated.

The documents add more detail to Klunder's violent past and show that corrections officials were aware of the woman's concerns before he was released without supervision in 2011. Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said Friday that officials helped the woman obtain a no-contact order but that there was little more they could do to protect the public when Klunder's term expired.

Police said Klunder, 42, abducted Kathlynn and her friend in Dayton, a small town about 60 miles north of Des Moines, after asking if they wanted to make money mowing lawns. Investigators said he took them to a hog confinement building where he worked, but the 12-year-old girl was able to escape when Klunder took Kathlynn to another part of the property.

The search for Kathlynn on Friday included an area north of another rural Dayton property where Klunder hanged himself Monday. Investigators said they had new information suggesting he was driving in the area after the abduction.

Authorities will scale back their search on Saturday between the hog confinement and a location where the girls' backpacks were found. They're focusing on terrain that's difficult to navigate and requires specialized skills and equipment, according to authorities.

Their hopes of finding Kathlynn alive were dampened Thursday, when authorities said her blood was found on Klunder's truck and at the hog confinement site. Still, some 150 law enforcement officials and 200 volunteers searched Friday throughout parts of three rural counties, a spokeswoman said. Authorities said they do not need citizen volunteers for the search on Saturday.

In the documents obtained Friday, Klunder admitted he was addicted to cocaine and had a violent temper when he lived with his ex-girlfriend, but claimed his past did not reflect who he was today because he had received Christian-based treatment for offenders and surrounded himself with "positive people."

He also said he had "no interest whatsoever to see, talk to, or have anything to do with" the former girlfriend, but that he wanted to mend his relationship with their son. In April 2011, Klunder agreed to an injunction that permanently barred him from contacting the woman but allowed him to see his son out of her presence.

With his prison sentence winding down, Klunder had warned the woman in September 2010 that he would soon be "coming for our son and would find him," she said in court records. Klunder said that comment wasn't meant to be threatening and was "misconstrued."

Still, the manager of the work-release facility in Marshalltown where Klunder was living warned the woman that Klunder was going to be released without supervision in February 2011, and told her she should consider getting a no-contact order.

"She is fearful of him," residential manager Jon Groteluschen wrote. "Now that he is back in the community and especially after he is off supervision he has the opportunity to harm (her) that he has not had prior to this time. I certainly can understand (her) concerns and feel that an order limiting his contact with her appears warranted."

The Associated Press is not naming the woman under its policy of generally not identifying alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Another record obtained Friday shows the woman and her son changed their last names in 2010. A judge initially said the son needed permission from his biological father, but granted the request after the woman said Klunder was incarcerated and, "It would increase the risk of our safety to establish contact with him."

Klunder had been convicted in two kidnappings on back-to-back days in December 1991. Police said he lured a woman on a highway near Mason City out of her vehicle by claiming she was missing a taillight, then forced her into his car and tried to assault her. The next day, he snatched two 3-year-old toddlers from a Charles City apartment complex, put them in a trunk and left them 50 miles away at a secluded garbage bin, where they were later found alive.

Scaletta, the corrections spokesman, said Klunder's 41-year prison term expired in 2011 after it was reduced under an Iowa law that gives inmates credit for every day they serve. Corrections officials declined to seek his continued confinement for treatment after determining he did not meet the criteria to be declared a "sexually violent predator" who was likely to reoffend, he said.

A law requiring sex offenders such as Klunder to face lifetime supervision by parole officials was not in place when he was convicted, he said.

"Our hands were a little tied," Scaletta said.