Shepard Family Pushing For Tougher Laws - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Shepard Family Pushing For Tougher Laws

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By: Claire Powell
cpowell@myabc5.com
@clairenpowell

 

Kathlynn Shepard's parents met with lawmakers Thursday morning in an effort to increase criminal penalties for sex offenders.

Last May, 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and 12-year-old Dezi Hughes were walking home from their school in Dayton when they were kidnapped by 42-year-old Michael Klunder. Hughes managed to escape, but Shepard's body was found later in June.

Klunder, who was previously arrested for kidnapping in 1992, committed suicide shortly after abducting the girls.

Denise, Kathlynn's mother, explained how the Klunder approached their youngest daughter, Jessica, the same day he kidnapped Kathlynn.

"He came and confronted our youngest daughter before he ever caught Kathlynn and Dezi, so he was our prowling for days," said Denise Shepard.

That thought still makes Hughes cringe.

"No other kids and no other families should have to go what ours did," said Hughes.

 "There is no reform for these cowards, these monsters out preying on our kids. They're going to do it again and again and again," said Denise.

Thursday, the Shepard's and State Representative Chip Baltimore proposed the House Study Bill 501, a bill inspired by Kathlynn's murder and the awareness created by the tragedy.

A House subcommittee granted preliminary approval to a bill that would increase the punishment for kidnapping if the victim is 15 or younger.

The legislation raises the sentence for such crimes to 25 years and blocks those convicted of certain crimes from the ability to reduce a sentence.

 "That takes it from a Class C felony to a much harsher Class B," said Baltimore.

"Anything that will keep them away for longer, put the monsters away for longer, we'll support," said Michael Shepard.

If a person is convicted, there is no credit for good behavior and no early release. That means no work or teaching programs.

The Shepard's hope once offenders serve their full time they would have to be under 24/7 supervision by their parole officers.

"I think many Iowans don't believe good time credit for behaving yourself in prison should allow you to get out early," said Baltimore.

This hits home for the Shepard's because Klunder, Kathlynn's suspected killer, was released because of good behavior after 19 years of his original 41 year sentence.

"Being rewarded for good behavior as an adult, to me, is flabbergasting, it just doesn't make any sense at all," said Denise.

"We want to make sure this doesn't happen to any other children… that's the primary concern. Our daughter wouldn't want anyone else to suffer so that's what our drive is. If we can put one of these monsters away, you'll never know how many children you save," said Michael Shepard.

Baltimore said the bill will be presented again in coming weeks. The Shepard's said they'll continue to push for the changes, not just in Iowa, but across the nation. 

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