Murder of Dru Sjodin
|Born||Dru Katrina Sjodin
September 26, 1981
Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, United States
|Died||November 22, 2003
Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States
Dru Katrina Sjodin (September 26, 1981 – c. November 22, 2003) was a murder victim who was abducted from the Columbia Mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota, by Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., on November 22, 2003. Her disappearance 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. After shopping for and purchasing a new purse from Marshall Field's, Sjodin left the mall and began walking to her 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass. During this time, Sjodin was speaking with boyfriend, Chris Lang, on her cell phone. Ten minutes into their conversation, Lang reports Sjodin was saying "Okay, okay," before the call abruptly ended. Lang suspected that the call was just simply dropped and because Sjodin didn't give any sense of urgency, Lang thought nothing of it. About three hours later, Lang received another call from her cell phone, but heard only 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 Sjodin not showing up at her other job at the El Roco nightclub, there was concern for her whereabouts.
A week later, on December 1, a suspect, 50-year-old registered level-3 sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. (born February 18, 1953), was arrested in connection with Sjodin's disappearance. According to police reports, Rodriguez admitted to 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 theatre or any other 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 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 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.
The trial was held in federal court because Sjodin was taken across state lines. This meant that Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. 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. US 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. On February 8, 2007, Rodriguez was formally sentenced to death and prisoned at United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Terre Haute, Indiana. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson arranged that Rodriguez would be executed in South Dakota.
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), and Sonja Collin (2012)., Breana Egeland (2016)
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- 2012 Dru Sjodin Memorial Scholarship awarded to UND junior, Bismarck native
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