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House, Senate pass tougher kidnapping bills

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 11:04 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (MCT) — Both houses of the Iowa Legislature have passed bills toughening penalties for kidnappers in response to the kidnapping and death of a central Iowa teenager last year.

The Iowa House and Senate each passed bills related to kidnapping penalties Tuesday.

House File 2253, formerly House Study Bill 501, was approved with a 94-3 vote. The bill raises the penalty for kidnapping children up to 15 years old from the current 10-year sentence to a maximum sentence of 25 years, and also eliminate earned time credit for good behavior for inmates convicted of violent crimes against children up to 15 years old.

The Senate passed a similar bill related to kidnapping penalties, Senate File 2201, with a 50-0 vote. The Senate bill increases the penalty for kidnapping children under 18-years-old to a 25-year prison term.

The bills come in response to the kidnapping of two Dayton girls in May 2013. Michael Klunder, who was 42, kidnapped a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old girl from a bus stop in Dayton.

The younger girl was later able to escape, but 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard was killed by Klunder, who later killed himself.

Shepard’s body was found nearly three weeks later in the Des Moines River near the Kate Shelley High Bridge near Ogden.

The biggest difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill relates to whether or not inmates convicted of violent crimes against children should receive earned time credit for good behavior.

State Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, who introduced the House bill, said he doesn’t support the argument that giving inmates earned time credit serves as an incentive for them to behave.

“I’m more concerned with keeping these people off the street than incentivizing them to behave themselves,” Baltimore said.

Baltimore pointed out earned time credit was the way Klunder was able to be released from prison early, serving only 19 years of a 42-year sentence, allowing the two Dayton girls to be kidnapped in the first place.

Klunder was convicted of two separate kidnapping cases in 1992, but was released on good time earned in 2011.

Baltimore said he believe public opinion will help determine the outcome of the bills.

“When the public sees the differences, I think the public will have something to say about it,” he said. “I hope they will in turn talk with us.”

Baltimore said he believes it won’t be difficult for the two houses to reconcile the difference in age the bills address. He also said both houses are in agreement that the increased penalties should not apply in custodial cases such as when a relative is trying to assume custody of a child.

“We’re looking at the people who have criminal intentions against children,” he said.

A House Judiciary Subcommittee will look at the Senate bill next week, Baltimore said.

“Which bill we actually get into conference committee to reach a compromise and to talk about, I’m not sure,” he said.

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©2014 the Ames Tribune, Iowa

MCT Information Services

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