The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

March 1, 2014

Tougher penalties will prevent kidnapping

The Iowa Senate unanimously approved legislation to increase penalties for child kidnapping in response to the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard of Dayton last year by Michael Klunder.

Our goal is to deter others from perpetrating such horrible crimes against Iowans in the future, and it was a solemn time in the chamber, as Senators recalled what Kathlynn, a high school freshman, had been through.

We approved a 25-year prison sentence for kidnapping a person under the age of 18 (SF 2201). This recommendation came to us from the Public Safety Advisory Board, a group of experts in criminal law, and is supported by the Iowa County Attorneys Association.

We also voted to allow the courts to review juvenile convictions of sexual predators and place them indefinitely in detention for treatment upon release from prison if the circumstances warrant (SF 2211). If these laws had been in place when Michael Klunder committed his first kidnappings and sexual abuse, he would still be confined today.

We will work with the Iowa House to find common ground on this issue and come up with the best possible solution. No child should ever have to endure what Kathlynn experienced, and no family should ever have to live through what the Shepards did last year.

I hope the passage of these bills bring some relief and closure for Denise and Mike Shepard. New laws will not bring back the precious life of their daughter Kathlynn, but they will better protect all Iowa children from predators in the future.

If you’d like to contact me, please call (563) 210-1252 or e-mail rita.hart@legis.iowa.gov. At www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/hart, you can sign up for my newsletter, connect with me on Facebook and more.

Senator Rita Hart represents Clinton County and northern Scott County in the Iowa Senate.

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