DAYTON, Iowa -- The disappearance of Kathlynn Shepard put the small town of Dayton and surrounding communities on edge.
On May 20, 2013, Shepard and her friend, Dezi Hughes were both kidnapped by a convicted sex offender. Hughes managed to escape but Shepard’s body was found two weeks later in the Des Moines River.
Not much has changed in the town since then.
“It’s still the same old Dayton, same people but we`ve changed ,” says Kendra Breitsprecher
Purple ribbons still hang on buildings, a sign this community is still healing. Residents say children used to play outside but not anymore after the small town was robbed of its innocence.
“It’s hard to believe that we`ve lived the last three years without her," says Kathlynn's mother, Denise. " She would have graduated from high school this year."
The 15-year–old was the third of four children. Shepard’s mother says holidays, birthdays and everyday life is tough but even tougher knowing it could have been prevented.
“Even if it wasn`t Klunder, it could have been anybody. I`m mad this was able to happen."
Michael Klunder is the man police say kidnapped and killed Shepard. He was a registered sex offender and was sentenced to 41 years in prison on previous kidnapping charges.
However, Klunder only served half of that and was let out early for good behavior.
The owner of the Dayton Leader newspaper and city councilwoman says Shepard is often a topic of conversation around town.
“We`ve had a lot more public meetings regarding what to tell your kids about being safe, being safe in the streets and being safe online, what to do if you are afraid, just more awareness," said Kendra Breitsprecher.
Awareness is the what the Shepard family wants to keep alive.
The family is still fighting for lawmakers to act on "Kathlynn’s Law" which would get rid of the good behavior credit and give harsher punishment for sex offenders.