12-year-old Speaks Out About Escaping Abductor

KCCI.com

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By Aaron Hepker

DAYTON, Iowa —Twelve-year-old Dezi Hughes spoke with KCCI-TV in Des Moines about escaping her abductor -- the same man who allegedly kidnapped and killed her friend.

“Just went to walk home and (he) asked us if we wanted to mow lawns to make money,” Dezi said. “And we said we had to go ask our parents. He told us he would give us a ride, and then told us we could call, and we went from there.”

Dezi and her friend Kathlynn Shepard, 15, were trapped in a red pickup truck driven by sex offender Michael Klunder. He was taking them to a hog confinement where he worked.

“I just kept thinking it wasn’t right,” Dezi said.

Klunder got Kathlynn out of his truck and Dezi took a chance and escaped.

“I had to run through a lot of woods and cross fields,” she said. “I couldn’t see any buildings.”

She made it to the nearest farmhouse, but wasn’t certain she was safe.

“I actually was kind of afraid because I thought we were near his house,” Dezi said. “So I thought it was going to be his relatives or something, so I really didn’t know what to do. But I had to take a chance and find out.”

The move paid off and a stranger took her in.

“I actually thought when she called me that I misunderstood her,” said Dezi’s mother, Jeanette Andrews. “I thought she was over-reacting for no reason. When I got there, I realized she was serious, and that was about when it hit me -- when I saw her when I first got there.”

Her friend Kathlynn has been laid to rest.

Dezi wears a “K” around her neck and stood alone under an evergreen in Dayton Monday. The tree is covered in purple. People mourn for Kathlynn and know Dezi’s continued existence is a miracle.

“I tell her every day I am so glad she is here,” Andrews said. “She is sick of hearing it, and I don’t care. I told her today I am glad she is here.”

Thoughts of that day fill nearly every moment of her day and haunt her at night.

“I don’t sleep until like 3 in the morning,” Dezi said. “I can’t sleep, and when I do sleep, it’s pretty crappy.”

Dezi and her family are seeking counseling, but know that life will never be the same.

“You try to forget, but you can’t,” she said. “It’s going to scar you for life. What can you do about it?”

Dezi and her family wanted to do the interview with KCCI in order to thank those who have helped them. They said the support has been tremendous and are grateful.
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