Murder of Dru Sjodin

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Dru Sjodin
Dru Sjodin.jpg
Dru Katrina Sjodin

(1981-09-26)September 26, 1981
DiedNovember 22, 2003(2003-11-22) (aged 22)
Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States

Dru Katrina Sjodin (September 26, 1981 – c. November 22, 2003) was an American woman who was abducted from the Columbia Mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota, by Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., on November 22, 2003.[1] Her disappearance and murder garnered great media coverage throughout the United States and prompted the creation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry.


At 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 22, 2003, Sjodin, a 22-year-old college student at the University of North Dakota and Gamma Phi Beta sorority member, finished her shift at the Victoria's Secret store located in the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, North Dakota.[2] After shopping for and purchasing a new purse from Marshall Field's, Sjodin left the mall and began walking to her 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass.[3] During this time, Sjodin was speaking with her boyfriend, Chris Lang, on her cell phone. Ten minutes into their conversation, Lang reports Sjodin was saying "Okay, okay," before the call abruptly ended.[4] Lang suspected that the call was just simply dropped and because Sjodin didn't give any sense of urgency, Lang thought nothing of it.[5] About three hours later, Lang received another call from her cell phone, but heard only static and the sound of buttons being pressed.[2] It was reported by authorities this second phone call originated somewhere near Fisher, Minnesota,[6] but that has remained unsubstantiated. With this second call and Sjodin not showing up at her other job at the El Roco nightclub, there was concern for her whereabouts.[7] A week later, on December 1, a suspect, 50-year-old registered level-3 sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. (born February 18, 1953),[8] was arrested in connection with Sjodin's disappearance.[2]


Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.
Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.

(1953-02-18) February 18, 1953 (age 66)
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Conviction(s)First degree murder in the death of Dru Sjodin
Criminal penaltyDeath sentence

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was the son of migrant farm workers Dolores and Alfonso Rodriguez Sr., who traveled between Crystal City, Texas, and Minnesota and then decided to settle in 1963 in Crookston, Minnesota. He admitted to using many drugs during his youth and committed his first sexual assault with a knife when he was twenty-one by attempting to rape a woman he asked to give him a ride home.[9]

Rodriguez had been released from prison May 1, 2003, after serving a 23-year prison term for rape, aggravated assault and kidnapping a woman. Rodriguez had also previously pleaded guilty to rape and was convicted multiple times for rape. He had a long criminal record that included repeated sexual assaults against women. He was released as a Minnesota Level 3 sex offender which meant he was highly likely to reoffend.[10]

Police investigation[edit]

According to police reports, Rodriguez admitted being near the Columbia Mall the night Sjodin disappeared, allegedly viewing the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico at the Columbia Mall Cinema 4. However, that movie was not playing at that cinema or any other theater in the area.[11] The police also found receipts of purchases that Rodriguez had made at several stores near the mall including one receipt for a knife which he had purchased at a nearby Menards store. Rodriguez apparently had two tool kit knives that could be purchased at only 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 found a tool kit knife in Rodriguez's car that was soaking in some type of cleaning solution inside a rear wheel well. Police also found a woman's shoe and a knife in the car that had blood on it that matched Sjodin's DNA.[2]

Sjodin's body was recovered on April 17, 2004, just west of Crookston, Minnesota, when deep snow drifts began to melt.[12][13] Crookston is also where Rodriguez lived with his mother.[14] Sjodin's body was found partially nude and face down in a ravine.[15][16] 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 Sjodin, and hundreds attended her funeral.[6]

Trial and sentencing[edit]

The trial was held in federal court because Sjodin was taken across state lines.[16][17] This meant that Rodriguez was eligible to receive the death penalty if convicted, a possibility not allowed under North Dakota or Minnesota law, neither of which has the death penalty. It was the first death penalty case in a century to take place in North Dakota.[18] U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley and Assistant US Attorneys Keith Reisenauer and Norman Anderson prosecuted the case against Rodriguez. 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.[19] On February 8, 2007, Rodriguez was formally sentenced to death and imprisoned at United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Terre Haute, Indiana.[20][21] U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson arranged that Rodriguez would be executed in South Dakota.[22]

Rodriguez maintains that he is innocent. In October 2011, defense attorneys filed a federal habeas corpus motion claiming that Rodriguez is mentally disabled.[23]


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.

In 2004, a scholarship in Sjodin's name was set up at the University of North Dakota. Past winners include: Alyson Wilhelmi (2006), Meg Towner (2007), Rebecca Bahnmiller (2008), Victoria Mauch (2009), Seinquis Slater (2010), Grace Torguson (2011), Sonja Collin (2012) and Breana Egeland (2016).[24]

A memorial garden for Sjodin opened in her hometown of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota,[25] and another is planned for the UND campus.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Judge sentences Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. to death". Minnesota Public Radio. February 2, 2007. Retrieved July 23, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d Hewitt, Bill (December 15, 2003). "Searching for Dru". People. 60 (24). Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  3. ^ "Hundreds expected to search for missing student". CNN. December 3, 2003. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  4. ^ "Sheriff: 'No chance we'll find Dru alive'". CNN. December 9, 2003. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  5. ^ "Sjodin's Boyfriend Missed Phone Call Urgency". ABC News. August 30, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Phone Calls May Provide Clues in Missing Student Case". ABC News. January 6, 2006. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  7. ^ Davis, Lisa (November 30, 2003). "Leads grow cold for missing student". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  8. ^ "Renewed Calls for Tough Sex Offender Laws". The New York Times. Associated Press. November 22, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  9. ^ Bell, Rachael. "The Murder of Dru Sjodin". Crime Library. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015.
  10. ^ Bell, Rachael. "The Murder of Dru Sjodin". Crime Library: 3. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  11. ^ Lee, Steve (December 10, 2003). "Affidavit paints grim picture". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  12. ^ "Found at Last". People. 61 (17). May 3, 2004. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  13. ^ Lee, Steve (November 16, 2013). "10 years after UND student's murder, Dru Sjodin's mother and others remember". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  14. ^ Kolpack, Dave (May 22, 2006). "Prosecutors oppose moving Rodriguez trial to Minnesota". Farmers Independent. Associated Press. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  15. ^ Kolpack, Dave (August 14, 2006). "Sjodin trial opening statements made". The Bismarck Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  16. ^ a b Sander, Libby (February 9, 2007). "Judge Imposes Death in Killing of North Dakota Student". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  17. ^ "Man Found Guilty in College Student's Slaying". Los Angeles Times. August 31, 2006. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  18. ^ Kolpack, Dave (September 22, 2006). "Death Sentence for Student's Slaying". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  19. ^ Kolpack, Dave (September 22, 2006). "Jurors sentence Rodriguez to death in Sjodin case". La Crosse Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  20. ^ Alfano, Sean (February 8, 2007). "Student Killer Formally Sentenced To Death". CBS News. Associated Press. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  21. ^ Minnesota Department of Corrections info on Rodriguez
  22. ^ Wagner, Steve (August 6, 2015). "On death row, killer of UND student Dru Sjodin questions juror conduct in death penalty sentencing". The Bemidji Pioneer. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  23. ^ "Dru Sjodin's parents in court as Alfonso Rodriguez's death-row case continues". Associated Press. May 21, 2013. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  24. ^ 2012 Dru Sjodin Memorial Scholarship awarded to UND junior, Bismarck native
  25. ^ Forliti, Amy (August 13, 2006). "A memorial in her hometown allows friends, family to remain connected to slain student Dru Sjodin". Houston Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved January 1, 2016.

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