Two key leaders say legislators will review the details behind the kidnapping of two north central Iowa girls. Authorities say a 42-year-old Stratford man kidnapped two girls from a bus stop in Dayton. The 12-year-old escaped; the search continues for the 15-year-old and the suspect killed himself.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says legislators will “absolutely” have “very serious discussions” about how to deal with “heinous” crimes like this. “And how to deal with these kinds of individuals — a better job of assessing risk,” Gronstal says.
“You know we have a system in place that if the courts can deem somebody a sexually-violent predator we can keep them in after they’ve discharged their sentence and so you’ve just kind of got to ask the question: ‘What did we miss here and why did we miss it?'”
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, is also an attorney. “In this kind of body of law in general — dealing with children, protecting children — that was something that got some discussion this year and I think, you know, my take-away was it was preliminary decision, to make sure we understand the issue and then deal with something next year,” Paulsen says.
“I fully expect us to have a conversation on some of these matters next year.” In 1992, Michael Klunder was sentenced to 41 years in prison after striking a plea deal that reduced his crime to third-degree kidnapping after he’s kidnapped a woman — and two toddlers. He was released in 2011, after serving nearly 19 years, because he had accumulated time off his sentence for good behavior behind bars.
Paulsen says he hasn’t reviewed all the details, but it appears Klunder’s conviction came before an update of the criminal code.
“He was convicted under the former laws. I’m not so sure he would have got out under the new laws as I understand the facts,” Paulsen says.
“Again, it’s kind of a superficial knowledge of the facts right now, but my understanding is the laws we passed half a dozen years ago might have addressed this exact situation.” The father of the missing 15-year-old attended one of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s town hall meetings this past week to ask for changes in laws to ensure other families don’t face the same situation his is enduring.
Grassley suggested it was a state issue since Klunder had been prosecuted in Iowa’s court system rather than in federal court. Paulsen and Gronstal made their comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.