The Dayton community has been coming together this weekend to support the family of Kathlynn Shepard after investigators believe they found her body.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, authorities announced that after weeks of searching fishermen found a body resembling Kathlynn’s under the Kate Shelley High Bridge.
“The body was still partially covered and by debris and logs in the water ,” authorities announced at the press conference in Boone. “Boone county sheriff`s deputies recovered the body from the river.”
Authorities say the body had clothing similar to those worn by Kathlynn the day she was abducted in Dayton in Webster County.
They also said zip ties on her body were consistent with the zip ties used on the 12-year-old girl who escaped from their abductor, Michael Klunder.
Officials and hundreds of volunteers searched the Des Moines River for Kathlynn for days after the May 20th abduction but high river levels eventually halted search efforts.
Authorities said Saturday morning the area of the river where fishermen found Kathlynn, had not been searched.
The Webster County sheriff says this isn't the outcome he wanted but hopes it will bring some closure for everyone
“We were robbed from innocence in this whole thing and it will never quite be the same. Hopefully, time will heal some of those wounds,” sheriff James Stubbs said. “But the awareness is definitely a lot higher than it ever was before.”
The state medical examiner’s office performed an autopsy on the body to confirm whether it is Kathlynn and to determine the cause of death.
The results of that autopsy are not yet available.
The emotion is still very raw and fresh in Dayton. Community members said losing Kathlynn was like losing one of their own kids.
Finding Kathlynn has not only shaken this community but also those nearby.
“We're glad that there is some closure there, because you know there's always that faint hope,” Carolyn Schwartz said.
People in Dayton say they are ready for all of this to be over.
The town tried to function as usual Saturday, hosting a softball tournament. Most of the players were around the same age as Kathlynn.
Residents say they don’t think the town of Dayton will ever regain its innocence but the mayor is calling on all members of the community to bounce back stronger than before.
“We're obviously closer than we've ever been. I think it speaks volumes that the next step for us is going to be mounting an effort to change the current law,” Richard Travis said.
People are upset Michael Klunder was ever allowed out of prison.
He attacked a young woman when he was a teenager. Later he kidnapped and assaulted a woman and then kidnapped two three year olds and left them in a dumpster.
He received a 41 year prison sentence but only served 19 of those.
Aside from pushing lawmakers to change the law, residents are providing a way for those who don't live in the community to still show their support.
A Tree of Hope lighting ceremony will commence at 8:30 p.m. on Monday on the northwest corner of town near the Casey’s.
The Dayton Leader says the community will also come together Saturday night for a candle light vigil in remembrance of Kathlynn at 9 pm. in the Dayton Elementary School lunchroom.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own candles.