This early morning I heard the report that the body of 15 year old girl Kathlynn Shepard was found in the Des Moines river. She was found by a fisherman with the zip ties still around her wrists, stuck under debris down river from where the search had last ended.
My thoughts raced and I felt sick. I imagine the scene when the parents received the news and wondered what hurt more, the end of hope and finality of closure or the anguish of accepting that you would NEVER see your young daughter again.
I filled with anger upon recollection that the man who did this horrible thing had used his last act of cowardice to kill himself and avoid accountability here on earth. When we sisters were little girls there was the rape and murder of a 5 year girl in the small town we lived in. It was so horrific and the first of its kind in our community. This parallel to the Shepard case is all too familiar. The assailant went to prison and only served half of his sentence, was released and killed again. This time his victim was a 9-year-old little boy, riding his bike home one summer afternoon.
Now it seems vicious crimes against children happen so frequently it’s hard to keep them apart, like background noise from the news while I do dishes.
This monster was released from a 20 year prison sentence for killing and assaulting a 21 year old and dumping her and two 3 year old children in a trash bin. I’m confused about how he could be released and allowed to live a free man. I don’t understand how 20 years was all it cost for the 3 lives taken. How was this man deemed healed from his mental illness and set free to stalk the local small towns bus stops and playgrounds looking for his next victims?
I think about the 12 year old girl that ran through thorny, thistle filled-ditches and fields with her hands zip tied desperately looking for help. The strength she had and fortitude and adrenaline to survive against the pain in her lungs, side and legs is a miracle. She said she could see him driving on the gravel road looking for her….
Can you imagine?
Jim and I sat at the breakfast table shortly after news of the abduction broke and tried to explain to our 7 & 9 year old daughters what had happened. I fear that they are far to believing and innocent to not be manipulated into going with a stranger.
We told the girls that an evil and sick man had asked two nice girls if they wanted to make some money by mowing lawns. We told them that the sweet girls explained to this sick man – who looked normal, that they would need to ask their parents first.
This evil man told them that he would drive them home so that they could ask their folks and save some time so that they could get started on the mowing. Except this horrible man didn’t take them home, he took them to a farm that houses pigs and he tied them up. He put one girl in a room while he hurt and abused the other girl. Thankfully the younger girl was able to sneak away and run for help. That an older man in a near by farm called the sheriff and that she was back with her parents safe and sound.
I’ve heard people say, “why did they get into the car?” The truth is these sociopaths are charismatic, they have learned to manipulate to satisfy their lusts all their lives.
The girls were smiling and looked relieved, but then Lucy asked, “what about the other girl”…. The smiles quickly changed to a look of sadness of disbelief when I told that that the 15 year old was missing and that it looked like they may not find her alive. Many people are out searching but they found a lot of blood at the scene and it had been a few days of cold rain.
We reiterated to the girls how you NEVER, EVER, EVER get in a car with anyone, because you will most likely never return. Unfortunately they asked so many more questions that we struggled to answer and then one started to cry while the other one, visibly upset stated that she was worried.
Even though we hated to even introduce scenarios or specifics of violence to our innocent, wide-eyed girls we know that this world, their world – even small town Iowa is not a safe place. It is filled with wickedness and violence.
This crime took place 33 minutes by car from our house.
We set up a code word and told the girls the only time you can ride with someone other than mom or dad is if that person knows the code word. Even if its your Grandma – you would know that we had arranged for her to pick you up if Grandma knows the code word.
So this afternoon I tell my girls that they found Kathlynn and they started to cheer…. I did tell them that she was found no longer living. My oldest cried and I comforted her and we said a prayer for her mommy and daddy.
Life will go on for us today and tomorrow, God willing. But for Kathlynn’s family and friends, the only thing I know that is true is:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit