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Dru Katrina Sjodin (September 26, 1981 - c. November 22, 2003), a student of the University of North Dakota (UND) and a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, was a murder victim.[1] Her disappearance garnered great media coverage throughout the United States and prompted the creation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry.

Murdered

During the early evening hours of November 22, 2003, Sjodin finished her shift at the Victoria's Secret store located in the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Dru shopped at the mall's Marshall Field's department store and then left the mall. While walking to her car, she spoke with her boyfriend, Chris Lang, on her cell phone. Dru was saying "okay, okay," and the call ended without any sense of urgency at all, just like any other dropped call, so Lang thought nothing of this. About three hours later, Lang received another call from her cell phone, but only heard static and the sound of buttons being pressed. It was reported by authorities this second phone call originated somewhere near Fisher, Minnesota, but that has remained unsubstantiated. With this second call and Dru Sjodin not showing up at another job later that evening, there was concern for her whereabouts.

After her disappearance, authorities in Grand Forks, North Dakota fabricated a perfect victim scenario to the media for their own agenda, falsely stating to media and the public Dru Sjodin yelled "Oh My God" and her phone call ended abruptly, but that never happened as stated on national television by the person she was talking with on the phone at the time, Chris Lang. Dru Sjodin was seen giving Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., a ride to his car which is why her car was found in a different area of the shopping mall than where she exited. A knife sheath was reportedly found near her car so it appears after giving Rodriguez a ride to his car, she then went with him in his car and didn't return, but was not abducted yelling "Oh My God" or yelling anything when she initially left the shopping mall where many people were present.

On December 1, a suspect, 50-year-old registered level 3 sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., was arrested in connection with Sjodin's disappearance. According to police reports, Rodriguez admitted being near the Columbia Mall the day Sjodin disappeared, allegedly watching the movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico. That movie was not playing at any theater in the area. The police also found receipts of purchases Rodriguez had made at stores near the mall. Rodriguez apparently had two tool kit knives that could only be purchased at a particular home center store which was about one mile from the mall, but they were not purchased the day Sjodin disappeared and a purchase date for the knives was never established. Police also found a tool kit knife in Rodriguez's car that was soaking in some type of cleaning solution inside a rear wheel well. Rodriguez had been released from jail in May 2003 after completing a 23-year prison term for stabbing and trying to kidnap a woman. Rodriguez had also previously pleaded guilty to raping another woman.

Sjodin's body was recovered on April 17, 2004 just west of Crookston, Minnesota when deep snow drifts began to melt. Crookston is also where Rodriguez lived with his mother. Sjodin's body was found partially nude and face down in a ravine. Her hands were tied behind her back and she had been beaten, stabbed, sexually assaulted, and had several lacerations including a five and a half inch cut on her neck. A rope was also tied around her neck and remnants of a shopping bag were found under the rope suggesting that a bag had been placed on her head. The medical examiner concluded that she had either died as a result of the major neck wound, from suffocation, or from exposure to the elements. Thousands of people had helped search for the young woman and hundreds attended her funeral.

It was alleged Sjodin was brought across state lines, so the trial was held in federal court, which meant that Rodriguez was eligible to receive the death penalty if convicted, a possibility not allowed under North Dakota or Minnesota law. On August 30, 2006, Rodriguez was found guilty in Sjodin's death and on September 22, 2006, he was sentenced to the death penalty.

Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr.

Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. (born February 18, 1953) is a registered level 3 sex offender in Minnesota who was found guilty of the rape and murder of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin.

On December 1, 2003, Rodriguez was arrested in connection with Sjodin's disappearance. According to police reports, Rodriguez admitted being near the Columbia Mall the day Sjodin disappeared, allegedly watching Once Upon a Time in Mexico. That movie was not playing at any theater in the area. The police also found receipts of purchases that Rodriguez had made at several stores near the mall. Police found a knife in Rodriguez's car that had blood on it that matched Sjodin's DNA.

Sjodin's body was recovered April 17, 2004, just west of Crookston, Minnesota when deep snow drifts began to melt. Crookston is where Rodriguez lived with his mother. Thousands of people had helped search for the young woman and hundreds attended her funeral.

Rodriguez had been released from jail in May 2003 after completing a 23-year prison term for stabbing and trying to kidnap a woman. Rodriguez had also previously pleaded guilty to rape.

On August 30, 2006, Rodriguez was convicted in federal court of the murder of Dru Sjodin, and on September 22, 2006, he was sentenced to death. It was the first death penalty case in a century to take place in North Dakota. Neither North Dakota nor neighboring Minnesota have the death penalty, but Rodriguez was tried under federal law because of the interstate nature of the crime. Rodriguez maintains that he is innocent. On February 8, 2007, Rodriguez was formally sentenced to death and prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.[2][3]

Legacy

Legislation dubbed "Dru's Law", which set up the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry, was passed in 2006 and signed into law by President George W. Bush. A scholarship in Dru's name has been set up at the University of North Dakota. A memorial garden for Dru recently opened in her hometown of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota and another is planned for the UND campus.

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