JEFFERSON COUNTY, Iowa - As the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa rolled across the state this week, riders encountered many causes including one man who's working to keep the memory of Kathlynn Shepard alive.
Authorities said Michael Klunder abducted the15-year-old and her 12-year old friend as they walked home from school last May in Dayton, Iowa. He took them to a hog confinement building near Boone. The 12-year-old girl managed to escape. Klunder, who had a history of assault and kidnapping, committed suicide that same day. Shepard remained missing until fishermen found her body in the Des Moines River on June 7.
Shepard's family and friends are now lobbying lawmakers for stricter sentencing guidelines for people who commit crimes against children. One of those friends is spreading the word at RAGBRAI.
Don Dahlstrom, Shepard's neighbor, is on a mission to protect other kids with a booth dedicated to a cause.
Instead of riding his 18th RAGBRAI, Dahlstrom set up a booth for Kathlynn's Hope, an advocacy group to raise awareness about what happened to the 15-year-old and to eventually change sex offender sentencing laws in Iowa. He says riders have responded to the cause and to his booth along the route.
"The response has been tremendous, not only among the riders, but among the town's people," Dahlstrom said. "For instance, last night, I happen to be at the check out counter at Walmart and ran into a family that told me they had goosebumps when they found out what we were doing."
Saturday night in Fairfield, the group took a big group photo in their purple shirts at the courthouse to show their support for the Shepard family and for Kathlynn's Hope.