Government

Iowa 'tougher' kidnapping law may not be effective, opponents say

The State Law Library of Iowa in the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The State Law Library of Iowa in the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — The Iowa House approved legislation to make it a forcible Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison to kidnap someone 17 or younger.

Bill manager Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, called kidnapping a child “one of most scary and violent crimes.”

However, opponents of the bill, which passed 82-16, said that because it was poorly drafted, it does relatively little.

“Although this is well-intentioned, the umbrella it opens is way too broad,” Rep. Rick Olson, D-Des Moines, said. In fact, he added, it would not address the case Paustian cited as the basis of the change.

Senate FIle 2230 is based on a 2013 high-profile Iowa case in which authorities said Michael Klunder of rural Stratford abducted Dayton teenagers Kathlynn Shepard and Dezi Hughes, then 15 and 12, and took them to a hog confinement facility where he worked.

Klunder killed Shepard and tried to dispose of her body in a river. Klunder later killed himself. Hughes was able to escape when Klunder separated the girls after the kidnapping.

The Iowa County Attorneys Association, which proposed the legislation, said Klunder would not have been freed had he been serving consecutive terms on previous kidnapping charges.

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But Olson and Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, both defense attorneys, pointed out that the bill creates an exemption from prosecution for “a parent” — and not just the parent who takes custody of their child, but any parent of any child would be exempt from prosecution, they said.

Temporary licenses

The House also voted 98-0 to approve House File 2338, which expands the issuance of temporary restricted licenses for people charge with operating while intoxicated when their blood alcohol levels are between 0.08 (the legal limit) and 0.1 percent.

Those people could get a temporary driver’s license if they have an approve ignition interlock device on their vehicle. The device requires a driver to blow into a mouthpiece, and it prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The bill now goes to the governor.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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