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Iowa special agent put on paid leave

IOWA CITY (AP) — A prominent Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation supervisor has been put on paid administrative leave for more than a month due to an undisclosed personnel matter, a department spokesman confirmed Monday.

Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund, a 25-year department veteran, has been on paid administrative leave since May 1, Department of Public Safety spokesman Rob Hansen told The Associated Press. He said he couldn’t release any more information about the matter, citing an Iowa law that allows agencies to treat personnel matters as confidential.

Hansen said that speaking generally, paid administrative leave doesn’t amount to a suspension, which the agency considers a punitive action.

“In this circumstance for every employee, this would be the only and appropriate response to the question,” Hansen said.

Based in Fort Dodge, Hedlund has overseen the agency’s work throughout a broad swath of northern and northeastern Iowa as the top supervisor in one of DCI’s four geographic zones since 2010. Among other cases, he has supervised the investigation into the abduction and slaying of two young cousins who vanished while riding bikes last year in Evansdale and were found dead in a wildlife reserve in December.

Hedlund, 55, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday.

Hansen said other special agents have handled Hedlund’s responsibilities during the administrative leave, and he downplayed the impact on the missing cousins case, which is currently very active. Since late May, investigators have been looking for any tie in the case to Michael Klunder, a registered sex offender who committed suicide last month after police said he kidnapped two girls in central Iowa. One of the girls escaped but the older girl, 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard, was found dead over the weekend.

“There are a number of extremely talented investigators within the DCI. We’re doing all we can” to follow leads in the death of the cousins, 10-year-old Lyric Cook and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins, Hansen said.

The DCI’s action also meant that Hedlund was not involved in the investigation into the abduction of Kathlynn and her friend or Klunder’s suicide, which occurred in his zone. The special agent in charge of the zone in eastern Iowa, Bill Kietzman, was dispatched to help supervise and act as a spokesperson in the initial days after the kidnapping and suicide.

News of the administrative leave comes days after Hansen acknowledged that new Public Safety Commissioner K. Brian London had asked investigators in the missing cousins case whether they had followed up on any tips from psychics, on the day their bodies were found in December. Hansen said that London’s routine inquiry came during a meeting with only a few individuals, and has since been mischaracterized by critics as a philosophy. It was not clear whether Hedlund was involved in that meeting.

Hedlund started working as a state trooper in 1988 and became a special agent the following year. He had stints in Mount Pleasant and Cedar Rapids before moving to Fort Dodge, where he was promoted to special agent in charge in 2010. He earned $96,500 in 2012, according to a state salary database.

Praised as a hard-working and thorough investigator by colleagues, he has acted as a department spokesman and supervisor in a number of high-profile cases in recent years. They include a bank robbery and shootout involving two suspects last fall that left two officers injured, the arrest of a high school math teacher accused of having sex with students, and a court official who pleaded guilty to faking documents to illegally help a Florida couple get married.

In 2008, he was awarded the Iowa Law Enforcement Victim Service Award, the highest federal honor given to a law enforcement official for helping crime victims. He was nominated for gaining the trust of a domestic violence victim and convincing her to cooperate with authorities, which led to a 30-year prison term against her assailant for burglary and stalking.

On the floor of the U.S. House, Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa praised Hedlund’s courage, compassion and “outstanding service to his community and performance on the job.”

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