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Police seek link between abduction suspect, Evansdale cousins

Police seek link between abduction suspect, Evansdale cousins

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EVANSDALE, Iowa — Authorities investigating the July abduction of two girls from Evansdale are looking into possible connection with the convicted kidnapper who was found dead Monday after snatching two girls in Dayton.

Evansdale Police Chief Kent Smock said police don’t have any immediate indications that Michael James Klunder, 42, recently of Ellsworth, had any involvement in the disappearance and deaths of cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins.

But he said investigators are probing Klunder’s whereabouts at the time of the Evansdale abduction.

“We are working closely with local investigators over there, and we are in constant contact,” Smock said. “It’s something we are looking at.”

He said Klunder currently isn’t considered a person of interest, and the additional attention is standard anytime they hear of another abduction.

On Monday afternoon, Klunder abducted a 12-year-old girl and 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard after offering them a ride. The 12 year old fled around 4:30 p.m. and ran to a rural residence to request help.

Authorities found Klunder deceased at about 8 p.m. Monday at a rural property northeast of Dayton. They also located Klunder’s red Toyota Tundra pickup.

But Shepard remains missing, and authorities are conducting a search of a 100-square-mile area.

According to prison records, Klunder, who was listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, had been released from prison in recent years after serving about 19 years for kidnapping two toddlers and a woman in separate incidents in 1991.

Courier archives indicate Klunder kidnapped two 3-year-old girls who were playing outside a Charles City apartment complex Dec. 16, 1991. They were found alive in a Dumpster in Northwood.

He was accused of assaulting a 21-year-old Rudd woman near Nora Springs and forcing her into his car on Dec. 15, 1991.

He fled the state after he was questioned about the kidnappings. His car broke down in Florida, and he took a bus to Houston, Texas, and was later arrested.

According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, Klunder was sentenced to 41 years in prison, which were consecutive sentences for third-degree kidnapping and assault charges out of Cerro Gordo County connected with the toddlers and a two third-degree kidnapping and a willful injury charge out of Bremer County.

He remained behind bars until September 2010, when he was placed on work release, and then finished work release in February 2011, prison records show.


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