DAYTON - Standing near the Tree of Hope Saturday afternoon, Michael Shepard, the father of Kathlynn Shepard, announced that the family will be joining the effort of a California-based organization to work for the passage of a new law that they hope will prevent future tragedies like their own.
Kathlyn Shepard, 15, was killed on May 20 after being abducted on her way home from school. A 12-year-old with her escaped.
The Shepards will be partnering with Chelsea's Light Foundation.
-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
Mike Shepard, left, speaks Saturday afternoon during a press conference in Dayton to announce the family is joining forces with Chelsea’s Foundation. Brent King, right, founded the organization.
"We as a family want to provide our children of Iowa with a safe environment free from predators such as the coward that took Kathlynn," he said.
The law they are supporting is based on a California law known as Chelsea's Law. It was passed after the abduction and murder of Chelsea King, 17, of San Diego.
She was killed by a convicted sex offender.
Her father, Brent King, stood with Shepard Saturday as he spoke.
"It breaks my heart to see the loss from this senseless act," Kent said.
He said that Chelsea's law is narrow in its scope.
It allows judges to sentence some sexual offenders who commit violent crimes against children to life in prison without parole. It also requires lifetime GPS tracking for people convicted of forcible sex crimes against minors and changes the way offenders are evaluated.
"It's a one-strike law. We don't need to have a second victim," he said.
Under California's law, increased penalties, strict parole provisions and oversight and even life sentences for some offenses are all part of the legislation.
It passed there in September 2011.
Shepard spoke about how his family has had little closure since Michael Klunder, of Stratford, who kidnapped and killed his daughter, committed suicide.
Kunder had been released from prison in 2011 after serving 20 years for convictions related to two kidnappings in 1991. One involved a 21-year-old woman he forced into his vehicle and tried to assault. The other involved two 3-year-old girls he kidnapped from an apartment building and left in a trash bin 50 miles away, where they were found alive.
Kunder's 41-year prison sentence was cut in half under Iowa law.
Shepard said he hopes that by enacting a law similar to California's here in Iowa, it can help the healing.
"Our closure will come when the nation has this law," he said.
Both Shepard and King encouraged those in attendance to contact their representatives to urge them to support the legislation in the next session of the Legislature.